(In)Visible brings diverse Taiwanese culture to MoA

Adventure, sense of wonder and unique immersion into a vast and diverse Taiwanese contemporary culture – all of that and much more can be experienced in the Museum of Anthropology's new exhibition (In)Visible opening November 20.

Contemporary Taiwan is a fascinating world of tradition, spirituality and culture. Dynamic and ever-changing, Taiwan embraces both modern and traditional cultures, merging them into a unique cultural spectacle. Home to 16 officially recognized aboriginal groups as well as other long term settlers and recent immigrants, Taiwanese contemporary culture incorporates tradition, religion, modern values and sensitivities into a one-of-a-kind vibrant cultural experience.

Introducing and exploring traditional and modern cultures of Taiwan, the Spotlight Taiwan Initiative is a four-year project launched by MoA in May 2014. Among various fascinating cultural events and exhibitions within the project, MoA is currently hosting (In)Visible: The Spiritual World of Taiwan through Contemporary Art, curated by a socio-cultural anthropologist and curator Dr Fuyubi Nakamura.

Featuring seven Taiwanese artists and working in a variety of mediums from puppetry and sculpture to video and installation, the (In)Visible exhibit offers a unique experience of eccentricity and ingenuity, spirituality and magic, the divine and the unexplainable, the contemporary and modern through the craftsmanship and culture of Taiwan.

“Taiwanese contemporary culture is so rich and diverse and it follows many different directories,” said Nakamura. “That's why it was impossible to limit ourselves to only one artist or one medium.”

Although considered contemporary art, (In)visible is a refreshing take on the genre, far from the flashy and glamorous kitsch so commonly seen under the tag of contemporary. The exhibition is a carefully crafted equilibrium of thoughtful traditional practices and skills such as sculpture, calligraphy, weaving, modern conceptualism and expressive freedom.

Through the collaboration of both contemporary art and cultural artifacts, (In)visible creates a unique experience for any viewer, regardless of their prior cultural knowledge. 

“Static and representational forms of traditional art are transformed into a unique dynamic visual language that everybody can understand and most importantly experience,” said Li Jiun-Yang, one of the featured artists.

“I believe that artworks speak for themselves,” said Nakamura, explaining the idea behind the exhibition. Although supporting texts and artists' statements are provided along with the artworks on display, Nakamura believes that when it comes to culture, there are more layers to learning about it than simply viewing and comprehending. Her goal as a curator was to create an experience of culture, rather than a description of it.

“I didn’t want the exhibition to be about the artwork,” she said. “I wanted it to be about the culture, about the artists and about the spectators.”

While crafting the exhibition's title, Nakamura said she wanted to emphasize to audiences the ambiguity of cultural experience. One can see the objects, but the experience — the invisible — is what makes the exhibition unique and she wants people to understand that. 

“Many things we take for granted are invisible but they are there,” she added.

Despite the project’s dedication to Taiwanese culture, one doesn’t have to be an expert on Taiwan to enjoy, experience and understand this exhibition. It is as educational as it is engaging for the spectator and emphasizes the uniqueness of one's experience interacting with culture. 

“[It’s] a reflection on humanity, different kinds of personality [and] different practices,” said Jiun-Yang. “It represents the entire culture, but it presents it personally to the ... individual.”

Displayed until April 3, the exhibition will be accompanied by various events including workshops with featured artists, artist talks and discussions concerning issues of identity and indignity in contemporary art.