Mystical Applications and Nationalist Identities in Modern/Contemporary Taiwanese Art

Key information

5:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Main Building, SOAS University of London, 10 Thornhaugh St, London WC1H 0XG

About this event

The presentation examines the evolving role of mysticism in Taiwanese art across decades, initially tied to local identity and now addressing global issues.

In Tess Thackara's article 'Why Shamanic Practices Are Experiencing a Resurgence in Contemporary Art,' she posits a shamanic turn in the global art arena, a trend that intriguingly extends to Taiwan in an affirmative yet nuanced manner. Over the past decade, a growing number of Taiwanese artists and curators have indeed integrated mystical elements into their artworks and exhibitions, although the roots of this practice can be traced back to the 1960s.

The presentation explores this integration across three key historical periods, illustrating how mysticism and identity are inextricably linked. During the 1960s and 1970s, influenced by abstract impressionism and primitivism, artists employed mysticism—or art critics interpreted such employments—as a means to engage with Western ideas, while simultaneously affirming a predominantly Eastern or Chinese identity.

Advancing to the 1980s and 1990s, a period of significant social and political change in Taiwan, mysticism sourced from folk religions became instrumental for artists in representing Taiwanese identity and reflecting societal and political concerns. In the current era, extending beyond the 2010s, mysticism has evolved as a lens through which artists address global issues like environmentalism, feminism, and post-colonialism.

This shift indicates a transformation from a local nationalist focus to an active engagement in a broader, global discourse. The presentation will feature various illuminating case studies, highlighting the unique artistic expressions across these periods and elucidating the complex relationship between mysticism and identity in modern Taiwanese art.

This event is open to public and no need for registration.

Meet the speaker

Feng-yi Chu is an accomplished scholar with a PhD in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Oxford, where he concentrated on theories concerning identity, nationalism, social discourses, and political ideologies. He has an impressive academic background, having served as the programme convener for the Taiwan Studies Programme at St Anthony's College, University of Oxford, and as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica in Taiwan.

Currently, he operates as an independent curator, researcher, and art critic. His interests primarily lie at the intersection of mysticism and technology in contemporary art. His recent curatorial undertakings include the exhibitions "Relocating Divinity" in 2019, "Zoo of Inverted Forms" as a collateral exhibition for the 2020 Taiwan Biennial, "Dear Block Chen" in 2021, and "Nostalgia Is a Waving Flag" in 2022.