Wu Chia-Yun Solo Exhibition

The Moment of Consciousness







The Moment of Consciousness: Wu Chia-Yun Solo Exhibition


Artist | Wu Chia-Yun

Duration | April 17 – May 16, 2021 (10:00-19:00 Closed on Mondays)

Opening | April 17 Sat. 3:00 p.m.

Artist Talk | May 2 Sun. 3:00 p.m. Talk with Austin Ming-Han Hsu

Venue | Powen Gallery map


In popular Eastern belief, we believe that the worlds of the living and the dead overlap one another; it’s just that we cannot touch or see the other world. Ghosts are nothing more than people who have died. As there is a Yang (the world of the living), so there must also be a Yin (the world of the dead). In line with this understanding, I have always believed that, some day, I will again see those dear to me who have passed on; we will make up for the regrets left over from the Yang. However, our human understanding towards after death is nothing. Albert Camus said that, so long as we maintain the hope that religion brings for the next life, human can resolve almost anything that troubles us; but this kind of hope causes one to passively accept fate, like Sisyphus eternally pushing the giant rock. As a Buddhist who believes in karma, I consider myself to be like Sisyphus. Viewed in terms Daoist philosophy’s concept of “wu-wei” (doing without doing), “existence” is none other than what Camus called it: absurd. The truth of life is to live without the constraints of “meaning”. However, if one takes a pessimistic position, life always ends; the living may only be the temporarily “not yet dead”. So, then, is there a vast gap between life and death, or are they intimately intwined? Where does the ghost go on to its journeys? The Moment of Consciousness attempts to view the world from a state of neither life nor death; using philosophical inquiry about life, the exhibition probes questions about death, and gives insight into the meaning of the existence of the self.


When the giant rock tumbles back down the mountain, that is a moment of consciousness. If life is a tragedy, then because we are “conscious” of our life, while we are in pain, we are simultaneously also the masters of our fates. So the question is why are we searching for the meaning of life in the sufferings? Based on symbols of fate and karma, this exhibition extends into film, mixed media, and sculpture, to create a site-specific installation within the white cube of Powen Gallery. Through recreating the art space and reconstructing the definition of artworks, the works reflects on the essence of art exhibition to explore other potential dimensions. Viewers are invited to perceive “the living world / the earthly world / the material world”, and to raise the consciousness of the present.


About the Artist


Wu Chia-Yun (b.1988, Taiwan) received an MA degree in Visual Communication from the Royal College of Art (London) and an MFA degree in Motion Picture from the National Taiwan University of Arts (Taipei). She is an artist and filmmaker based in Taipei, her work is a mixture of image, video, mixed media and installation, focusing on the topics of “human condition” and “the time of image”. Wu explores the possibilities of images with the use of poetic languages, blurring the boundary between narrative and non-narrative. To study the essence of image, she often transforms the property of the materials into her work by craftsmanship; and through examining the relationships between material and image, she reflects her observation towards lifetimes from the perspective of philosophy.


Wu has been awarded as Emerging Artist Made in Taiwan by the Ministry of Culture (2017), First Prize of Kaohsiung Awards by the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts (2019) and has had a solo exhibition at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (2019). Her works have also been internationally selected to the Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin (2021), European Media Art Festival (2020), Proyector Festival de Videoarte (2019) and collected by The European Independent Film Channel (2015).





Recovering from Eternal Tribulation: On Endless Toil and Differentiated Moments of Consciousness of Wu Chia-Yun’s exhibition “The Moment of Consciousness”


Article by Austin Ming-Han Hsu (Film and Art Critic) 


Walking into the exhibition, we discovered that Wu Chia-Yun’s solo exhibition “The Moment of Consciousness” represents layers of mysteries and the joy of unveiling these mysteries. Materials like plastic cover for engineering, plywood, wooden decoration, excised materials, corrugated cardboard, bubble wrap, film, stickers, paper boxes, and coils are re-deconstructed and constructed in every nook and cranny of Powen Gallery. When one walks straight into the center of the work, a sudden sense of something breaking free of fetters comes into being. That sudden impression at the same time seems to co-exist in symbiosis with ubiquitous restrictions that limit freedom and movement. This creates an oxymoron that one is in nowhere and is now here. A framework of tragedy is revealed in this contradictory relationship, repetitively taking place.


Among many works exhibited by Wu Chia-Yun, the tragic nature is clearly demonstrated by two aspects: one is the reproduction of daily life. The art production (or life at best) seems to resemble that of Sisyphus eternally and repeatedly rolling a huge boulder uphill. It shows the poverty in finding meanings and eternal helplessness that occurs as regularity in our daily life. However, Wu Chia-Yun’s work does not carry the sense of repetitive and eternal toil. The boulder in “Infinite, and Gallery’s Floor” is still and its relations with the surroundings are in tension. When being caught on camera adjusting the work, “At Present, and Gallery’s Mezzanine” that features a monitor facing toward the dust of the ceiling, the artist joked about “our efforts in vain.” Another aspect that Wu is dedicated to is the presentation of different structured facets. With the exhibition scenes constructed to present vertical impression, horizontal impression and the senses of time and space, Wu Chia-Yun raises a more important question, that is, this tragic meaning itself is suspicious. The singularity of meaning can be discovered from the traces of endless repetitive labor revealed by the exhibition room and the static image work. However, the dynamic images reflected at the center of the exhibition hall challenges the singularity of meaning. The meanings pluralize. It is in nowhere and is everywhere. This is differentiated consciousness in unity. As the English subtitle of this exhibition shows, “the moment of consciousness” is an awakening from “dream” or “tragedy”.  


“Five, Four, Three, Two” is the only film work in this exhibition. Two men and one woman in the film count down the numbers, but they never reach 1. It represents the fact that many people never reach 1(this reminds people of the paradox that Zeno’s arrows can never reach the bullseye, and it also reminds people of Edward Yang’s “a one and a two” in which a new beginning never happens), and represents a sense of individual self-repetitive powerlessness. However, in terms of the structure, Wu Chia-Yun’s film uses relay imagery for the countdown. Man, woman, and young man freely relay in the sound sequence. The sense of relay is also expressed in the narrative breakpoints as the film replays. For example, in addition to countdown, the woman is having headaches when getting off the car, the man touching his head and then walking toward the noodle stand, the young man sitting down at the noodle stand, and then man and woman sitting in the same position, etc. The scene is in harmony as it is in the film Inception. The wind blowing up the roof of the stand implies a wait for wake-up as it means that some kind of external impact has occurred. The wake-up never takes place. In addition, that in the film people pass stones to one another seems to create a scene of lifting weights, but in fact the stones are light. Man and woman are repeating some action, but in fact it is the jump of consciousness to the Buddhist Alaya-vijnana-like condition. However, the half-oval curved screen and the plastic cover above hinder the full arrival of this condition.


Regarding the question of tragic cognition, for Wu Chia-Yun, it is no longer based on the unity purpose of “harmonious cognition” or “unified perception,” nor is it based on the Christian precept of “eliminating the self” or Hegelian dialectics. It is to deviate from the cognition of meaning, to withdraw from the tragic experience and reach the level of perception. To a certain degree, to solve problems of tragedy, Eastern philosophy used by artists, regardless of Buddhism or Taoism, is based on qualitative changes to the sense of happiness at a higher level of differentiated consciousness. For Arthur Schopenhauer, the relationship between appearance and structure is about appearance and will. Will transcends the constraints of appearance. For Nietzsche, it is the world of Apollo and Bacchus. Bacchus constructs the inner turmoil at the deep layer of tragic joy and Apollo at best represents the daily commotion of tragedy. For Wu Chia-Yun, the will that does not carry meaning parallels appearance and rejoices with it. Bacchus is at the mercy of Apollo. The thin breathing, transcendence above the suffering of sentient being, and life on the edge will continue to be the themes for artists. Unification and harmony may never come, but one can survive with happiness and ease.