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Subzoology: 2020 Taiwan Biennial 禽獸不如





Launched in 2008 by the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, the Taiwan Biennial will convene for the seventh time this year. In contrast to the international edict of the Taipei Biennial, the Taiwan Biennial focuses on investigating contemporary art in Taiwan in reflection and response to the global contemporary art context through local and indigenous perspectives. The curatorial mechanism has developed from the inaugural thematic exhibition to an exhibition format which surveyed the ecology and diversity of Taiwan's contemporary art. The Biennial revisited establishing a curatorial theme in 2016, where a collaboration between in-house and guest curators broke through existing frameworks of the national exhibition to develop more exuberant, liberating, and agile exhibition formats and narrative vistas. This year, the Taiwan Biennial has made a further stride to experiment with a different artistic experience and exhibition method by inviting guest curator, artist YAO Jui-Chung. We anticipate that he will engage in a more intimate dialogue with participating artists through his curatorial practice that is both a creative endeavor as well as methodology, which is informed by his abundant and multifaceted artistic dynamism: in the areas of creativity, curatorship, critique, and authorship; by his commitment to advancing the development of contemporary art in Taiwan; and through his artistic practices that combine contemplations of location and history.


In the post-pandemic era, the ostensibly provocative theme of “SubZoology” for the 2020 Taiwan Biennial is a concerned response to international issues that explore the relationship between humans and animals through science, art, and philosophy. The curator uses the Buddhist theological concepts of the Animal Realm from the Six Realms of Existence, as a point of entry to reflect on the bestial qualities of humans as a subcategory of the animal kingdom. Differences between “human animals” and “non-human animals” are explored as a response to discussions on long-established dichotomies and commonalities that exist between humans and beasts. At the same time, in light of this post-pandemic era when symbiosis and homology between humans and animals are a reality, and when viruses spill over their original host organisms for mutual transmission between humans and beasts -- as one of the Earth's species, human beings have become profoundly aware of the crises and possibilities for coexistence with other organisms. As the audience moves through the zoo-like exhibition space, they have the opportunity to reflect on human dominion over other lifeforms through the variety of organisms and ecologies constructed by artists as a response to and as an extension of ecological and environmental issues of the Anthropocene – a topic of focus in recent biennial exhibitions around the world.


Some 49 artists and collectives with Taiwan experience have been invited to participate and exhibit at the 7th Taiwan Biennial. Through their creative themes, these emerging new-generation artists invite the audience to further imagine and discuss contemporary art and social issues through diverse exhibition formats including visual art, sound art, and live performance, on a scale that far exceeds past biennials. In addition, the exhibition arena will extend from the Museum itself to the Taichung Museum of Marine Ecology and the Daan Matsu Cultural Park on the outskirts of Taichung. And, for the first time, the biennial will collaborate with external spaces beyond the central Taiwan area in “satellite events” (VT Artsalon in Taipei) as well as “collateral events” (Waley Art in Taipei, Acid House in New Taipei City, Zit-Dim Art Space in Tainan, and Henan 8 in Kaohsiung). With the NTMOFA as a core, this new curatorial format seeks to link local artistic actions and practices from across Taiwan. Artistic creativity is taken out of the museum context to broaden the interdisciplinary domain and perspectives of the Taiwan Biennial to proactively dev

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