Yin-Ju Chen is a young multidisciplinary artist from Taiwan whose practice spans the mediums of video, drawing, photography and installation. The artist studied video and performance art at the San Francisco Art Institute and currently lives and works in Taipei. Over the past years, she has been investigating the notions of power and collective thinking in human society. Myths and conspiracy theories seemed like the next logical choice to explore, and so it was. During her recent residency at Kadist Art Foundation, completed just a few weeks ago, Yin-Ju Chen conducted a research about the mythological land of Lemuria and its inhabitants. We spoke with her about the new findings, her standpoints and motivations, and why she persistently questions common beliefs in her work.
Video is your main work tool. What does this medium give you in terms of artistic expression?
Visual plays a major part in my works, and the narration decides how many channels the project is going to have. However, I’ve been doing more and more video installations lately, that is, presenting the work along with the drawings or objects.
You work together with your husband James T. Hong. What do you get from collabs?
It depends on the projects, some he leads, some I lead, some we share evenly but most of the time I work solely. The good thing about collaboration though is that we can talk a lot together. We are not afraid to give the most honest opinions because we are a family. Working with the KADIST team was also very, very good. Everybody has different talents and, to put things together to make it happen, everyone’s vision is important.
You have been investigating notions of power and authority in human society and history and collective thinking for a while, including considerations of nationalism and totalitarianism. What draws you to investigate such topics?
It’s mostly based on my observation of my city and surroundings. For example, I grew up with Chiang Kai-shek’s legends, and only much later when I became an adult I learned Chiang Kai-shek was a dictator. I thought about how the society and education from my generation in Taiwan taught me to be like others and obey the authority. It also freaks me out during the elections.
Individual consciousness in totalitarian political systems is formed on the basis of collective consciousness, isn’t it?
In my opinion, the thing they call ‘democracy’, at least what I have experienced in Taiwan and the States, is a prettier form of totalitarianism. During the Sun Flower Movement in March 2014 in Taipei, I witnessed how kids were fighting for democracy (which I supported), and how they turned into Fascists in the end (which I don’t support, of course). Group thinking plays a major part in this movement. And group thinking disgusts me the most. If you don’t support what they believe in, you are a traitor. I saw that.
How much is it an ideology of banality?
I guess it is the pure banality. I am not saying that I am against the movement. I am referring to the fact that any ideology would be the loss of individual consciousness.
So, could we say that the role of the artist is to bring the unconscious into consciousness?
That’s too much of a burden for an artist. That’s for Shaman to do.
If we agree that free will requires individual consciousness, how would you explain your ‘Liquidation Maps’ project?
The overall philosophy behind all the charts, texts, and drawings in ‘Liquidation Maps’ is about one question: Do we have free will?
I don’t know.
Your ‘Extrastellar Evaluations I’ project with KADIST residency ended recently. What new insights did you get? Do you have an answer to the myth of Lemuria you’ve been researching?
We went to Mount Shasta last March to look for Lemurians, the KADIST team and I. The whole project was guided by the high priest Adama – through the help of a channeler. We discovered that the artists from the 60’s are aliens, the Lemurians.
So, is the Lemuria myth true?
What was the trigger to go looking for Lemurians?
Oh. I got a Lemurian seed crystal from my friend. I googled it and found out that one small crystal says more than I can even imagine. The entire different world. Pre Atlantis. They ‘save’ their knowledge in the crystals, like a hard drive.
Yin-Ju Chen will show ‘Extrastellar Evaluations’ at Liverpool Biennial 2016 and her latest work ‘Extrastellar Evaluations II: A Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems’ at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art in Manchester. Don’t miss to check out her body of work on Vimeo.