I'm not going to pretend to be a huge fan of Cheer Chen. In fact, I know very little about her music, but do own copy of her book "不在他方Placeless Place", where her honest and philosophical writing style sparked my interest. So on my recent travels to Taiwan, I decided to give her exhibit a whirl, entering with no prior knowledge of its theme or background and just an open mind.
Design feature of the Chinese word 'Wo' meaning 'Me' at the start of the exhibit.
So the exhibit was split into five different rooms, each with its own special theme and activities that viewers could partake in. Participants in the exhibition were interestingly enough encouraged to take photos throughout, which to me reflected Cheer's generosity in sharing her ideas and a part of herself with viewers.
The five rooms:
A. The Dark Room
B. The eye of memory
C.Amusement park of montage
D. The moving room
E.The flight of those who fail
F. Something for you to take away
A. The Dark Room
Designed and arranged in the setting of a photography darkroom, the room was lined wall-to-wall with Cheer's memories from her school days up until her career as an artist. Included were her grade reports from high school up until University, some of her essays. her uniform shirt with a scrawled message of greeting from a friend, a thick book of newspaper clippings of her appearances in the media, and an assortment of music-listening devices, cameras and pagers which had accompanied her throughout the days of her past.
After carefully browsing through each and every item in the room,trying to remember each item and piece together Cheer's story in my head, one thing became apparent to me, which was that although one would have though that I would feel detached from this person who has all her artefacts framed in glass cases for hundreds of viewers to peruse, that was not the feeling I got from this room at all. Cheer's grades were good, but not spectacular. Her journal entries which were shared had a comment written on it by her teacher, telling her to go make more friends as she was too introverted and perceived as unhappy. The uniform shirt which had greetings scrawled onto it did not say anything deep or meaningful, but were just a string of words hastily printed, locking into them a raw feeling of euphoria, youth, and now nostalgia. As I write this, I now understand why Cheer decided to design this room as a dark room, as it is a place filled with her memories, each like a photograph in its raw, unfiltered state. Cheer did not wish to glorify her personal history, but instead used it as a tool to encourage viewers to reflect upon their own related memories. As I went through the pictures and artefacts, I too remembered the countless moments of dismay at the assortment of letters on my report cards, teachers remarking about my 'potential' but trying to pull me out of my introverted state, my bunch of broken mp3s that lie in a basket back home as a reminder of my passion for music. Is there anything you can recall?
B. The eye of memory
Upon stepping into the second room titled "The eye of memory", I was automatically transported into an alternate reality where time and space seemed to not exist. There was a table and chair suspended in the air, moving, greek mythology-inspired animations which drifted lazily across the walls, and a microphone with a wall full of words transcribed by Cheer Chen herself. Simple instructions were written here and there, with a music stand placed next to the microphone with a single sheet of paper instructing one to read the words off the wall.
As one spoke and read the words, the words would begin to shine brightly, spinning off surreal flashes of white light which transformed into a binary code of some sort, dancing across the walls and disappearing into a treasure chest.
Another object in the room which fascinated me to no end was a table suspended in mid-air which appeared to be completely blank. However, as soon as you ran your and across it, touching certain objects, reels of holographic film and polaroids of Cheer would appear on the table top, revealing to the viewer the memories Cheer might associate with these objects.
The last object in the room which fascinated me was the back wall which was adorned with intricate, mythology-inspired illustrations which I can only guess that Cheer drew herself. Observing the roman sundials as the story moves from day to night, the animation to me was an abstract, yet beautiful insight into Chen's mind, full of whimsy and myths that perhaps are her way of explaining the passage of time, navigating for her the realms of space. Watch the animation below!
C. Montage Theme Park
This room was filled with nothing but a massive screen filled with pictures, videos and graphics that vividly flashed across the screen; a haphazard combination of seemingly real memories, flashing words of peace, love and revolution that demonstrated the foremost importance of this to present world events, and several symbolic graphics such as the dark angel which recurred within the exhibit as perhaps a mythical creature Cheer relates deeply to. Abstract, but stunning and inspiring nonetheless.
D. The Moving Room
The fourth room called the moving room is a collection of many records of Cheer's creative exploits. I guess it's called the moving room as it is meant to represent a metaphorical room kept in Cheer's mind where she likes to keep things that matter to her, such as her songwriting processes, her records of her past journeys, and how she has created meaning or marked milestones in her career. As such, the room included the iconic red dress that Cheer wore during her last concert tour as well as the guitar that she was gifted by her grandmother, several costume pieces from her previous albums, concert confetti she had specially designed for fans to keep, snapshots from her travels abroad, and not to forget handwritten notes by Cheer herself recording down lyrics or her daily activities.
On the wall of the room, several paragraphs of text were printed; here's a translation below:
"In this period I suddenly understand why people need to die. They need to completely die in the most true sense. A thorough reboot to be replaced with something new. There needs to be a kind of cycle that can be trusted. We all always want a new room that exists only for us. No matter if it is just a corner on the street, I also want to be able to paste onto this corner the ragged newspaper I chose myself. I even more wish to choose a corner I love.
I clearly know that that clock which denotes every moment can only be placed there. In a room where is ones' own where they can easily move, I can also be self destructive, painting on paint, announcing that this is mine, mine, mine, mine."
E. The flight of those who fail
A sparsely decorated room with a pair of wings dangling above alongside dozens of suspended keys, I suppose that this art installation is meant to represent the many opportunities that present themselves to those who fly and are unafraid of failing. Several touch screens were also present in the room where you would fill in some details about yourself, before receiving a print out
Here's what mine said:
"You have already entered introversion, when you truly enter into it, perhaps you will be distracted. Perhaps in the short term you will realise that you are restricted by yourself. Get rid of all distractions, yet these restricting noises will cause you to break your focus. You will be frustrated, depressed, and will need to start over. Don't rush. This is something everyone will go through. Every hope will find its vacuum through the process of interacting with oneself. This is a required process when there is no you."
Pretty accurate, methinks!
F. Something for you to take away
Just a small souvenir shop where you can buy all of Cheer's albums or books, as well as small items such as bookmarks, water bottles and luggage tags.
In the process of visiting the exhibition and even writing this, I feel as if all the tiredness that I am used to feeling these days when writing stuff has faded away. I've heard that if the body intakes something that is inherently good for it, it will not restrict its inflow into the body. I feel the same way about this exhibit. It was an influx of new ideas, new experiences both visual and spiritual which cleared my mind and gave me new pathways of exploration. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and guarantee that you will too. So cheers Cheer, I needed this!
Cheer Chen's exhibit 'Being, not being" will be held at Huashan 1814 Creative Park until the 31st of August. Tickets can be bought at the exhibition, or online at Kham.com.tw.
It's been my dream since I started getting to know more about Chinese music to be able to live in Taipei, and now I'm finally going to be able to! Starting from the 11th of February, I will be staying in Taipei for 139 days and hope to share parts of my experiences that may be helpful with readers everywhere! This may include upcoming events in Taipei, concert reviews, and just titbits on life in Taipei in general. (Feb 2014)