A new exhibition in the Australian Centre on China in the World at The Australian National University (ANU) offers a rare insight into the dynamic ways Taiwanese photographers navigated the end of martial law in 1987.
An image by Hsieh San-Tai shows masked protestors demanding minority language rights in 1989, while another by Chien Yun-Ping, simply titled Love, shows a forlorn woman sitting in an alleyway, the word ‘love’ and a love heart graffitied on the rundown wall behind her.
Wayfaring: Photography in 1970s–80s Taiwan features 35 still images on loan from the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Republic of China (Taiwan) and 12 participating artists, with support from the Ministry of Education, Republic of China (Taiwan) under the auspices of the ANU Taiwan Studies Program. Most of the works have never been exhibited in Australia before.
Emeritus Professor Helen Ennis, of the ANU Centre for Art History and Art Theory, said curators Drs Shuxia Chen and Olivier Krischer offer us a rare firsthand encounter with the work of photographers from Taiwan.
“I note the title, Wayfaring, a great word for a title, refers to journeying in two ways, externally in the world, and internally in the artists’ minds,” Professor Ennis said.
“The journeying at issue didn’t involve extensive physical effort. The aim was not to seek out spectacular or grand events. Quite the contrary. The flows of daily life were far more important to these photographers.”
All the images, except one, are black and white, yet they offer a colourful exploration into the term zhaolu, meaning to search for (zhao) a path or road (lu).
However, the curators say these are images still “working themselves out”.
“They are of the moment and yet transcend it, reaching across and through the political threshold of martial law,” Drs Krischer and Chen said.
“This range of work served to interrogate anew the nature of the medium itself, from the complex context of Taiwan.”
The exhibition is open from 9:00am–5:00pm from Monday to Friday until 28 October, with guided tours from 10:30am–3:30pm on 28 August and 25 September. Find out more on the Australian Centre on China in the World website.
Main photo (L-R): Dr Benjamin Penny, Associate Professor Benjamin Hillman, Emeritus Professor Helen Ennis, Representative Elliott Charng, Professor Helen Sullivan, Emeritus Professor Richard Rigby, Ms Jill Lai. All photos: Chin-Jie Melodie Liu.