Culture / Art Republik

Very Temple Artsalon Gallery, Taiwan presents ‘Island Hopping — Reversing Imperialism’

A re-demarcation of the geopolitics of the Pacific Islands has been birthed, thanks to the Very Temple Artsalon’s five-year project

Aug 15, 2017 | By Art Republik

Wang Ding-Yeh, ‘Sok-chēng (Solemn Silence)’, 2017.

History sticks to the bones of the deceased, and the walls and grounds upon which unrest and chaos ensued. Yet Taiwan-based gallery, Very Temple Artsalon (VT), has gone forth and plunged headfirst into uncharted waters with its newest five-year venture, ‘Island Hopping — Reversing Imperialism’.

Conceived with the aim of rewriting the history and demarcating the geography of Asia, the project traces the “island chain strategy” mapped out by the United States of America during the Cold War through artworks and exhibitions that encourage engaging historical and geopolitical dialogues. Through these, the 11-year-old art gallery invites visitors and artists to consider Taiwan’s relations to other countries and their political systems.

The venture isn’t merely to be taken at face value: the “island chains”, an “island hopping” tactic modelled after that of the Allies in the Pacific War, aims to revisit each stop along the two key routes mapped out in the lead-up to the United States’ invasion of Japan during World War II. Among them are Okinawa, Saipan, Solomon Islands, Brunei, Hawaii, Guam, the Marshall Islands, Taiwan and Philippines, the latter of which kicks off the ‘Island Hopping’ series’ maiden voyage, ‘Vessel’.


With its focus on the condition of the Pacific Islands — that is, the point at which water and ground, sea and culture intersect — the exhibition reflects how islands connect spaces and form nations through the use of vessels, and how these large boats can just as much cause an island to disperse and disintegrate. How, then, can these traumatic Pacific War legacies be transformed?

The man behind it is renowned Filipino curator, Patrick D. Flores, led by works from contributing artists including Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan, Mark Justiniani and Henrielle Pagkaliwangan. Each piece responds to the aftermath of the islands after the war, in an examination of the structures that continue to hinder the progress of de-imperialism and decolonisation.

Wang Ding-Yeh, ‘Leaving and Vanishing’ (detail view), 2017.

Taipei-based artist Wang Ding-Yeh demands that we revel in the discomfort of ‘Confronting Memories’, the namesake exhibition that’s also on show at VT Artsalon. But surrounding Wang’s attempt to reconstruct the memories of his grandfather, Wang Yuanfang — to whom this exhibition is also dedicated — lies a darker reason. His grandfather was murdered during the White Terror of 1947 to 1987, during which time thousands of Taiwanese were imprisoned, tortured and executed for their supposed opposition to the Chinese Nationalist Party.

While the remnants of the island nation’s rocky, bloodied past have since been buried beneath layers of rewritten history, the artist’s attempts to stitch together the truth offer a bold reimagining of what Wang Yuanfang may have been like. ‘Memory 226’, the Wang family’s so-named group chat using communication app LINE, is their way of confronting and assembling fragmented memories of a family member whose unjustified death has for so long remained hidden.

In bringing these untold stories to the fore, ‘Confronting Memories’ not so much reconstructs, but tackles head-on a slice of Taiwan’s concealed past by turning transience into some form of permanence.

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This article was written by Rebecca Liew for Art Republik.

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