Spodoptera Litura, 2015, commissioned by Taipei Fine Arts Museum
Join us for the opening of P’eng’s Journey to the Southern Darkness (南冥有鳥, 其名為鵬) (2016), the first London solo exhibition by Taiwanese artist Ting-Tong Chang.
During the evening the artist will give a short speech about the exhibition and his art more generally. Guests will also be able to ask questions about the processes behind the making of his work.
Complimentary drinks will be available throughout the evening.
About Ting-Tong Chang’s work
Chang’s work concerns the ecological relationship between humans and nature through the mediation of machines, from automata to avatars.
The title of the exhibition, P’eng’s Journey to the Southern Darkness (南冥有鳥, 其名為鵬), derives from influential Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi’s text Free and Easy Wandering (逍遙遊) in which a fish in the North Ocean turns into a giant bird and sets to travel to the South Ocean, whilst a cicada (insect that makes a buzzing noise) and a dove ridicule him for attempting this. As in Zhuangzi’s story, Chang’s durational performances and his contemporary automata anthropomorphise other subjects which include fish, caterpillars, mosquitoes and crows.
In P’eng’s Journey to the Southern Darkness four kinetic sculptures of crows on elevated plinths and a collection of taxidermy birds, with internal computer circuits in their stomachs exposed, together announce failures of the artist by pronouncing rejection letters from numerous open calls to which he has applied. The number and the type of bird signify death in Chinese traditions and Chang playfully questions the proliferating bureaucratic art world in which contemporary artists find themselves.
The birds are surrounded by film documentation of various representative performances; for each piece, the artist collaborated with scientists and engineers to create a self-sustaining ecology within which Ting-Tong Chang integrated himself by living on nothing else but fish [Whence Do You Know the Happiness of Fish? (2015)] and caterpillars [Spodoptera Litura (2015)], or provided his own blood to feed mosquitoes [Second Life: Habitat (2016)] and the dead ones turn into avatars in an adjacent computer to be played by exhibition visitors.
Presented together with these works is a series of drawings Chang created whilst he confined himself in these self-torturing ecosystems. The illustrations unfold his cynical yet comical imagination of the Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest ecology of the ‘artworld’ he has taken part in over the past decade as a migrant from Asia in London.
Watch a short video clip of Spodoptera Litura, a live installation work that was developed in collaboration with the Department of Entomology of National Chung Hsing University and biologist Tuan Shu-jen. Throughout a three-day-performance, Chang seals himself in a greenhouse with hundreds of caterpillars and wild cabbage plants. An ecosystem is formed within the installation: the caterpillars are cooked and consumed by Chang for him to sustain himself. His urine is gathered and distributed through a watering system, providing nutrition to the plants. Finally, the plants provide nourishment for the caterpillars.
Other events to coincide with this exhibition
Wednesday 24 August, 18.45 – 20.00
Free, booking essential
Artist’s talk, followed by Q&A and a screening of an interview with Simon Schaffer, Professor of History and the Philosophy of Science, Cambridge University
Ting-Tong Chang will discuss the process and ideas behind the making of his work. The talk will be followed by a Q & A and a screening of a conversation between Ting-Tong Chang and Professor Simon Schaffer, a renowned historian of science, about the history of automatons in Europe, the artist’s work, and its contemporary relevance.
Wednesday 31 August, 18.45 – 20.00
Free, booking essential
Mechanical Marvels: Clockwork Dreams (2013)
Film screening, 60 min
One of Ting-Tong Chang’s inspirations, the documentary presented by Professor Simon Schaffer, charts the amazing and untold story of automata – beginning with extraordinary clockwork machines designed hundreds of years ago to mimic and recreate life.
We are grateful to the Ministry of Culture (Taiwan) for their generous support. With thanks to Zabludowicz Collection for equipment support.