Text／WU Chieh-hsiang 文╱吳介祥
Young artist Wu Chang-Jung used to create ink art but in 2008 at around the time of the financial crisis, her family, which runs an animal feed company, experienced unprecedented difficulties. This forced her father to focus on pig breeding-which had originally been only a subsidiary branch of the family business-as a way of dealing with the crisis. In order to help her parents get through this difficult time, Wu Chang-Jung returned home to help look after the pigs. Her life suddenly changed from that of a student producing works in ink and a member of the literati to a life filled with the daily manual labor of farm work. This dramatic change in circumstances not only led to a major change in Wu’s outlook, but also caused him to start producing work using different media. With everybody writing long articles on and debating the seemingly unreal academic subject of “artistic economics” only to find that this was just one of the chips used in financial game playing, she suddenly began to refer to her art as ”Economic Art.”
Transformed from an art department student into a farm laborer, Wu Chang-Jung’s story could be described as Cinderella in reverse. In the classic fairy tale, the female lead comes from nobility, living in the lap of luxury and dressed in expensive finery. Then one day, she finds herself dressed in rags, her day filled with onerous chores, the victim of some despicable plot and black magic. The question this poses is, ”Which world is real?” This series of the artists’ work encourages all who view it to consider the reality or the logic that underpins the world economy. Behind these worlds, Cinderella appears no longer simply the story about the transformation of a young girl, it also alludes to the fact that so-called economic growth is just a magic trick.
The character and role of the artist is to be found in her arms’ length relationship to reality. On the one hand she was a burden to her parents, on the other she was forced to return home and help them out. It is this that ensures that her art remains reflective in nature rather than overcome by a sense of weakness as a result of difficulties faced. Wu Chang-Jung’s “Pig Flowers” series is both a way of mocking the difficulties faced by the artist himself while touching on the huge and complex global economic meltdown that has occurred beyond the world of art as well as the way in which all living things are connected. She was forced by circumstances to leave her cloistered world and self-justifying environment of art, but even as she took her first tentative steps in the real world, she still found herself bumping into art. As a result, she decided to adopt an aesthetic strategy to deal with an unimaginably cruel world. In this sense, Wu is no longer the tear- and sweat-stained Cinderella, having changed into the fairy godmother, who, with a whisk of her wand, turns difficulties into possibilities and ordinary objects into something magical.
The artist processed her recordings of working on the farm with kaleidoscopic software, using various methods to produce different patterns. Some of these resemble the intricate pattern of a rug; others resemble the automated processes of a factory. Still others resemble light refracted from a cut diamond’s many facets. The artist’s silhouette can occasionally be seen in the work. Sometimes part of a pig’s body can be seen; other times a piece of farm equipment appears. The artist provides information through fleeting images and the sounds of the pigs. Most of these images are colorful, kaleidoscopic flickers and refractions.
The installation is configured in a way that allows the spectator to approach the work the way Google Earth allows the viewer to zoom out and adopt a distant perspective. The spectator can look at the world from the closest possible distance, and then swiftly zoom away from it, holding the distance, aestheticizing the landscape, and leaving behind visible reality.
Chang-jung Wu’s works have two simultaneous functions. One is to distance the spectator from the reality she has recorded, treating it as a form of aesthetic perception that has nothing to do with worldly things. At the same time she wants to focus on these images and materials, superimpose them and refract them, a kind of recycling of the materials of economic activity. She blends animals, meat products, foodstuffs and fodder, with gorgeous and complex imagery, into one audio-visual artifact. But she does not reduce the contradictoriness of the two. Chang-jung Wu uses visual aesthetics to create a microcosm, and has invented her own “kaleidoscopic economics”. At the same time this is the artist’s unique brand of escapist aesthetics.