Air Plant: Performance Ability within Contemporary Arts
Written by CHANG Chun-Yi

Does the coexistence between contemporary art and postmodern era multiculturalism provide a foundation for advancing towards a new era? Or does it signify entering a state of linear progress and repeated examination of history, becoming ingrained in normative thinking, or wallowing in endless nostalgia? By observing the field of contemporary art, Nicolas Bourriaud found that following postcolonial discourse, drastic transformations, modernism, and postcolonialism will come together to end the postmodern era and give birth to the “altermodern (altermoderne) era,” a new “contemporary era” and the first-ever global discourse-based altermodern era in human history. To explain the concept of altermodernism, Bourriaud used radicants as an example: he showed how their new roots continue to grow from their stems in different directions, symbolizing the constant changes and creations of contemporary art. Concerning radicants, they are characterized by their continual growth and connections to the outside world (in various ways), mirroring the growth of rhizomes described by Gilles Deleuze (i.e., any part of a rhizome can become connected to an external object to form a bond). However, Deleuze emphasized the diversity that rhizome engenders when it grows, whereas Bourriaud focused on the return of a radicant to the environment as well as how it actively and progressively induces changes and evolutions(4).

The Air Plants exhibition, themed on air plants (which belong to the Bromeliaceae family), introduces free, active art creations and presents a highly productive art world. Similar to radicants, air plants can adjust their growth mechanism in response to the environments they are in. However, contrary to radicants, air plants can survive even without their roots. With roots, air plants grow on soil; without soil, they grow by absorbing nutrients using their leaves. Air plants are incredibly resilient even in barren surroundings. Similar to nutrients for air plants, there should be an art and cultural treasure chest unconfined by the “soil” (i.e., location) in which it is found in order to provide the nutrients needed to create art. This notion differs from the idea of “cultural identity” preached in traditional and multiculturalism-oriented doctrines and supports the philosophy of “cultural fertility” (la fécondité des cultures) advocated by François Jullien, where cultural fertility is created by the gap between cultures. Comparable to air plants that continue to thrive without roots, the separation between art and its place of origin does not imply a break-up between the two, a departure from the place where art is shaped, or “suspending” art in illusory imaginations. Rather, it indicates stepping away from the place where art has stationed itself for an extended period of time and constantly questioning about things that are considered “matter of fact.” If people have to think outside of the box in order to escape from deep-rooted ideas and perceive ideas that have been around us but have remained unobserved, then the creation of art must adopt a similar approach to identify facts as rules as well as boundaries. By interacting with others or absorbing new nutrients from the environment, improved creativity will emerge.

A dialogue is initiated when dialogists provide a platform for all possible information to be presented. Likewise, a dialogue is sustained when the dialogists reach an intelligible consensus (le commun de l’intelligible). In the Air Plants exhibition, exhibitors are offered a platform for engaging in dialogues. Prior to finalizing their work, these exhibitors use others’ works (in their preliminary stages) to get a glimpse of what the exhibition will transform into in the end. As well, unlimited possibilities are explored as these exhibitors inspire each other. The revitalizing of art in a state of chaos rivals a rhizome extending its “tentacles” to explore the unknown. We wish to display the power and influence of contemporary art as well as various possibilities through art-based dialogues. The Air Plants exhibition touches on a variety of subjects including objects and props, behavior and performances, installations and landscape, the reorganization of bodies, objects, and space (Christian Rizzo), the interpretation of body movements and videos (La Ribot), the friction between imagination and reality (Craig Quintero), and the blueprint of people’s lives created by piecing together daily objects (Joyce Ho and Snow Huang). Visitors are invited to experience the power and influence of contemporary art by observing how people (bodies), things (behavior/performances), and objects (sculpture/items/installations) are presented in it; its power and influence is an unfinished process, which may be expanded, without limit, through dialogues.

(1) CHANG Chun-Yi, “Post-Modernism and Postmodernism”, ARTCO Monthly. Taipei: ARTCO, Jan. Vol. 196, p. 54.
(2) Nicolas Bourriaud, Radicant : pour une esthétique de la globalisation, Paris, Édition Dénoël, Paris, 2009.
(3) Gilles Deleuze et Félix Guattari, Mille plateaux, Paris, Éditions de Minuit, 1980, p. 13-14.
(4) Ibid., p. 62.
(5) François Jullien believes that cultural fertility is created by the gap between cultures. More percisely, it is created by the tension formed by the said gap. Jullien objects the notion of cultural identity because he thinks that the nature of culture should be constantly changing, and argues that for culture to remain unchanged, it must have perished. Therefore, people should protect cultural resources and cultural fertility rather than cultural identity because cultural identity creates differences. Ref. François Jullien, Il n’y a pas d’identité culturelle, Paris, l’Herne, 2016.
(6) Ibid., p. 91.

Curator-Artist: CHANG Chun-Yi

CHANG Chun-Yi is a graduate from the Institute of Art and Science, Pantheon-Sorbonne University (Paris 1) and has a doctor’s degree in plastic arts. In addition, she is a graduate from the Rouen Art Institute with a master’s degree in plastic arts creation. Chang has been awarded scholarships from Germany (i.e., Gerda Henkel Stiftung) and France (i.e., la fondation prospective et innovation) and conducted postdoctoral research at the School of World Studies (le Collège d’études mondiales, FMSH ). She studied under the tutelage of François Jullien, a renowned French contemporary thinker, and specialized in performing contemporary art practice-related research. During her time in France, her works were exhibited at galleries, art museums, and art centers in France and New York. Moreover, she received subsidies from the Council for Cultural Affairs and the Ministry of Culture for international artist-in-residence programs; she subsequently entered the artist-in-residence programs offered by the International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP; located in New York) and the 18th Street Arts Center (located in Los Angeles). She currently works as a part-time assistant professor at the Department of Fine Arts, National Taiwan University of Arts (NTUA) and is the department head of the Collection and Research Department, NTUA Art Museum.

Personal website: www.chunyichang.com