Bodies, Temporality, and Spatiality in Chen Chieh-Jen’s Lingchi: Echoes of a Historical Photograph (2002) and Factory (2003)
This article discusses Taiwanese artist Chen Chieh-Jen’s (1960-) two early videos Lingchi: Echoes of a Historical Photograph (2002) and Factory (2003). By revisiting a historical photograph taken by a French soldier in 1905 and articulated by French philosopher George Bataille in 1961, Chen reworks the internal genealogy of imperialist violence from late-nineteenth-century China to 1990s Taiwan in Lingchi. Lingchi reenacts a victim in the process of execution (death by a thousand cuts) from an old photo, which interrogates the violence of photography on a dying person and Bataille’s fetishisation of the cultural Other. In one scene, the camera enters the subject’s bodily orifices and shows two scenes: the sites of imperialist invasions in the early twentieth century as well as two laid-off women workers in 1990s Taiwan. Factory reorganises this group of laid-off women workers to work in the abandoned garment factory as if they stage a silent labour strike. This reenactment not only plays a prolonged and endless labour conundrum but also reveals the unequal economic relationship between Taiwan and the United States in Cold-War Taiwan, a continuation of imperialist domination in the postwar period. This article explores two dimensions: First, the aestheticisation of the suffering subject in Lingchi and how it debunks the Western gaze. Second, their communal subjects (the women workers) and the scenes in Lingchi and Factory reflect the continuation of imperialist domination in Taiwan under globalisation.
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