Exhibition Time：2017.10.21（Sat.）~ 2017.11.18（Sat.）
Exhibition Introduction : Stranger on a Strange Island
Fifteen years ago, Duncan Mountford came to Taiwan alone from the UK as an artist-in-residence to see and experience this completely strange tropical island to him. From a larger island to a smaller one, from one type of wet weather to another type of wet weather, he had many similar experiences in both cities, but with totally different feelings. One of modern people’s anxieties is drifting non-stop in diverse geographical regions and encountering yourself time after time. You face the same questions in different contexts and boundaries: Where do we come from? Where are we going? In 1881 by the lakeside of Lake Silvaplana in Switzerland, Nietzsche, a German philosopher, looked at a rock and understood that the philosophy of life is the eternal recurrence: “Everything goes, everything comes back; eternally rolls the wheel of Being… In every Now, being begins; round every Here rolls the sphere There.”
The life of Duncan stays “here.” He accepted the offer of a Visiting Professor post at the National University of Tainan, lived in Tainan for several years, and then moved to Taipei. He is a professor at the Taipei National University of the Arts and teaches installation art for its School of Fine Arts. He wrote his Ph.D. thesis on installation art and made his knowledge of installation art theory as artistic practice. The first time we met in Taipei, I called him a ‘Taiwanese artist from the UK’ and he used the title of a science-fiction novel to describe what he felt to be in the beginning of his stay in Taiwan as a ‘stranger in a strange land.’ In October 2017, Duncan is going to have his first solo exhibition in Taiwan. He aims to transform the whole white-box-shaped space of the gallery into a space station abandoned in space and a spacecraft lost in interstellar space, where traces related to histories and memories become clues to the work, which lead and let viewers design their own stories in these labyrinthlike paths and winding corridors. Is the work designed for See ART Space the icebreaker for Duncan to enter the art circle in Taiwan? How long does it take to get familiar with a place he resides and to be accepted as a local, rather than a stranger? Where do those reappearing ruins, relics, and things left behind in the work come from? What association does the work have with his being localized in Taiwan right now? What kind of art thinking does the work have under its surface covered in dust and rust?
In Duncan’s works, spaces are deemed as vehicles which carry human knowledge and experience of knowledge, and which also reflect a portrayal of individual fate in human development history against a macrocosm background. His Ph.D. thesis deals with the meaning of museums considered as places for installation art. A feeling of an on-site connection lands at a loss and recombination of emotions and relationships. Ruins are proof of civilization in decline. Searching in ruins becomes an allegory of the accumulation and loss of human knowledge. Where does his fascination with museums, ruins, and labyrinth in his research and works come from? Born in 1960’s Liverpool where at that time there were many bomb shelters, bunkers, and abandoned factories after World War II, little Duncan left marks of him playing in the abandoned and mysterious surroundings. He remembers that fear and curiosity filled his mind while wandering through rooms with mummies and sarcophagi in a museum in Liverpool. He is fascinated with science-fiction novels and films as well. Reading science-fiction novels by his favorite authors, H. G. Wells and J. G. Ballard, influences his later works a lot. In his works, ruins are symbols of a loss of knowledge and the dissolution of social structure, and museums are knowledge systems instructed by ideology. In his thesis, he writes that the Holocaust Museum, a Jewish museum in Berlin, has distinguishing features: it is a place to show sadness and memorize the murdered, and at the same time, it makes viewers think a lot about why the tragedy caused by the ruthless action happened. The ambience of the Jewish museum is created by the absence of the murdered. Without displays, the museum itself is a piece of work. The architecture is a thought-provoking installation which expresses sorrow.
Space Station exhibited at See ART Space in Taipei is an installation designed according to the gallery space and made in situ. Inspired by Solaris, a 1972 Soviet science-fiction film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, Duncan tried to transform an artistic white box into an abandoned space station where weird things happened. It is an invented architecture and an illusion of a human ambition of conquering outer space. In the invented space, viewers can meet with many objects such as books, CDs, specimens... music and light, and the walk becomes an immersion experience. The dark enhances people's senses and the light always brings hope and liberation. Walking through the labyrinthlike space, the viewers might think of gaining something and know that they might not obtain anything. Anxieties caused by memory and forgetfulness come from people's control of their own emotions. It's just like a sense of loneliness belongs to a space station which arouses emotional uncertainty deep in the viewers' hearts. A space station is like a lighthouse surrounded by the open sea, where human actively choose to be isolated. An island is an isolated being separated by the ocean - the ocean, on the other hand, functions as a link between islands and continents. It's just like the poem by John Donne,
“No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.”
Through the most profound and accurate art expression, each and every isolated island is linked. Duncan's art raises a new possibility of these links.