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Taiwanese artist digs through layers of city life

Wu Shang-Lin/Courtesy Centre culturel de Taïwan à Paris/Courtesy

Politicians and ecologists, architects and landscape gardeners are excited these days about the growing challenge of how to improve city-dwellers’ lives. So are artists. Wu Shang Lin is one of them.


Wu is really concerned about the disuse, reuse and imprints left by the successive layers left by history in his native Taiwan and elsewhere in Asia.

“My work in Paris [in La Semaine de La Culture Etrangères] is about an abandoned old bus station in the centre of Taipei,” he says. “Ten or 20 years ago they blocked the doors, but everything is still there as it was left when the employees left. With two professional dancers and a sound artist we tried to use the objects we found in the building to create our interaction between three different characters and different domains.”

That’s why his work, The Noisy Project was part of the Taiwan Culture Centre’s


contribution to the Week of Foreign Culture in Paris (24 September – 3 October) with the events. Other work is exhibited at the Jeu de Paume, in the Tuileries Gardens near the Louvre, in the Faux Amis (“false friends”) exhibition which runs until 6 Feb 2011.

“I had a project Portrait of Cities using photo, video and performance, and to give a personal perspective of landscapes and people I met in big metropolitan cities like Tokyo and Seoul and Taipei.”

They’re calling that the Vidéothèque Ephémère (the Ephemeral Video Library ) which suits Wu’s work to a t.

“I think in the city today there’s a changing situation where everyday things are destroyed and reconstructed. That’s difficult for the individual or perhaps I should say for me. I find it confusing. So that’s my point of departure for analysing it from a historical point of view.”

Wu’s no stranger to France. He studied for six years in the Fine Arts School of the eastern city of Dijon and graduated in 2006 and had a stint in the British town of Reading. Although he chose to go home to Taiwan, he has confronted the common history of his region.


“I think that Asia is the area which has changed the fastest in the world,’ Wu says. “That’s not the same with Europe where people like to maintain ties. But in Asia the influence between the countries is sort of a generality.

“But there’s something very personal or intimate, which is different. In my image, photo or video, I sometimes try to introduce a neutral perspective, and everyone can catch their own memory from the place. I don’t show the name of the place. So that’s what we can play with, the ambiguity.”

Rooted in his happening region, Wu says he feels “a strong energy in South Korea, Japan and Taiwan” and says there is a fair amount of artistic bridge-building going on such as exhibitions and especially in cinema.

“This is a good direction. It’s been going on for a long time in Europe, but is new in our region. Something new should come out of it.”

Rediscovering what they share in their histories and culture, the up-and-coming artists from countries in east Asia are combining more and more with a European or Western twist. What goes around certainly comes around. And around.


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