REDCAT Los Angeles

Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater | 631 W. 2nd Street
CA-90012 Los Angeles

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artist / participant

press release

Chen Chieh-jen's powerful and haunting body of films examines the history of Taiwan within the larger context of globalization. In this exhibition, Chen presents a newly commissioned work entitled Empire's Borders II – Western Enterprises, Inc. Inspired by his own difficulties in acquiring a visa to enter the United States, this multimedia video installation explores ideas of borders and boundaries within a shifting geopolitical landscape while also reflecting on the history of Taiwan-U.S. relations.

Empire's Borders II – Western Enterprises, Inc. takes its cues from the political context of the 1950s Cold War when U.S. interests in Taiwan overlapped with the Chinese civil war. Cooperating with the Taiwanese Nationalist government, the American CIA established what was called Western Enterprises – agents responsible for training an Anti-Communist National Salvation Army (NSA) for a surprise attack on communists in Mainland China. The three-channel film installation begins here and weaves the biography of the artist's father, a member of NSA, who upon his passing left an autobiography, a list of NSA soldiers killed during the China offensive, an empty photo album and an old army uniform. Through Chen's characteristically charged re-enactments, the figures in the film encounter the ghosts of history and move through the vacuous spaces of struggle, absence and erasure, which echo present-day realities.

The first iteration of Empire's Borders, Chen's critical response to the convoluted systems implemented as a result of Cold War policies, was featured in the Taiwanese Pavilion at the 2009 Venice Biennale. For his exhibition at REDCAT, Chen has since developed the work by incorporating his own family history. The artist, who grew up in Taiwan in the 1980s during the martial law era, says his films engage with history in relation to current political and economic forces. As such, Chen notes, the films constitute actions that "depict memories of marginalized places, present ways of opening up to the other, and thereby subvert both external and internal mechanisms of colonialism."

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Chen Chieh-Jen
Empire's Borders II
Western Enterprises, Inc.