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[ Grumble ]

2. The Author

Rather than amplify the making, I aim to minimize my making technique and focus instead on the underside of the relation between artwork and artist. I focus on the process of assembling several things into a constellation of actors and this requires a balancing act between nonhuman and human actors. The resulting performative assemblages also require me to nurture a different set of relationships. This entails a notion of balance and, as opposed to forcing things together through binding, nailing, drilling or gluing materials, I enable the things to enact their own forces on each other.

On reflection, my background history has informed a subconscious intent for the self-dissolution of my authorship or presence due to my childhood experiences. Throughout my childhood in Taiwan, I was taught by social structures to become a good and obedient citizen. This has caused me to live in a way in which I consider my personality (sense of self) as less important than the well-being of society. For example, in my high school, the class was considered to be a totality rather than a selection of individuals; we were a collective or whole. Each student in the class had to behave well so that the whole class of students (each a supplement of the other) could be imbued with the status of the best class in the whole school (a well-oiled machine). I became an ‘object’ (student/number) that was not myself, which minimized me into a material reality. This made me consider my ‘thinghood’ (or essence/self) and how that can be brought out within a system that tries to identify, name and minimize. This happens similarly in society’s relationship with objects, as humans tend to force them to execute their presumed function only. Therefore, I feel a connection to the objects that I collect and try to return to their ‘thinghood’. An attempt to assert a space or arrangement in which they can self-represent.

In my practice, I continue to erase my identity subconsciously. I am used to battling between individualism and collectivism in my mind and, most of the time, I am living in a situation in which I prioritize the group over the self. In responding to this, I aim to withdraw my overdetermination of the object from the materials that I deploy, in order to avoid my human authority over things. This enables the thing to self-present and the viewer to communicate with the material based on the thing’s terms and the viewer’s own experience.

In my practice, there is no permanent form and no traditional pronouncement of when an assemblage actually performs as an artwork. This is because my work usually acts silently in the gallery and is often ignored. For example, as an experiment I placed a spoon purposefully in the corner of a restaurant (Bao Fitzrovia, 11. November.2019) but, when sitting in the restaurant, customers barely noticed the intention of this act. The spoon is activated as an artwork if the viewer notices that there is a different framing, or the spoon remains just a spoon. This relates to Not Really Really (17-SS-4) because, although it is set in a gallery and is framed as having material intent, the egg yolk often remains unobserved. In correlation with this, Not Really Really (17-SS-4) becomes an artwork if framed and interpreted by the viewer as such.

Yun-Ling Chen, Words without words(SS-20-04),
7 x 17 x 6 cm, Pak chois and Spoons, 2020

The above asserts a similar concept to Roland Barthes’s, Death of the Author (1967).[1] Barthes proposes that the author should create the medium (e.g., writing or artwork), which allows them to communicate with the world but then the author should not cross the line further and subsume the medium into their own intent. Barthes’ framework entails that the author keeps a balance with the reader or viewer and does not over-interpret the medium. Barthes claims that ‘Literature is that neuter, that composite, that oblique into which every subject escapes, the trap where all identity is lost, beginning with the very identity of the body that writes.’[2] This indicates the loss of the body or identity of the author within writing, enabling a space in which the reader is also an actor in the interpretation of the text/artwork, not just the author. I translate this to mean that the author inherits a language and is a mediator of these found materials. Therefore, an author or artist gestates and feeds the text or artwork but should do no more than this.

Not Really Really (17-SS-4) acts as a bridge that connects the artist and the viewer. Firstly, I assume that artists can only communicate with the viewer through the artwork, as opposed to secondary written materials or verbal contact that exists outside of the artwork. Therefore, when the viewer can hold together an overview of the thing as an artwork, then this builds up the relationship between viewer and artwork. Through this the viewer can interpret the artwork without consideration of the author’s intent. As Barthes asserts, the artwork should be read on its own (by the viewer) without consideration of the artist (author). Secondly, as an artist, I draw a strict line under not using the artist's authority to overinterpret the artwork's purpose/functions to the audience, by doing nothing more than simply focusing on serving the artwork so that it can self-present.

[1] Roland Barthes in his essay The Death of the Author (1967) states that the author should not overinterpret their work to the audience but allow for the work to become autonomous form the author so that it can produce new meanings/interpretations through its reader. His argument emphasizes that the author is the vehicle through which the literature is related but the author does not create but rather transmits the story which is built out of a set of linguistic structures that already exist.

[2] Roland Barthes, The Death of the Author (London: Fontana, 1977).142.


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