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Taiwanese artists a hit at Venice Bienniale with cross-gender show

2019/05/10 20:52:16

Taiwanese artist Shu Lea Cheang (鄭淑麗, 3rd left) put on a personal exhibit in the Taiwan pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale. Huang Ya-shih / CNA photo

Venice, May 10 (CNA) An exhibit by Taiwanese artist Shu Lea Cheang (鄭淑麗), which challenges sexual and gender norms through digital technologies, has drawn considerable attention at the 2019 Venice Biennale.

Cheang's work "3x3x6" is being displayed at the Biennale's Taiwan pavilion, which opened Thursday night and runs until November 24.

The pavilion is housed inside the Palazzo delle Prigioni, a prison from the 16th century until 1922, and Cheang created the work "3x3x6" with the history of the setting in mind.

The work represents a nine-square-meter prison cell constantly monitored by six cameras to depict people imprisoned by their gender or racial nonconformity by using internet and surveillance techniques.

"Taking as its starting point the story of libertine writer Giacomo Casanova, imprisoned in the Prigioni in 1755, Cheang has conducted in-depth studies on 10 historical and contemporary cases of subjects incarcerated because of gender or sexual dissent, including Marquis de Sade and Michel Foucault, as well as contemporary cases from Taiwan and South Africa," the website "Taiwan in Venice" said.

Ten actors play the role of these 10 characters, but Cheang has used people of the opposite sex and different races from the original characters to break the stereotypes of viewers.

Art work of Taiwanese artist Shu Lea Cheang / image contributed by Taiwan Representative Office in Spain

She used, for example, a woman weighing more than 100 kilograms to portray de Sade, a thin male, and chose an Asian to portray a European.

Exhibit curator Paul Preciado, who is himself transgender, said Cheang's exhibit hopes to break the dualism of sexes, and he therefore would not describe Cheang as the first "female" artist to put on a personal exhibit in the Taiwan pavilion but rather a "gender of the future" at the forefront of a trend.

Taipei Deputy Mayor Tsai Ping-kun (蔡炳坤), who attended the opening of the Taiwan pavilion, described the exhibit as "thrilling and down-to-earth" because it reflected a hot topic in Taiwan and symbolized Taiwan's open and diversified society.

Taiwan is poised to become the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage before May 24, Tsai said.

(By Huang Ya-shih and Emerson Lim)