The Fragments Embedded in the Street Scenes – As if We Were Right on the Scene: Solo Exhibition by Tung Fu-Chi

Author │ Wang,Po-Wei2015/04/30
Translator│Wang, Sheng-Chih

“Sometimes I am not sure whether I have been to those places in the end. What flashed cross my mind is nothing more than some blurred images. I have a distinct sense of déjà vu about some places to which I am quite sure that I have never been. On some other occasions, however, I have a feeling of alienation even though I am fully aware of my presence there. The aforementioned symptoms remind me that physical involvement alone does not count as robust defense of presence. Therefore, I try to recall how all of this got started.”

Tung Fu-Chi made this statement on his latest solo exhibition As if We Were Right on the Scene held at Absolute Art Space, Tainan. Tung belongs not in the rank of prolific artists. He earned his master’s degree from the Graduate Institute of Plastic Art, Tainan National University of the Arts in 2003. Putting aside his two solo exhibitions held at Paint House Studio, Tainan, along with several group exhibitions in other places between 2001 and 2003, it took him a decade to stage his new solo exhibition Un-words at VT Artsalon, Taipei. Retrospectively, all his artworks followed the consistent theme and context that he developed in his graduate school period; that is, the manipulation of language and onomatopoeia, analyzing speech-associated experiences by reversing, decomposing and recomposing phonetic elements. However, he shifted his focus onto a new subject in As if We Were Right on the Scene.

Following the customary practice in his previous solo exhibition, one of the exhibited works has the same name as the title of this solo exhibition. The series As if We Were Right on the Scene is a product of Tung’s imagination sparked by the scenes in TV news. To experiment on the difference between imagination and reality, he firstly located some scenes that appeared in TV news with the technology of Google Street View, and then took pictures of these scenes with a pantoscope from a similar perspective yet a greater distance, capturing greater details of the scenes than those offered by the TV news. Finally, he freeze-framed the scenes in the TV news, printed them out, and fixed them with masking tape right on the photographs of the identical scenes he took.

News coverage tends to focus particularly on its subject that inevitably leads to the deprivation of the subject’s background and the de-contextualization of its original function and meaning. News coverage per se entails the intervention of events and video cameras. It combines images with narratives to evoke the viewers’ emotions and perceptions. In other words, it miraculously transforms inconspicuous places into the stages brimming with dramatic tension. In a piece of the series As if We Were Right on the Scene, for example, Tung photographed a scene near the intersection of Mei-Tsun Road and Gong-Yi Road in Taichung City. It is only meters away from the Park Lane by CMP and therefore the most bustling block as well as the most popular shopping area in Taichung City. However, the freeze-framed scene of the TV news just features the doorway of a shop whose location and name are unidentifiable. A police car parked in front of the shop where several police officers are carrying out an inspection. “The Decay of Public Security in Taichung” is the caption shown at the upper left of this scene, while partial content of the journalist’s interview with a witness is displayed at the lower left. Another piece of the series depicts a robbery occurred at a gas station in the suburbs. The image in this work transforms the nondescript gas station into a mysterious and horrific crime scene. The scenes in TV news that are rife with well-knit events and dramatic tension therefore contrast starkly with the scenes in which a relaxed, comfortable and quotidian atmosphere prevails. Such an approach not only revivifies the original scenes in TV news that faithfully reflect the realities, but also throws a spotlight on the symbiotic relationship between reality and hyper-reality that emerged in these works, if you will.

Another spatial installation Real Time features a clock on the wall of the exhibition venue. Tung films the clock with a video camera, and then streams and projects the real-time video back onto the wall, making the clock in the video overlap with the one in the real world. The viewers may overlook the projection if they glance at the clock inattentively. Nevertheless, the subtle nuances in the image transmission results in the “wake flow” of the second hand of the clock. The effect of after image divulges the secret of this installation as a result. The artist treats such kind of media representation as the “fragments” of reality. The interplay between these fragments and real scenes constitutes his perception of the world. Theoretically, the fragments and real scenes are as inseparable as two sides of a coin, which implies that they cannot be juxtaposed and examined simultaneously. Against this theoretical implication, Tung deliberately tries to unfold the two sides and then overlap one with another (this technique can be observed every bit as clearly as in the series As if We Were Right on the Scene).

It can be said that Tung’s works touched upon at least two vital aspects when the artist was addressing the distance between media representation and reality. The first aspect is the state described by Jean Baudrillard that our experiences of hyper-reality have replaced those of the real world. As the artist himself stated on this exhibition that “physical involvement alone does not count as robust defense of presence,” what is absent is not the body but the ability in recognizing the present. In other words, the artist not only challenges the authenticity of images represented by media, but also addresses the gap between perception and reality by personally recording the real scenes. The second yet more significant aspect is that, through his works, Tung extracted the gap between simulacra and reality, and treated it as an object that is independent of both simulacra and reality, a new object that can be observed and experienced by human beings.

Tung chooses to maintain critical distance from the objects he attempts to investigate when tackling the issue of media experience. For example, each of the freeze-framed scenes embedded in As if We Were Right on the Scene was extracted from TV news. It is in a fixed and posted state, quoad hoc, it seems more a black-and-white photograph than a TV image. The four (highly conspicuous) pieces of masking tape used for fixing the image on the photograph further manifest their papery texture and substantially deviate from people’s viewing experiences of electronic media. With regard to Real Time, the projector performs, indeed, little more than the function of live broadcasting (another example is that the artist documented the paths he traveled with Google Street View in his book entitled Going on the Street. However, what the readers saw are nothing more than the electronic images arranged according to the book’s inner logic). It is not so much that Tung reflects a contemporary media phenomenon as that he concentrates particularly on “describing” a sort of specific experiences amidst media images and real scenes. He indeed “described” them in two of his paintings entitled The Trajectory of Déjà vu. Tung ingeniously portrayed similar objects and created similar compositions to those of As if We Were Right on the Scene on two pieces of tracing paper as translucent as to be pervious to light. The barely discernible strokes of the pencil represent the entanglement between real scenes and news footages. This series creates a sense of uncertainty and fluidity about everything, which is linked to individual perceptions that linger over the realm between simulacra and reality. The scenes that the viewers witness are projected on a thin membrane. They not only roam across simulacra and reality, but also shape the humanistic landscapes that mingle imaginations with after images and memories.


Real Time (part), 2014, installation, dimensions variable

1. Presently, we cannot observe a scene represented by media and its counterpart in the real world simultaneously. What we can do is only to experience them one by one in a chronological order. Technological advances such as the popularization of optical head-mounted display may help us transcend such kind of limitations.

The Trajectory of Déjà vu, 2014, photography, 110x80cm

The Trajectory of Déjà vu, 2014, sketch, 110x80cm