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Press release

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Press Release 7 05, 2006

2006 Taipei Biennial: Dirty Yoga

“Dirty Yoga” attempts to use a currently popular pursuit as a symbol to explore, within the context of globalization, the conflicts that exist among different extreme values, and the various possibilities that may arise from them.

Since the 1960s, people have gradually turned from radical politics and ideologies to a preoccupation with approaches to living, as manifested in the satisfaction of “desire” in our daily lives. Desire has replaced science and ethics as the primary social motivation for progress, while its essence and symbols have undergone constant change. This highlights the role played by consumerism and marketing mechanisms in shaping our perception of what it is we think we want. This expression of desire is also a manifestation of energy. Increased desire leads to greater fear of loss. People today are afraid of losing their health, their beauty, their youth and their wealth. To counter their fear of facing this reality, they invent different spectacular spaces and collective activities centered on the perfection and reinforcement of their lifestyle choices. Gradually, these spaces and activities are replacing abstract religion and turning into a universal belief.

As these broad social changes unfold, the underlying structure of rational thought is also changing. Rational binary logic has long transcended the status of mental tool and become a modality of thought in itself. Our largely dormant capacity to imagine productive thought occurring outside of binary dualisms subtly governs our way of perceiving and interacting with the outside world. With Western civilization slowly loosening its hegemonic grip on the rest of the planet, the power of the binary over our shared humanity shows corresponding signs of crumbling. ‘Them’ can be a useful category only when we possess an equally sharp notion of who ‘us’ is. Otherwise, we are all just ‘us,’ in a confusing and sloppy way, and there is nothing else. Enemies and allies, good and evil, beautiful and ugly, rich and poor…today they shift about on unstable supports, more relativized with each rhetorical effort to incorporate the outmoded codes into the new meta-language of fear and desire.

Through this lens, we will treat Taipei as the epitome of a globalized community, observing the different new and trendy lifestyles that people adopt through the extremely rapid social changes and fashions of living. These lifestyles amply illustrate the complexity of the issues surrounding the satisfaction of desire and the fear of loss. The new lifestyles sought by the contemporary urban population (organic food, reshaping the body, spiritual renewal etc.) suggest a fundamental conflict with existence and progress, and indirectly question the real values of civilization. This also applies to yoga, a burgeoning activity that seems to have moved away from its original spirituality towards an entirely different set of values of existence. It has become the quintessential model and symbol of contemporary lifestyle. From these themes of lifestyle, we will extend the discussion to include economic and political structures, and pose questions about history and about the contemporary trends of globalization to find out exactly what we desire and exactly what we fear.

In recent years, artists everywhere have begun creating objects and situations that promote a ‘third way’ of understanding the world -- not according to direct opposition of thesis and antithesis, but beginning with a synthesis of the many, and leading to compromise, hybridity, consensus, and other forms of non-oppositional resolution. They are participating in a discourse of ‘between-ness’ that produces hybrid, mutated, nomadic meanings that are always contingent, and often subject to multiple interpretations, just as the noun ‘between-ness” suggests a state of possessing two meanings and neither of those meanings at the same time. While the state of “between-ness,” like a utopia, may never be realized, it often leads to the possibility of understanding and recognition through some kind of confrontation, like that implied by the meanings of the words “restricted” and “dirty” in our daily lives.

Both the English adjective “dirty” and the Chinese adjective in the title meaning “restricted” suggest a mysterious atmosphere of confrontation and extremes. They are used to describe anything that social propriety cannot endorse. Whether it means being literally unclean or merely too demonstrably prone to lascivious impulses, something that is dirty seems to exist in a state of suspension, while awaiting its ultimate destiny: getting cleaned up. Until that state is achieved, whatever is currently dirty is not entitled to pass through the portals of high culture. Even in cases where the word ‘dirty’ suggests a liminal state where normal restrictions do not apply, the fact that civilization can be measured by our degree of success in expunging dirt from our lives speaks eloquently about the body’s unstoppable trajectory towards a state of inert matter.

Coining the title Dirty Yoga for an international biennial of contemporary art is a way of foregrounding some of these inherent discrepancies. By underscoring the latent discord between the body’s living perfection and its ultimate state of demise, Dirty Yoga proposes tossing all of our preconceptions about the subject of mind-body relations overboard. With its echo of the various modernized branches of yoga practice, Dirty Yoga proposes a hypothetical state of heightened spiritual engagement with one’s lower order of impulses and actions. Although according to our latest information, ‘dirty yoga’ does not yet exist as a practice in any of the hundreds (if not thousands) of yoga centers opening up in the world’s major cities, the co-curators of the 2006 Taipei Biennial are convinced that it is only a question of time before it is widely available.

The Exhibition encompasses a diverse range of contemporary artists, both Taiwanese and international.

Artists:

Alexandre Arrechea (Cuba/Spain)
Monica Bonvicini (Italy/Germany)
Cao Fei (曹斐,China)
E Chen (陳逸堅,Taiwan)
Meng-te Chou (周孟德,Taiwan)
Jonas Dahlberg (Sweden)
El Perro (Spain)
Katharina Grosse (Germany)
Fengyi Guo (郭鳳怡,China)
Subodh Gupta (India)
Emily Jacir (Palestine/US)
Yeondoo Jung (Korea)
An-My Le (Vietnam/US)
Lee Bul (Korea)
Nalini Malani (India)
Yuko Murata (Japan)
Eko Nugroho (Indonesia)
Damian Ortega (Mexico)
Arthur Ou(歐宗翰, Taiwan/US)
Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook (Thailand)
Mauro Restiffe (Brazil)
Robin Rhode (S. Africa/Germany)
Carolee Schneemann (US)
Shahzia Sikander (Pakistan/US)
Regina Silveira (Brazil)
Valeska Soares (Brazil)
Jennifer Steinkamp (US)
Vivan Sundaram (India)
Kazuna Taguchi (Japan)
Take2030(UK)
Koki Tanaka (Japan)
Francesco Vezzoli (Italy)
VIVA (Taiwan)
Hong-kai Wang(王虹凱,Taiwan/ US)
Nari Ward (Jamaica/US)
Chun-hui Wu (吳俊輝,Taiwan)

Publicatoin

The Catalogue in occasion of the Exhibition will appear in early November. At the same time, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum will publish a retrospective compilation of the previous four Taipei Biennials.

Conference & Event

A serious of lectures, performances, panel discussions and film screenings will also accompany the Exhibition to full elaborate the curatorial concept. Two major events will be the Taipei Biennial Forum and “Restricted Midnight Movies.” As a new departure, the Taipei Biennial Forum will invite international experts and scholars to hold separate discussions on topics such as artists, curatorial practice, art collecting and sponsorship, and art education, over a two-day period (November 4th and 5th). “Restricted Midnight Movies” is an event held for the first time in theatres outside the museum. For two months, films related to the exhibition theme, including classics by Fassbinder and Stanley Kubrick, will be shown in midnight slots in movie theatre.