Lingchi—Echoes of a Historical Photograph, 2002
video, b/w, sound in selected portions
21 min 04 sec
video, color, silent
Bade Area, 2005
video, color, silent
The Route, 2006
video, color & b/w, silent
16 min 45 sec
Returning to art in 1996, Chen started collaborating with local residents, unemployed laborers, day workers, migrant workers, foreign spouses, unemployed youth, and social activists. He formed a temporary community and a filmmaking team with those marginalized by society, social activists, and movie industry workers. They have learned from each other, occupied factories owned by capitalists, slipped into areas cordoned off by the law, and utilized discarded materials to build sets for his video productions. In order to visualize contemporary reality and a people’s history that has been obscured by neo-liberalism, Chen embarked on a series of video projects in which he used strategies he calls “re-imagining, re-narrating, re-writing, and re-connecting.”
Major video artworks include Lingchi— Echoes of a Historical Photograph, a poetic, dialectical study of the history of the photographed; the silent films Factory, Bade Area, and The Route, all highlighting the plight of unemployed laborers and how silence can be leveraged as another form of political voice; Military Court and Prison, an audiovisual work featuring conflict in a way that reveals the construction of new mechanisms of elimination under a democracy that exists only in name; Empire’s Borders I, and Empire’s Borders II—Western Enterprises, Inc., using specially constructed sets to simulate a building occupied by the CIA in the past and visa application spaces where photography is forbidden to ask how a movement might be manifested to eliminate imperialistic ideologies; Happiness Building and Friend Watan, creating temporary communities that form exteriority within existing social spaces; and Realm of Reverberations and Wind Songs, presenting multiple perspectives that address the question of how an event can initiate new imaginaries or movements after the fact.
The Biennial’s “Little Cinema” presents a survey of Chen’s films: Lingchi—Echoes of a Historical Photograph (2002), Factory (2003), Bade Area (2005), The Route (2006), Military Court and Prison (2007–2008), Empire’s Borders I (2008–2009), Empire’s Borders II—Western Enterprises, Inc. (2010), Friend Watan (2013).