The unexpected appearance of a personal family photo album spanning the years of the Japanese occupation and the early days of the Republic was an indescribably powerful experience for an artist with a longstanding interest in Taiwanese history. As a descendent of the family line, Fei- Hao Chen sees a complete life history documenting his grandmother from childhood to her later years; but as a researcher on Taiwanese history, the album reveals how the conversion and dissolution of power in a nation can determine the fate of an ordinary family. Caught between the personal and the national, between individual and historical perspectives dictated by the different regimes, Chen attempts to use his family history as a blueprint through which he interprets the farreaching implications on the Taiwanese people of regime change.
Family Album comprises two parts, National Archive and Family Documents in Translation, both of which focus on issues of private memory, public memory, and discrepancies in individual memories under regime change. The public buildings that appear in Family Album—the Taiwan Governor Museum (now National Taiwan Museum), the Taiwan Education Association Building (which became the Taiwan Provincial Consultative Council after World War II, then the AIT American Cultural Center; now National 228 museum), and the Taiwan Gokoku Shrine (now National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine) —provide a basis from which contemplation extends forth. “Fragmentation,” the main conceptual axis that connects the works in this project, is apparent in the executive archives of government institutions, in language, culture, national identity, and the cityscape. This fragmentation may have created the contemporary condition of difficulty in solidifying a Taiwanese national identity. On the other hand, it has been the driving force shaping what “Taiwan” signifies, and the multiplicity of imagination and cross-border historical contexts that are its unique traits. This is one of the main focal points of this work.