In Still Life Analysis II: The Island, I-Hsuen Chen continues his photographic survey of garbage and foreign objects started in his previous work Still Life Analysis, with a further focus on the household objects of vagrants beneath Taipei’s Civic Boulevard expressway. For the artist, the underside of Civic Boulevard resembles a subtropical island hot spot with its artificial stones and potted plants decor. On this island, in the respite between ostensible “groomings” by the authorities, “citizens” carry with them “objects” that temporarily occupy spaces that could be called home. Real estate advertisements in all imaginable shapes and forms are crowded together nearby. Here, a piece of property is termed an “object.”
The Real Estate Poem is a collection of this written information and advertising slogans. Sales details, such as project names and locations, are then eliminated. What is left of these commercial messages takes the form of poetry. The “found poems” laud the modularized ideal of beautiful living (marketing allure) and depict the collective yearning of Taipei inhabitants for home and lifestyle (consumer demand). A shift in the viewing perspective of the photographs occurs when pages of the poem are reversed, echoing the experience of the island “citizens” under the expressway. The images and texts describe the features of the two juxtaposed homeplaces. Between satire and mourning, the work is a paradoxical epitaph or an ironic allegory.
By collecting and documenting various “objects,” an attempt is made to situate oneself on the thin line separating the private and the public, and to question the nature of property in constant, fluctuating relationships of occupation, re-occupation, and elimination.