I'm not going to pretend to be a huge fan of Cheer Chen. In fact, I know very little about her music, but do own copy of her book "不在他方Placeless Place", where her honest and philosophical writing style sparked my interest. So on my recent travels to Taiwan, I decided to give her exhibit a whirl, entering with no prior knowledge of its theme or background and just an open mind.
Design feature of the Chinese word 'Wo' meaning 'Me' at the start of the exhibit.
So the exhibit was split into five different rooms, each with its own special theme and activities that viewers could partake in. Participants in the exhibition were interestingly enough encouraged to take photos throughout, which to me reflected Cheer's generosity in sharing her ideas and a part of herself with viewers.
The five rooms:
A. The Dark Room
B. The eye of memory
C.Amusement park of montage
D. The moving room
E.The flight of those who fail
F. Something for you to take away
A. The Dark Room
Designed and arranged in the setting of a photography darkroom, the room was lined wall-to-wall with Cheer's memories from her school days up until her career as an artist. Included were her grade reports from high school up until University, some of her essays. her uniform shirt with a scrawled message of greeting from a friend, a thick book of newspaper clippings of her appearances in the media, and an assortment of music-listening devices, cameras and pagers which had accompanied her throughout the days of her past.
After carefully browsing through each and every item in the room,trying to remember each item and piece together Cheer's story in my head, one thing became apparent to me, which was that although one would have though that I would feel detached from this person who has all her artefacts framed in glass cases for hundreds of viewers to peruse, that was not the feeling I got from this room at all. Cheer's grades were good, but not spectacular. Her journal entries which were shared had a comment written on it by her teacher, telling her to go make more friends as she was too introverted and perceived as unhappy. The uniform shirt which had greetings scrawled onto it did not say anything deep or meaningful, but were just a string of words hastily printed, locking into them a raw feeling of euphoria, youth, and now nostalgia. As I write this, I now understand why Cheer decided to design this room as a dark room, as it is a place filled with her memories, each like a photograph in its raw, unfiltered state. Cheer did not wish to glorify her personal history, but instead used it as a tool to encourage viewers to reflect upon their own related memories. As I went through the pictures and artefacts, I too remembered the countless moments of dismay at the assortment of letters on my report cards, teachers remarking about my 'potential' but trying to pull me out of my introverted state, my bunch of broken mp3s that lie in a basket back home as a reminder of my passion for music. Is there anything you can recall?
B. The eye of memory
Upon stepping into the second room titled "The eye of memory", I was automatically transported into an alternate reality where time and space seemed to not exist. There was a table and chair suspended in the air, moving, greek mythology-inspired animations which drifted lazily across the walls, and a microphone with a wall full of words transcribed by Cheer Chen herself. Simple instructions were written here and there, with a music stand placed next to the microphone with a single sheet of paper instructing one to read the words off the wall.
As one spoke and read the words, the words would begin to shine brightly, spinning off surreal flashes of white light which transformed into a binary code of some sort, dancing across the walls and disappearing into a treasure chest.
Another object in the room which fascinated me to no end was a table suspended in mid-air which appeared to be completely blank. However, as soon as you ran your and across it, touching certain objects, reels of holographic film and polaroids of Cheer would appear on the table top, revealing to the viewer the memories Cheer might associate with these objects.
The last object in the room which fascinated me was the back wall which was adorned with intricate, mythology-inspired illustrations which I can only guess that Cheer drew herself. Observing the roman sundials as the story moves from day to night, the animation to me was an abstract, yet beautiful insight into Chen's mind, full of whimsy and myths that perhaps are her way of explaining the passage of time, navigating for her the realms of space. Watch the animation below!
Especially when you’re left to your own devices in a foreign land, it is really up to you and your wits to get through each situation. Being a person who is not familiar with directions in Taipei, my first day consisted of me and my family running around like headless chickens(sorry!) in the rain and cold trying to find my allocated accommodation. In such situations, humour and patience are your best buddies, as getting anxious and angry will do no good to yourself or those around you trying to help! I see myself consciously learning and realising things in a foreign place, but it’s probably just the new surroundings that are making me even more aware of my thoughts and experiences. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is: be patient and be kind, it’ll get you a lot further than anger and anxiety. But you probably already knew that..
Anyway, I'd also like to share a song that I really love related to travelling; Cheer Chen's <旅行的意义>(The meaning of travelling). I also especially love Lala Hsu's arrangement of it, but both of the versions inspire a sense of exploration and freedom in me. So sit back, relax and have a listen!