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Curating, as a process of cultural production, involves the integration and action of different fields of knowledge. In today's booming contemporary arts scene, curatorial forms have gradually acquired various appearances and formed a complex development trend.
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Video | Inclusive Arts
2021 Recording: Digital Corporeality
This video documents the making of Digital Corporeality, an exhibition curated by curator I-Wen Chang and supported by NCAF's Production Grants to Independent Curators in Visual Arts. It presents footage and interviews from the art venue, execution process, and curatorial practice.As a performance critic and dance expert, the curator has traveled to major art festivals around the world over many years to do research on corporeality, choreography, performativity, digital art, technological art, and live art. This exhibition, Digital Corporeality, is based on her research and proposes a somaesthetic that integrates the viewpoints of technological art. Initially inspired by The Rite of Spring, different versions of The Rite of Spring were displayed at the entrance to explore the four aspects of digital corporeality: "Part 1: Future Body through Critical Lens", "Part 2: Corporeality, Materiality, and the Other", "Part 3: Inter-passivity", and "Part 4: AI, Big Data, and Digital Bodies", followed by "Epilogue: AI and Future Choreographies in the 21st Century", which echoes the performance documentation video series of The Rite of Spring at the beginning. From non-human theaters to an AI-generated choreography to connect with spirits, the exhibition contemplates possibilities of digital corporeality from multiple dimensions and offers a basis for diverse theories and exploration of digital corporeal experimentation, a hotly discussed topic at present.
2022.11.24
Article | 1
Diverse Strategies for Connecting the Taiwanese and European Cultures and Art NetworksXUsing Art Curatorship as Method
I.    ProblemsThe National Culture and Arts Foundation (hereinafter referred to as "NCAF") launched the Production Grants to Independent Curators in Visual Arts (PGICVA) in 2004. Starting in 2012, the International Residential Research and Exhibition Exchange Project was added to encourage Taiwanese curators to propose international curatorial projects. NCAF would then choose the best applicants to provide grants for execution. By this year (2021), this project has been underway for ten years and has achieved abundant results. Hoping that this project can keep up with the times, NCAF commissioned a curator who has implemented such project to study its effects, results, and value to serve as reference for further operations. This is the context of this study. This study started off by organizing the curatorial projects that received grants in the last decade, especially picking out the exhibitions that were held in Europe. Among the exhibitions that received international curatorial grants from NCAF, this study will discuss those that were held in Europe. On this basis, the study focuses on three problems:1.    How can Taiwanese curatorial projects gain visibility in Europe?2.    How can Taiwan participate in European mainstream discussions?3.    And, based on curatorial projects, how can ongoing and effective connections be made in the European art world?These questions aim to explore the value and significance of the NCAF international curatorial grants. In particular, how effective is contemporary art as a mechanism for Taiwan to communicate and exchange with the world?Based on my observations and through numerous interviews with related key figures in this field, including curators who have implemented this project, curators who have worked in Europe, and directors of related administrative institutions, this study hopes to verify whether my hypothesis needs to be corrected and give suggestions regarding the NCAF international curatorial grant projects.II.    Research ContentAfter a preliminary observation of the NCAF international curatorial grant projects from 2012 to 2021, the content of this study was developed based on the questions above and includes five key points, respectively. This study believes that an analysis of these five points is helpful for ascertaining the value and significance of the NCAF international curatorial grants and providing diverse ideas to consider for future development.The first thing we want to know is:1.    What is the basic structure and mainstream discourse in European contemporary art?From the Europe-based curatorial projects that received NCAF grants, we noticed that these exhibitions were mostly held in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, and Poland. Only one exhibition took place in France, Spain, or Italy. This study proposes a hypothesis that the European contemporary art world can be split into two areas: The more vibrant area is comprised of Protestant countries with market economies, mainly the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg; on the other hand, the traditional Catholic regions have socialist economies, modernist culture, and traditional structures. If this is correct, we can develop different art forms according to the different characteristics of each area as a basis for exchange.We discovered that while modernism emphasizes dissolving logic and the concept of autonomy, contemporary art crosses and connects disciplines and takes action, so the cultural and social contexts that it can intervene in are different and even richer than those of modernism. With this in mind, Taiwan can participate with more diverse forms of art.2.    How can the visibility of Taiwanese artists be enhanced in Europe?3.    How can curating one time exhibitions become a mutual interaction that continues to be developed?NCAF mainly provides grants for one time curatorial projects. However, establishing a steady relationship that lasts after the exhibition ends is more meaningful to Taiwan. Since before curatorial projects are proposed, sufficient cultural knowledge and networks need to be established in advance, if we can choose exhibition subjects that can be developed in both cultures, is there a possibility that a constant mutual interaction can be developed?4.    What has Taiwan achieved in the European art world so far? What is a key direction that can be worked on?By conducting several key interviews, this study attempts to organize the answers to the questions: What has Taiwan achieved in the European cultural and art worlds after all these years? What is a key direction that can be worked on?5.    What are the results that the NCAF curatorial grant projects have yielded so far and what is their value?Up until now, NCAF has provided grants for six major exhibitions in Europe; five took place in the Protestant cultural circle and one took place in the Catholic cultural circle. This study attempts to interview the curators and organizers at the time to clarify the cumulative results and value of the NCAF curatorial grant projects and consider further development on this basis.So Far, So Right: A Study of Reforms and Transitions Across Borders (2016 PGICVA-funded exhibition), curated by Yen-Hsiang Fang and exhibited at Display - Association for Research and Collective Practice, Prague, Czech Republic III.    IntervieweesAfter establishing the research problems and discussion topic, multiple interviews were conducted for this study. Interviewees included:1.    Yen-Hsiang Fang (curator)〔1〕2.    Meiya Cheng (curator)〔2〕3.    Shan-Shan Huang (curator)〔3〕4.    Nicole Yi-Hsin Lai (curator)〔4〕5.    Li-Li Lien (former director of the Centre Culturel de Taïwan à Paris, Taiwan Cultural Center in Paris)〔5〕6.    Hung-Hsing Chen (curator and cultural worker)7.    Alice Mallet (curator of the Dieppe Biennale in Normandy)〔6〕8.    Corinne Diserens (director of the École nationale supérieure d'arts de Paris-Cergy, National School of Art of Paris-Cergy) and Nina Volz (ENSAPC chief secretary) 〔7〕Thankful for their valuable and inspiring opinions, with their help, this study was written more objectively and included a wider range of perspectives.IV. Research LimitationsWith an analysis of the exhibitions that were held in Europe by Taiwanese curators supported by NCAF grants as a basis, this study attempts to devise ways to sustain and expand these relationships, hoping that Taiwan can develop more effective exchanges and conversations with the international art community. If the target and method of this study could be expanded, such as directly interviewing more professionals of international organizations, the results would certainly be more complete and comprehensive. However, since this study mainly undertook field research and interviews centered on NCAF curatorial grant projects, to stay focused, we could not expand the contents any further. Hopefully, there will be opportunities in the future to do further research with this study as a foundation.Additionally, in the basic context of this study, if we could expand the discussion to different nations' foreign cultural policies, such as looking into and analyzing how the German Goethe-Institut or the British Council invest a great deal of resources in foreign countries and understanding their strategies, mindset, and visions as a reference for Taiwan's foreign cultural policy, it would be helpful for the execution of the latter. Due to the target and scope of this study, this is not yet achievable, but hopefully, this research direction will be considered in the future.Finally, cultural exchange must be done by the government and civil society over an extended period of time. Because of Taiwan's political status, "strategy" and "method" are especially important. Having established the basic structure and contents with this understanding, this study hopes that its results will serve to elicit more research in the future, and that these results can play a more active role in setting Taiwan's foreign cultural policies.V.     Research Analysis1.    The basic structure and mainstream discussion of European contemporary artTaiwanese curators do not regard this question as very important. When observing the distribution of the curatorial grant projects, it was noticed that for instance, in the numerous museums of Paris—the art hub of modernist art—there are not very many exhibitions centered on contemporary art. Representative museums include Palais de Tokyo and the Centre national d'art et de culture Georges-Pompidou (Centre Pompidou), which has been holding more contemporary art exhibitions in recent years. Besides these, there are a few private art museums, such as Maison Louis Vuitton and Centre Cartier. Compared to the U.K., the U.S., or Nordic countries, this is not a very high percentage. French interviewees were very sensitive to this issue, however. For instance, curator Alice Mallet believes that European art history education defines modern art as artworks created roughly between 1910 and 1950. Artworks produced after 1960 are categorized as contemporary art. Contemporary art includes many different movements and forms, such as land art, conceptual art, and others. The art that is developed in France and other European countries might not be the same as the contemporary art in the U.K. or the U.S., but could also count as contemporary art—it all depends on how you define it.ENSAPC's response was very sharp and brilliant. They believe that every artwork was once the contemporary art of its time. Each artwork, to certain extent, possessed momentum in the time it was created. Whether art can challenge and question culture and the core challenges faced by society are the most important issues. The worth of each piece lies chiefly in the reverberating momentum from its time. Besides, in the framework of our era, creators of contemporary art also play an important role in conveying and activating the subjectivity and completeness of the assets of modernist artists.In other words, they think that radically separating contemporary art from modern art is not necessary because the two give form to each other to a certain degree. They also believe that one should not contemplate modernism and contemporary art exclusively in the context of Europe, but consider this issue on a global scope, especially looking to regions outside of Europe. When scrutinizing contemporary art, it is better to expand one's vision to the art outside of Europe. Therefore, they believe that the conceptual differences in cultural contexts and art forms permit us to take on a new role: By practicing art and facilitating conditions for its production, we can share and give recognition to more diverse art content.2.    The visibility of Taiwanese artists in EuropeAlice thinks that Taiwanese artists are not entirely unheard of in Europe. She mentioned some artists in the art scene such as Chieh-Jen Chen, and artists that have recently emerged like Ming-Wei Lee and Jai Yuan. She noticed that most of the Taiwanese artists known in Europe work in the forms of photography, video art, or multi-media art and performance art. In the earlier years (around 2004), Taiwanese artists were much more advanced than Chinese artists, especially in the field of theater, where for instance, many Taiwanese performance troupes were seen in the Avignon Festival. (She spoke specifically of France.)When we asked how the visibility of Taiwanese artists could be enhanced in Europe, ENSAPC responded: "Taiwanese art and artists can increase their visibility through exhibitions in the European art museum and gallery system." For instance, the Taipei Biennial 2020, which was curated by Bruno Latour, was very visible since it also held exhibitions in The Centre Pompidou-Metz. The Taipei Biennial is quite famous in the European art world.When mentioning practical strategies, they believed that first of all, from a certain perspective, building partner relationships is very important:They brought up ENSAPC's partner relationship with Tainan National University of the Arts (TNNUA). Representatives nominated by both organizations and related individuals from a neutral third party form a jury to choose one Taiwanese artist to do a residency at ENSAPC. This successful candidate will enjoy a three month residency in Paris. In this three-month residency, this artist must prepare to hold an exhibition in Ygrec, the art center of ENSAPC. The artist must also design a course for ENSAPC students. This course can be connected to the artist's current research and exhibition.The partnership between ENSAPC and Taiwan's TNNUA offers very beneficial conditions because in this partnership, there is a period of time where bilateral conversation can happen and research tasks and results can be shared, converting the relationship into a mechanism. This also allows guest artists and curators to share and exchange their art practices and research methods.What matters most is creating a mechanism for preparatory exchange before the artist goes to the destination, so that the artist can have effective and fruitful conversations with important people and different organizations of the other culture.However, such a partnership should be equal and mutual. They think that Taiwan must also invite related and peer leaders of organizations, curators, artists, or researchers from Europe to do field work in Taiwan, exchange with different Taiwanese art communities, and share these interactions with (art communities in) Europe.Regarding this matter, ENSAPC provided their opinion from the viewpoints of artists, curators, and the government, particularly public art universities. Meanwhile, the Centre Culturel de Taïwan à Paris is the official administrative organization of this field in Europe; though their roles are different, their missions are the same. Former director of the Centre Culturel de Taïwan à Paris, Li-Li Lien, had different ideas about this matter.She answered the second and third question together. Our third question was:3.    How can curating one time exhibitions become a mutual interaction that continues to be developed?The Centre Culturel de Taïwan à Paris is an official administrative organization of Taiwan stationed in Paris, yet its mission is the same as the subject of this study, which is to promote Taiwanese culture and art in Europe, and build relationships in Europe's cultural and art worlds in the hope of developing these relationships for the long term. Li-Li Lien mentioned that the budget for the Centre Culturel de Taïwan à Paris is about NT$30 million, which is not enough for the Cultural Center to build social connections at random. Therefore, she must make multifaceted, long-term plans and choose crucial parties to interact with. During her four years in office, as she tried to make the best use of limited resources, she observed an important phenomenon in her first year of planning and structuring her work: In the European cultural and art worlds, Taiwanese performance troupes already had continuous interactions with relevant European performance troupes, in addition to performing arts organizations. In fact, their exchange activities were quite steady. Even without additional government resources and funding, these performance troupes were relatively mature and autonomous, and their relationships were constantly developing.In contrast, the field of visual arts was not as thriving; there were neither interactions and relationships between organizations nor structural, continuous developments.Because of this imbalance, in her work, she gave more attention to the visual arts. First of all, she attended almost every exhibition opening, from art museums, museums, and art centers, to galleries. She even required herself to hold four major exhibitions or other types of exchange activities with France each year. At least three of these activities were in the field of visual arts, and the remaining activity was for other art forms. She noticed that, especially in the Paris cultural and art scene, the official platforms that held contemporary art exhibitions most often were the Centre Pompidou, Palais de Tokyo, and a new organization, the musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac—a special platform that is an anthropology museum and simultaneously holds important contemporary art exhibitions. She also began to do research on the nature and even the unique styles and characteristics of the exhibitions held on these platforms, and searched for Taiwanese artists and artworks that could fulfill the requirements of these. After a long period of hard work, results were finally reaped, and these art museums began to have more exhibitions and interactions with Taiwanese official organizations.Regarding this issue, curator and arts administrator Nicole Yi-Hsin Lai also provided a brilliant perspective:Director Nicole Yi-Hsin Lai did not especially emphasize the difference in development of contemporary art in different European countries. Instead, she regarded or contemplated the country or art museum that she wanted to exhibit in as a curator, and did research first and foremost. She began with developing a research topic, especially by finding the common ground of oppressed countries. From her research, she discovered that Eastern and Central European countries were surrounded by great powers, and were often oppressed and dominated, especially in the Nazi regime during World War II. In her research, she focused on three countries that were most oppressed: Poland, Austria, and Germany. After a written research, she visited each location to do field work, and discovered that regarding her research subject, the country with organizations most actively connected to communities was Poland, so she focused on Poland as the location for her exhibition and interactions. With the help of the NCAF grant, which was relatively ample, she was able to transform her research results and organize an exhibition. In other words, this was her process: She researched, did field work, contacted relevant organizations to inquire about the possibility of an exhibition, then finally decided on the exhibition location. Therefore, the difference in the distribution of contemporary art among regions was not an issue for her.Nicole Yi-Hsin Lai received 2017 PGICVA for international residential researchThe continuation of exchange that we originally expected and understood took place in the same context, time, and space, but to Lai, continuation is expanded to develop not in one but in multiple spaces throughout time. This is certainly a broader vision.Regarding how one time exhibitions can pave the way for continuity, Lai began by redefining the concept of "continuation" of this study. This study assumes that through various efforts and strategies, curators can develop the one time exhibitions that are supported by NCAF grants and turn them into continuous relationships to expand, extend, and enrich the significance of the NCAF grant. However, since Lai's curatorial practice began with research, as the research developed, it continued expanding into different dimensions—it is not necessary for exhibitions to take place in the same art museum or country. Therefore, after the on-site research in Poland, Lai went on to organize exhibitions in MoCA Taipei, Mississippi Museum of Art in the U.S., and the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts (KMFA). Her focus was on how the context of her research could extend the effects of the research and exhibition, and not the relationship with a specific space.When we mentioned whether Taiwanese artists could develop a relationship and connection with Europe, in which fields, and with which art forms, curators like Shan-Shan Huang and Yen-Hsiang Fang believed that the most important thing is that curators need to possess the courage to step out and explore. They too must have a research focus, and after field work, the foundation formed by this research is often updated as more information is collected. So NCAF grants for residential research are evidently very important. Residential research grants allow curators to close the gap between the written research and the actual situation during field work, so that the exhibition is not out of touch.Curator Meiya Cheng proposed a more broad-minded view. She thinks that the most important thing is to first get to know the environment and make friends. If one does field work with a mindset that is strongly goal-oriented, one will often be restricted by one's own framework and unable to see certain possibilities. With this understanding in mind, she can do field work with more flexibility and be more grounded in reality.Public Spirits (2015 PGICVA-funded exhibition), curated by Meiya Cheng and exhibited at Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, Poland 4.    What has Taiwan achieved in the European art world so far, and what is the key direction for improvement?Regarding this matter, most curators and arts administrators agreed unanimously that people should shift their focus from personal development to organizational connections.Curator Shan-Shan Huang said that she began to interact with Europe because of her past exchanges with Chih-Cheng Chen, the director of the Centre Culturel de Taïwan à Paris. In the end, she was able to go to Europe with the help of the NCAF grant, but mainly because she received strong financial support from the Jut Art Museum, which she works for.Shan-Shan Huang believes that NCAF grants considerably motivate artists or curators in the art field who want to execute an exciting and interesting curatorial project, and provide them with an important legitimacy to organize an exhibition. However, regarding how to expand exchanges and interactions with Europe, she thinks that taking the initiative to step out is crucial. If curators contact art museums and important exhibition spaces directly, with effort, anything is possible.The Flying Land (2015 PGICVA-funded exhibition), curated by Shan-Shan Huang and exhibited at Quartair Contemporary Art Initiatives, Hague, NetherlandsENSAPC believes that multiple strategies must be developed and executed at once to be more efficient, and the most important thing is still the exhibition itself. Sharing experiences of key residencies, biennials, education, and research gives Taiwanese artists and European artists opportunities to work together on certain projects, so more abundant results may be produced. With this context, we (Europe and Taiwan) must together reflect on the different forms and contents of our epistemology, methodology, and cultural paradigms to facilitate more cooperation and exchange.We also asked Alice Mallet the same question. She thinks that Taiwanese artists are already building relationships with Europe: For example, artist Chieh-Jen Chen has a partner relationship with the Galerie Alain Le Gaillard (Alain Le Gaillard Gallery) in Paris. In past art festivals, she herself also invited artists Mali Wu, Shun-Chu Chen, Li-Hung Hsiao, and Kuo-Chang Liu to exhibit in Dieppe, Normandy. The Taiwan Representative Office in France is also very proactive in this regard.Li-Li Lien also mentioned that in her interactions with curators and exhibition organizations, when they thought of Taiwan, some thought of Taiwan's achievements in the semiconductor sector, and often asked if Taiwan was highly developed in technology art or new media art. Other than this, Li-Li Lien also mentioned photography art. In recent years, Taiwan's photography art has been relatively valued in Europe, and she especially built a long-term relationship with the director of the Departement de développement culturel of the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Kathyrn Weir. She believes that in a long-term relationship, more space can be made for continuous bilateral exchanges.5.    The meaning, value, benefits, and more diverse possibilities of the NCAF international curatorial grant projectsCurator Nicole Yi-Hsin Lai thinks that one time exhibitions, or alternatively, holding exhibitions on a foreign platform by oneself, is certainly not easy. First of all, a lone curator has little support abroad, there are a lot of uncertainties about partner organizations or platforms, and it is difficult to make large-scale organizational contacts. After all, large-scale organizations play an important role in developing and sustaining relationships. Working with a large-scale organization is far more effective than a curator working alone.She believes that the NCAF grant mechanism is a very important support for curators. First of all, it legitimizes the exhibitions of curators, so that they have the opportunity to step out of the closed framework of their native country and onto the global stage. Perhaps the NCAF grant is not enough to organize a large exhibition and gain greater media coverage, but it is an important support for many curators in certain key stages of their career. For Lai, the grant functioned as a stairway or a bridge, and helped her make an extremely important step.She said that to this day, the NCAF international curatorial grant has in fact yielded extraordinary results. The exhibition that is required in the contract is an opportunity to exhibit abroad, and expands the connection between Taiwan's contemporary art and the world. However, the grant obligation to hold a formal exhibition sometimes inhibits other possibilities. After all, curating an exhibition on a foreign platform is extremely complicated and difficult. If we could rethink the meaning of curatorial projects or expand the definition and concept of curating, the curatorial grant could be developed into a joint research mechanism with foreign platforms or groups. For instance, we could jointly develop research projects, do research, and participate in organizational exchanges. Expanding the concept of curatorial projects could mean publishing research outcomes together or hosting workshops; other presentation formats for research outcomes are all possibilities. Especially from the viewpoint of promoting diverse forms of development, providing grants for other possibilities would be worth NCAF's consideration!Li-Li Lien also spoke of Taiwan's grant policy. She believes that instead of providing grants for Taiwanese curators to hold exhibitions in Europe, it would be better if grants were provided for key curators of the region to exhibit Taiwanese artworks or artists on relatively important or even top-tier platforms. This would result in more ideal results concerning exposure for the platform, Taiwanese artists, and Taiwanese art and culture.ENSAPC views the matter this way: They believe that the government grants must be mindful of the importance of crossing generations, and make sure that artists and researchers of the younger generation are given as much importance as artists and researchers who are relatively mature and fully developed, and receive an equal proportion of grants as well. Other than this, some artists create art and do meaningful research over long periods of time, yet haven't received due attention internationally among organizations and the public; these people are especially in need of government resources.Also important is developing international exchange projects and building long-term relationships with European partners by providing multifaceted grants. These partners should be different in essence and scale, from energetic small organizations to educational organizations, or art museums and museums, and projects should be executed in different fields to encourage transdisciplinary undertakings.They emphasized that government investments in culture and art should be done with long-term plans in mind. Government agencies should have foresight and not expect immediate results from a residency project or a limited-term international exchange research project, because residency projects accumulate layers of effects and results in the long run, and oftentimes, these results only appear unexpectedly after different periods of time. Of course, because the essence of a grant project requires results, there should be some leeway in this aspect.ENSAPC also spoke of execution strategies clearly and specifically. They said that the first step should be to have closer interactions with the French office in Taiwan (Bureau français de Taipei, French Office in Taipei). The Bureau français de Taipei has made a great deal of effort in this aspect. Other than this, one could directly contact museums, art museums, galleries, and art centers to discuss collaboration. Many of these organizations are supported by DRAC〔8〕of the French Ministry of Culture. Or, for better results, one could directly contact different cultural organizations in each administrative division of France, or the cultural and art unit of the administrative agency in each department.ConclusionThis study attempts to seek more diverse and constructive opinions in terms of the NCAF international curatorial grant projects from people other than artists and curators. NCAF PGICVA has provided many artists and curators an important opportunity and platform to step out onto the global stage, and begun to establish an international exchange mechanism in the field of visual arts. However, for the whole nation, this cultural exchange and connection can only have more concrete and profound significance if the relationship continues for the long term. As this study shows, Taiwan's international exchanges in the field of visual arts are not as lively as those of the performing arts. Curator Hung-Hsing Chen said that this may be because performing artists work in groups, while visual artists often work independently, so establishing a system for organizational exchange is necessary for the possibility of a continuous relationship. Therefore, establishing connections with related organizations in other countries is extremely important. These connections can only be sustained through a certain partner relationship. To build a partner relationship, common needs must be found first. As ENSAPC said, both sides must together reflect on the different forms and contents of their epistemology, methodology, and cultural paradigms to facilitate more cooperation and exchange. Therefore, for exchange and cooperation to become necessary, we must do more solid research, understand our advantages and unique qualities, and find common facets that both sides need to work on, where meaning and value can be developed. What is marvelous about contemporary art is that it enriches the framework and field of art, and so increases the possible aspects of bilateral cooperation. As for sustaining cooperation, we could expand our thinking from focusing chronologically on continuous relationships with single organizations, to connecting spaces. By thinking about connections on multiple levels, we can make the most out of limited resources.Notes1: Yen-Hsiang Fang received PGICVA in 2016 with the exhibition project So Far, So Right. Interview conducted in Kaohsiung on December 7, 2021. 2: Meiya Cheng received PGICVA in 2015 with the exhibition project Public Spirits. Interview conducted in Taipei on March 18, 2022.3: Shan-Shan Huang received PGICVA in 2015 with the exhibition project The Flying Land. Interview conducted in Taipei on March 25, 2022.4. Nicole Yi-Hsin Lai received PGICVA in 2018 with the exhibition project Amongst the Silence - Finding Resistance and Refuge in Art. Phone Interview conducted on March 31, 2022.5: Li-Li Lien was the former director of the Centre Culturel de Taïwan à Paris. She was in office from 2016 to 2020. Lien's husband Hung-Hsing Chen is also quite an important curator and critic in the Taiwanese art scene. He went to Paris with Lien and gave her a lot of help behind the scenes. Lien modestly said that she is not a curator. To explain this more clearly, her mission and role during her four years in Paris were not like those of the curators who were interviewed in this study. Instead, she was an administrator of Taiwan's official organization stationed in Paris. However, her mission was the same as the subject of this study, which is to promote Taiwanese culture and art in Europe, and build relationships in Europe's cultural and art worlds in the hope of developing these relationships for the long term.6: Ms. Mallet was the curator of the Dieppe Biennale in Normandy. During her time in office, she also invited Taiwanese artists to participate in this biennale. Among the international curatorial projects that received grants from NCAF in 2016, one of the key exhibitions was held in Normandy. Ms. Mallet was the co-curator of this exhibition in Normandy. I have also invited her to Taiwan many times to participate in field work and exhibitions held by the Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei (MoCA Taipei). She is quite familiar with Taiwan. 7: The interviewee Corinne Diserens is the director of the École nationale supérieure d'arts de Paris-Cergy (ENSAPC). She is an influential curator and art museum director in the French art world, and (currently) is the director of ENSAPC. In France, the best art schools are of course situated in Paris. Among the art schools in Paris, the École des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts) is a relatively long-lived institution. It was established by the French King Louis XIV in the 17th century and is an important site where the classicist paintings of France and Europe emerged. The École des Beaux-Arts was also the academic institution which the impressionist painters criticized and opposed during the modernization of art in the 19th century.Other than the École des Beaux-Arts, the other art school in Paris is ENSAPC. ENSAPC was established in 1975 in the new town of Paris, Cergy-Pontoise. The foundation of this school is representative of European culture during the May 1968 student uprising and the pioneering and reformation spirit of Paris Vincennes during education reform, and is also representative of the new town which had been just established. The foundation of this school exemplifies the solid implementation of education reform. Its goal was to rethink education which was deemed too conservative and out of touch with social reality at that time. Specifically, traditional academic art could no longer keep up with the great changes and advancements of the era.The hypothesis that there is a difference in the development of contemporary art and modernist art among different regions in Europe was proposed based on this observation: In the numerous art galleries and museums of Paris, there is no lack of modernist art exhibitions, but there are very few contemporary art exhibitions. Is it true that contemporary art thrives in countries with a Protestant context, mainly the U.K. and the U.S., but is stunted in countries with a Catholic context? ENSAPC is a young art school that was founded in the 70s in the last century. It is one of the few art schools in Paris which focuses on the education and development of contemporary art, and the opinions of its leaders are of paramount significance to us.We sent our interview questions to the director's secretary, and the director and secretary answered our questions together, as shown below.8: Direction régionale des Affaires culturelles (Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs)
2022.11.24
Article | 1
Incubation Time: Retrospective Survey and Re-Evaluation of NCAF Curatorial Grants
I.    IntroductionThe National Culture and Arts Foundation (NCAF) launched the Production Grants to Independent Curators in Visual Arts (PGICVA) in 2004 to provide larger grants for specific curatorial projects. In response to the increasingly international subject matters of Taiwanese curators' research and curatorship, a grant for phase I, preliminary residential research projects was added in 2012. After completing a phase I international residential research project, grant recipients can plan a phase II exhibition based on their research findings. The Curator's Incubator Program started as the Curator's Incubator Program @ Hong-Gah Museum in 2010. The program involved matching Hong-Gah Museum with up-and-coming curators to help these new curators plan their first comparatively complete exhibition with the support of an institution. Since 2013, the program was expanded to include collaborations with other institutions (Curator's Incubator Program @ Museums). Not only did this provide curators with a wider variety of partner museums to choose from, but it also greatly increased the number of spaces available to grant programs.As of today, nearly 18 years have elapsed since NCAF began organizing the PGICVA. The Curator's Incubator Program, on the other hand, has been around for nearly 12 years. The two programs have appropriately provided resources for Taiwan's curatorial development in the field of visual arts. Many curators who participated in the two programs early on are now important figures in the field of visual arts curatorship and have continued to perform professional work in the curational sector. Therefore, this is a good time to look back on the development trajectory of the two programs. We have already seen a lot of comprehensive discussions around Taiwan's history of visual arts curatorship, the construction of curatorial education, and curatorial grant mechanisms in a series of lectures and articles over the past few years. Therefore, in this study, the author places a greater emphasis on learning about the professional development of curators to redefine and understand anew these two programs established by NCAF and reflect on future possibilities accordingly.Taiwan's arts and cultural funding policies have gradually shifted their focus from "objects", events and individual projects, to "people", the training of professionals in the field. The two NCAF programs were an indicator of such a shift. Visual arts curatorship, in particular, relies heavily on the curator or curating team and the artistic and managerial work they bring to the table based on their intangible assets like knowledge, experience, and connections. It is based on these views that the author hopes to understand anew the contemporary significance of these two programs and how they supported or hindered the personal career development of curators from the perspective of the curators themselves.To this end, the author has interviewed 11 curators (Attachment 1). The interviewees selected for this study include 4 curators who participated in the PGICVA, 3 who participated in the Curator's Incubator Program, and 4 who participated in both. The curators invited by the author to take part in this study have all continued to present complete projects in relevant fields to this day. Therefore, these interviews can also be seen as a retrospective and discussion on how the two NCAF programs influenced the development of Taiwan's curatorial field based on the personal experiences of professional curators.II.    Spearheading Taiwanese Contemporary Art Curatorship and Free SpacesLooking at the PGICVA in the 2000s, we can see that the program was still in an exploratory phase. Before the Curator's Incubator Program was established in 2010, the PGICVA was an important grant program focused on curatorship. Also, referencing the typical exhibition budgets of independent curatorial projects at the time, the PGICVA was indeed one of the more generous grant programs of its time.In the 2000s, contemporary art curatorship in Taiwan was still in its infancy: In 2004, while the first PGICVA was accepting submissions, the Taipei Biennial, which had a collaborative curating system in its early days, was in its third year. The Venice Biennial Taiwan Pavilion, which began encouraging Taiwanese curators by putting out open calls in 1999, was also in its third year. Aside from these two important curatorial platforms, Taiwan did not have a lot of resources to help curators show off their skills. Most exhibition resources were in the hands of public institutions. Even if curators were fortunate enough to execute a curatorial project at a museum, they might not receive sufficient support from said museum.Looking at the PGICVA during this time, one can realize that the program provided timely financial support for many curatorial projects. Examples include Trading Place: Contemporary Art Museum (2005) curated by Chien-Hui Kao, the first (2004) grantee of the program, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei (MoCA Taipei); Altered States (2006) curated by Amy Huei-Hwa Cheng, the second (2005) grantee of the program, at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM); Good Gangsters (2008) curated by Esther Lu, the third (2007) grantee of the program, at TFAM; Life Ammo (2011) curated by Hong-John Lin, the fourth (2008) grantee of the program, at MoCA Taipei; and In Sight -Tracing the Photography Studio Images of the Japanese Period in Taiwan (2010) curated by Yun-Ping Chien, the fifth (2009) grantee of the program, at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (NTMoFA).Under the circumstances of the time, the PGICVA did indeed offer the above curators certain resources that allowed them a degree of freedom to operate without being completely dependent on museum funding. However, we can see that under such circumstances, the PGICVA was just fueling existing projects in a more passive way. Curator Esther Lu said〔1〕in her interview: I didn't apply for the program until I'd planned a complete structure and secured a time slot at TFAM for the Good Gangsters exhibition. From this, we can see that the PGICVA still played a more supportive role. Nonetheless, the author believes that there are two project grantees during this period particularly worth discussing: The first is the project grant Sandy Hsiu-Chih Lo applied for in 2005, for the 2006 exhibit Exorcising Exoticism. The second is the project grant Chien-Hong Huang applied for in 2008, for the 2009 exhibit POST.O: The Reverse of TOPOS.Curator Sandy Hsiu-Chih Lo's Exorcising Exoticism was an extension of her collaborative curatorial project Utopia of Togetherness: The 2nd Taipei Public Art Festival (2005), which used the concept of arts engagement in public spaces to put on a "street art festival". The concept of Sandy Hsiu-Chih Lo's work was to subvert the stereotypical perception of public spaces in Xinyi Special District as commercial spaces. The project not only inserted contemporary art into everyday commercial areas through the curating of an art festival, but also presented a satirical reflection. Chien-Hong Huang's POST.O: The Reverse of TOPOS, on the other hand, attempted to put on a "large-scale" joint exhibition different from biennial exhibitions by working with the artist collective Open Contemporary Art Center (OCAC). In the interview, Chien-Hong Huang stated〔2〕that since he could not afford to rent the main exhibition venue of MoCA Taipei at the time, he experimented with connecting the museum's alternative spaces, from alternative spaces in Zhongshan Metro Mall and display walls to light boxes, forming quite a complete joint exhibition by experimentally piecing up such areas.POST.O: The Reverse of TOPOS (2010 PGICVA-funded exhibition), curated by Chien-Hong Huang and exhibited at Taipei Metro ZhingShang UmdergroundIn the cases of Exorcising Exoticism and POST.O: The Reverse of TOPOS, the PGICVA appropriately supported the diversification proposed by the exhibitions, and was an important promoter in these two curators' early curatorial careers. In the case of almost all interviewees: Both the curators who were recipients of the PGICVA and those who later participated in the Curator's Incubator Program mentioned how NCAF played a neutral role and did not interfere with the content and artistic expression of the grantees' projects. Though the funding provided by NCAF was somewhat lacking compared to that of museums and other institutions, it was nevertheless a sum that could be utilized with relative freedom. Therefore, projects that deviated from the ideas of traditional museum spaces and those with special research topics could be presented to certain degree within this limited space. Most interviewees had a positive experience regarding the freedom of the programs. You could even say that in recent years, with the two NCAF programs gradually having more complete, professional curatorial work done in institutions, they have become important ways for curators to realize their passion projects.III.    The Necessity/Dispensableness of a Competitive Stage and InstitutionalizationTo make up for the shortcomings of the PGICVA, the Curator's Incubator Program began to target up-and-coming curators to cultivate the new generation of Taiwanese curators. From a survivor's biased point of view, the grantees of the Curator's Incubator Program do have a high overlap with current heavyweights of Taiwan's curatorial circle. Most of the grantees were already working at institutions and galleries or engaged in the industry as independent curators or related professionals. That is why understanding anew what they gained and did not gain from this program has its importance.Earlier in this article, the author described the level of freedom offered by the two NCAF programs, but judging from the Curator's Incubator Program, although there was a degree of freedom with regard to the content of individual exhibitions, the program still had an awkward competitive quality in terms of program structure. This competitiveness was most noticeable in the first three years of the Curator's Incubator Program @ Hong-Gah Museum: During this time, the three grantees each year had to present three exhibitions at the same time. That is also why some interviewees stated that taking part in the Curator's Incubator Program at this stage did not allow them to focus solely on the content and artistry of the exhibition. Instead, the ability to negotiate for a more advantageous exhibition space took on more prominence.The interviewees showed divided opinions about whether competition is necessary: Although some interviewees said that competition can serve as an external push for grantees to elevate their curatorial abilities, others believed that such a competitive structure interfered with the freedom of independent curatorial work. However, most interviewees also said that, since the Curator's Incubator Program @ Museums in 2013, the arena-like atmosphere of presenting three exhibitions in one space has been toned down, giving curators' exhibitions more space to shine. Curator Chun-Chieh Lai said〔3〕in the interview: Since the Curator's Incubator Program has the unavoidable qualities of a "competition" or "rookie draft", why not lean into the competitiveness and public relations aspect like similar awards abroad and establish a clear separation between the Curator's Incubator Program and standard grants?Regarding the Curator's Incubator Program, the interviewees' opinions also differed, particularly on its coordinating role for institutional integration. The Curator's Incubator Program not only gives up-and-coming curators the opportunity to curate exhibitions in formal exhibition venues but also has the subtext of helping these curators understand/integrate into institutional culture. Although many interviewees stated that the experience was helpful to the work they are currently doing in institutions to some degree or other, there are also those who raised objections. Curator Fong-Ray Hsu believes〔4〕that the most distinctive trait of NCAF programs is their level of freedom. Therefore, he would like to see this freedom being used to challenge the limitations of institutions instead of self-imposing restriction within institutions' standard curatorial model. In his curatorial project DisOrder Exhibition/in Order (2013), the curator placed all the exhibited artworks and art events in a partner furniture store, instead turning the exhibition venue of Hong-Gah Museum into a sales center for that furniture store. This type of curatorial strategy based on the exhibition mechanism itself is still rarely found in Taiwan's art museums.DisOrder Exhibition/in Order (2012 Curator's Incubator Program @ Museums recipient), curated by Fong-Ray Hsu and exhibited at Hong-Gah Museum Curator Yu-Ling Chou also stated〔5〕in her interview that the project she did when participating in the Curator's Incubator Program @ Museums can be seen as the result of her subject of interest while studying abroad and the field surveys she conducted with friends after returning to Taiwan. Now that she is working in an institution, she doesn't have that many opportunities to present her past research in a more integrated manner. The feedback from several interviews once again lays emphasis on the importance of the two NCAF programs in terms of personal practice and freedom of curatorship. As for whether the two programs directly helped the grantees' careers, most of the interviewees stated that, if anything, the programs assisted their careers in terms of practice and experience, or yielded more indirect benefits instead of contributing directly by bringing them more attention or career opportunities.IV.    Matters the NCAF Programs Have Not Yet Done/OverdoneIn this study project, interviewees including Esther Lu and Yen-Hsiang Fang all pointed out how the design of the program directly influences/limits grantees' outcomes. The two NCAF programs indeed make it easier for grantees to gravitate towards exhibition production. Some interviewees also expressed that such mechanisms bettered the grantees' practical curating skills but at the same time limited possibilities for art projects to develop and grow.Esther Lu stated that she thinks the current project design is over-oriented towards exhibition production and that, although it can train grantees in task coordination, it also limits the possibilities of art projects. Curator Yen-Hsiang Fang stated〔6〕in his interview that, if he could participate in a NCAF program again, he would focus more on activities other than the exhibition itself, as to expand the definition and possibilities of exhibitions through these activities. Many interviewees, including Yen-Hsiang Fang, mentioned that the current NCAF programs seem to imply some kind of default path. A kind of development path for up-and-coming curators started to emerge: first, the Curator's Incubator Program @ Museums, then, the phase I overseas residential research of the PGICVA, and finally, the phase II exhibition production of said program. However, does this path limit our ideas of what curators can do? Does it exclude curators that are not suited for this development path?A considerable number of interviewees provided many observations regarding the relationship between curators and institutions: The transition of the Curator's Incubator Program from collaborating exclusively with Hong-Gah Museum to working with multiple museums tempered its competitive characteristic, but many interviewees also found that administrative resources and marketing ability differ between institutions, resulting in larger gaps between the situations faced by different grantees. Although this more or less reflects the current state of the curatorial sector in Taiwan, it is worth considering whether the main purpose of the Curator's Incubator Program is to help up-and-coming curators get an early taste of the curatorial industry or focus on more comprehensive marketing and exposure of their ideas and research results.Unlike the Curator's Incubator Program, the PGICVA is typically defined as a resource for more mature curators with a certain degree of experience or professional ability, so it doesn’t have the same matchmaking mechanism in which the NCAF serves as an intermediary between curators and institutions. Nicole Yi-Hsin Lai, director of Chiayi Art Museum, was a phase I residential research project grantee of the PGICVA. In her interview, she stated〔7〕that, because the system often made it hard for phase I residential research grantees to confirm collaboration with institutions in Taiwan, grantees had to establish contact with overseas institutions as "independent curators". Under these circumstances, said Nicole Yi-Hsin Lai, the institutions that curators were able to secure collaboration with in the end were often smaller venues or independent spaces, which somewhat limited project development possibilities and fell short of expectations for phase II of the program.In his article "Whose anxiety? Whose international? The Difficulties of Curatorial Education in Taiwan", curator Fong-Ray Hsu talks〔8〕about how the two current NCAF programs lack the kind of hierarchical system that performing arts incubation mechanisms have, and how they overly limit the development of curatorial paths and forms. Also, the design of the current system lacks imagination in terms of inter-disciplinary collaborations and fails to disrupt the nature of Taiwan's curatorial doing. Of course, it is quite impossible to expect NCAF grant programs to change the ecosystem of the entire sector, but like Fong-Ray Hsu said, how can we engage in a more serious discussion around contemporary art in Taiwan through curatorial doing when curators rely on grants and become some kind of "outsourced civil servant"?V.    Future OutlookThis study project reorganized the old and new problems found with the two NCAF programs. These problems include overly uniform formats and rigid development paths. However, the author believes that the above issues are relatively easy to fix. Redesign and rearrangement of the system can address the general doubts raised by the interviewees to some degree and bring the programs more in line with latest international trends of curatorial development. The author, on the other hand, believes that the harder issues to resolve are the fundamental questions of need and purpose.The PGICVA was established in response to the lack of specific curatorial grants in Taiwan at the time, while the Curator's Incubator Program was established in response to the demand of curatorial talent cultivation and resources in the 2010s. Both programs appropriately addressed the needs of the time, but the discussion on their purpose has been shelved to this day. Curator Chien-Hong Huang said in his interview: The POST.O: The Reverse of TOPOS exhibition was actually a response to the 2008 Taipei Biennial. Notwithstanding, from a practical standpoint, its budget was less than a tenth of the Taipei Biennial's, which somewhat limited the role of the NCAF's grant programs.Although freedom is an important value of the two NCAF grant programs, any medium-sized grant can offer some degree of creative freedom to its grantee. Judging from their current funding structure, the two programs—whether they play the role of a medium-sized program between small independent projects and large exhibitions in public museums or a transitional phase in the career of curators before they enter an institution or engage in a large project—cannot be separated from the role of incubator. Therefore, the NCAF needs to redefine and adjust its role.With nearly 20 years of experience, the two NCAF programs should not be limited to facilitating events. Their greatest value, like Chien-Hong Huang said in his interview, is to be the most important resource pool of international curatorial talents in Taiwan. Therefore, figuring out how to increase matches between talents and domestic or foreign institutions, in addition to the funding, can be a direction to work towards. Under a feasible framework, perhaps integrating the international connections and resources of the NCAF's ARTWAVE platform is a more achievable short-term goal.Also, the scope of the curatorial sector does not stop at curatorial talent cultivation. When the Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts oversaw the NCAF's International Curatorial Network of Visual Art, it sent researchers, arts administrators, and exhibition production professionals to Bangladesh's arts database, the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai, and the Biennale of Sydney for internships and practical work experience. In 2019, when the author met with the Sharjah Art Foundation, which organizes the Sharjah Biennial, representatives of the foundation said that Taiwan should send more graduate students or freshly graduated curators/artists to participate in the foundation's seminars and workshops.In other words, the problems regarding the current design of the two NCAF programs are twofold: On the one hand, due to budget constraints and Taiwan's domestic conditions, they cannot concentrate massive amounts of resources on a few artists and curators to help them hold exhibitions at first-class venues in North America and Europe, as some Asian countries do. On the other hand, they ignore the training of novice curators and workers engaged in exhibition production. Addressing the former issue, to support workers or teams at the so-called top of the hierarchy might be more difficult given Taiwan's current ecosystem (even though it is common in Taiwan's performing arts scene, as Fong-Ray Hsu noted). Nonetheless, investing in and supporting the essential workers of Taiwan's curatorial sector might be a way for NCAF to establish a foundation outside of the two programs' framework and make the development of Taiwan's curatorial field more comprehensive.Notes 1: Interview conducted in Shilin on March 25, 2021.2: Interview conducted in Taipei City on April 5, 2021.3: The interview was conducted in Neihu on April 9, 2021.4: The interview was conducted in Neihu on April 9, 2021.5: Interview conducted in Taipei City on Friday, April 2, 2021.6: Interview conducted in Taipei City on Friday, April 2, 2021.7: The interview was conducted in Chiayi City on April 22, 2021.8: ARTouch, October 25, 2019., https://artouch.com/views/content-11788.html[Attachment 1] Interviewees Table
2022.11.24