First conceived in early 2016, Yao Jui-chung's "Incarnation" series covers more than 230 temples, cemeteries, public gardens, and amusement parks, photographed within one and a half years in an intensive manner, featuring the statues of deities created by the Han people by reference to their self-images. Some of these statues are toppled, while others remain standing. Carefully observing these statues, namely the objects of people’s psychological projection, one may further grasp the endemic political relations in different geographical spaces.
The artist evades narrative by intentionally leaving out people in each frame, shunning religious gatherings or festivities. He focuses on the physical embodiment of the gods — a projection of devotees’ fervent desire. Adopting a typological approach, he captures not the local folk culture, but the landscape that cradles the staggering statues; not unusual cases but mundane existence. Devoid of humans, events, or disasters, this body of work explores the manifestation of human wants in a clinical approach that eschews religious architecture, folk activities, or worship ceremonies. In a dispassionate, monotone palette, this new photography series scrutinizes the inextricable connections between man, religion, and faith.
The desires of the multitudes shape the explicit forms of these colossal statues of deities. However, these materialized forms are every bit as illusory as dreams and bubbles, since emptiness is the nature of tattva, or ultimate reality. Yao Jui-chung captures the absurdity of deity statues against the urban backdrop, where the interconnecting relationships between deities and humans resonate to the mundane desires that are at once vacant and lusty. Distilling a sense of beauty in the monotone palette, the 300 images document the sensualist society with clinical detachment.
In addition to the array of 300 gelatin silver prints that portray the human desire, a three-channel video installation of Incarnation is also on view, where the rising and falling tones of the complex radio spectrum of Saturn recorded by NASA transport the viewer to the mystical universe. Deities of all stripes on the three screens instantiate the intertwining relationship between history and society. Evoking a road movie, the video installation deconstructs and repaints the landscape of Taiwan, suffused with a magical divinity interspersed with sentient yearnings.
There is also a performance by sound artist Dawang Yingfan Huang and musician Meuko! Meuko!, who is known in Japan and Taiwan for her experimental approach to electronic music. Conceived as a modern version of religious tribute to the gods, the collaboration reassembles the visual and sound elements of a traditional temple fair and conjures an organic performance that manifests Taiwanese cultural and religious beliefs.
Grantee: Jui-Chung Yao