Chin Ya-Chun
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“He” is TAI HanHong(the Artist)
text by Chin Ya-Chun

When I saw that he had listed “a mezzanine” as his place of employment on Facebook, I smiled. His atelier is literally located on a staircase landing. I was there for about three hours, and, to this date, I am still uncertain on how big the place was.

What lingers in my memory is that I found myself sitting on a double chair with cushions apparently meant for guests. There was a small round stool placed between us that served as a small table. I placed my mobile phone on it alongside our coffee cups to use as an audio recorder. I sat there as he stood to my right, chatting away while he boiled water and ground coffee beans. He then walked over to a bookshelf, rifling through it to find a catalogue he wanted to show me. Suddenly, we were startled­ by an unexpected noise. The noise turned out to be the rain outside. I noticed a row of windows on the wall to my right, and a rack of clothes he had left hanging outside those windows. While we chatted, I mentioned the strangely designed chairs on his website. He immediately grabbed three chairs from a platform to his left and began introducing them one by one. He began to slowly meander towards what he defined as the core and identity of an “artist”. Then, overcome with curiosity, I asked him if he really lived in this small space. In response, he pointed to a corner of the ceiling. To my surprise, I found a bed installed there! I stood up to examine some photos and videos on his computer of two installation art pieces he had exhibited. I suddenly asked him, “How tall are you?” With a practiced smile, he replied, “183 cm”, as if he was no stranger to the question. As I was leaving, I asked him, “Don’t you feel cramped sleeping like this?” (Judging from what I saw, it seemed to be very cramped) He smiled again and indicated that the ceiling is surprisingly high enough for him to stand up straight on his bed.

I guessed that it was 4mx4mx4m[1] in size. I imagined him being able to live and work nimbly in such a limited space using his abundance of imagination and skills in craftsmanship. When I recalled the works he exhibited between 2006 and 2009[2], I could clearly see how he excelled in operating within cramped spaces, which made his “mezzanine” atelier somewhat less surprising.

There was a particular art piece I regret not being able to witness in-person.

In the beginning of the documentary, I (or we) can see a set of buildings across a four-lane road. On the right, there stands a taller two-story main building. On the left, there are two connected long fences. A few other buildings are situated in the back, but they are largely obscured, making them difficult to discern. Although these mostly grey structures in the background and the asphalt road in the foreground are not awkwardly inlayed within the natural surroundings, their artificial nature is obvious. I must point out that these structures are part of an abandoned 2000 m2 chicken farm located in Liou-ying-shiang of Tainan County. After he rented the place, the artist moved into one of these two-story buildings and began building a living space/piece of installation art that would last two and a half years.

What the artist’s body experienced for us (an irreplaceable experience) is: imagine him opening the metal sluice door, which, apparently is the only entrance to the gigantic place. However, this action does not take us to the space “behind the door” as we would expect. Instead, there is a wall, which looks like the metal door but leaves no extra space for us— it is a complete shutdown laden with some frustration. There is this slightly unexpected “entrance”— a door to that two-story building. After that, we can “see” him moving his body indoors on hand, instead of foot. It is completely empty inside. There is only a connecting path (stairway), which has no way of approaching the entrance. He walks towards it and easily pushes the leaning wall on the right, revealing the entrance. The sluice gates are linked in a way so that the “opening” one sluice gate on the path simultaneously “closes” another one at the other end. He cannot pass until he turns back and immediately “closes” the gate on the path where he came from to continue on his intended path. After entering the similarly empty space on the second floor, he hangs several structures that look like swings onto iron bars located on the ceiling. They represent groups of small spaces parallel to the greater spatial setting they reside. Yet, they preserve a sense of “mobility” independent from the fixed space. Apart from swinging, they can also spin 360 degrees. If a person were to use one of those swings, it would seem that the whole room would be swinging as well (at least that’s what I would think). A similar installation also appears on the rooftop completely detached from the indoor space. The video (and this experience) ends on the balcony outside of the second floor, where the artist is rotating an indescribable contraption. From the images reflected by a rear-view mirror located near the left-hand side, we can assume that it triggers a hidden exit on the left wall of the first floor, which we (perhaps) may not have noticed opening. The artist then reverses the previous order/process and walks towards the space “behind the door”, which was previously unreachable.

I am slightly regretful not only because this was an irreplaceable experience, but it is also now forever unavailable. The two and a half years of continuous labor that gave birth to this living space/installation art met its objective, and came to a close. Since the space was an abandoned chicken farm located in a remote area in Liou-ying-shiang of Tainan County, very few visitors actually had the chance to experience this project. After graduation, he left Tainan and came to Taipei, moving into a “mezzanine” within an abandoned school where many artists had enjoyed gathering. The abandoned school is located at the foot of the mountain where TNUA is located. The space, a place of residence and art venue of sorts, was rented to a senior student until a severe typhoon-induced flood rendered that place a 2000 m2 abandoned wasteland once again. Thus, it was returned to its previous state before it was rented to the senior student…

As we near the end of this narration, I wanted to say that I obviously created certain expectations by promoting this artist and his works. Yet, it seems as if I have never come in contact with this artist’s proposed works. This may have resulted from my assumption that, although different appearances may result, his creative practices all come from the same origin— disclosing/dragging out that space (experience) which actually exists yet had never been perceived nor sensed before. In other words, this narration tries to imitate the consistent form of its protagonist, and hopes to disclose/drag out parts that actually exist, but never perceived nor sensed in these works.

[1] After the article was written, it was confirmed by TAI HanHong that the actual space is: 3.4 x 3 x 2.6 M, about 7.8 m2.
[2] TAI HanHong, Transitions between Dimensions, house in disuse, door, window, wall, stairs, etc., 20 x 20 x 6 M, 2009
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