HIGH VOLTAGE—HSIEH Yu-Cheng solo exhibition
Saio-Long Cultural Park Residency Artists Exhibition
During my residency, I knew the object, “pin insulator”, from the collections of the Heritage Architectural Materials Vault. Dismantled from buildings, the pin insulator, made of glazed porcelain in cyan, was an antique high voltage insulator which had been widely installed on the overhead beams in wood structured buildings to fix the copper wires as a conductor of electricity indoors. So it was one of the earliest devices used in the modern electricity system. When carefully comparing each pin insulator, I found out that unlike those industrially mass produced objects which have certain specifications in sizes or dimensions, it still possesses the touch of human warmth as well as subtle variations in details deriving from its handcrafting nature. Living in an era that electrical power is now supplied underground, I can hardly imagine there was a period of time when people could uphold this massive electricity system and power while dominating and gaining control over it simply with bare hands and knowledge. Although nowadays, wires coated with plastic won’t spark easily if touched as traditional uninsulated copper wires, pin insulators are still having a role on those high-voltage utility poles to maintainthe reliability of electricity gridfor the cities.
Modern electricity has opened a new chapter in human’s history as well as advanced the Second Industrial Revolution. The invention of electric lighting has enabled us to be active any time of day or night and to acquire free time that we had never possessed. The nights are shined so brightly just like daytime. Therefore, electricity has redefined the conditions in modern society by influencing wars, colonization, business, and culture. In the book, In Praise of Shadows, Junichiro Tanizaki elaborated his idea about electricity, darkness, and even modernity: although humans can take advantage of and further expand time and space that hadn’t been used before thanks to illuminated nights, areas under shadows are being forgotten and erased. Before electricity was supplied, humans were living in shades while shadows were part of our life creating certain kind of perceptions and aesthetics. I can’t help but start to visualize the overlapped images of the broken, disused lightboxes hung alongside the industrial roads, the solitary, lightless nights accompanied by street lamps, and their electrified bodies connecting to each other. After the glorious time of brightness and illumination, what causes their declination today? And what remains staying behind in the darkness?
The project of my residency will include a series of paintings, objects, and space installations with reference to the electricity system. It is my intention to further imagine, to collect local historical materials, to explore colonization, to investigate gaps between technology and modern society by outspeeding its development while going back to its originality.
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