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Jia CHANG, Total Museum of Art


1973, Seoul


Photography, Media



Series from the Beautiful Instruments 2, 2014

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Jia Chang : In Praise of a Relational Aesthetics

Jia Chang : In Praise of Relational Aesthetics

Only a short time ago, a Westerner travelling in Asia could not help but be surprised by the prevailing discretion in male-female relationships: no holding hands, no hugging, no emotional outpourings, no kissing, and no furtive glances in public. There has been a kind of ban on direct emotional expression that governed the social behavior. However, the advent of globalization, the acceleration of interaction between different people and culture, and the communication development via internet like social networks have overcome the taboos in the culture. As entering the 21st century, the world of appearance has changed, and art arena has expanded. However, artists still predict and look further into the future before anyone else. In an essay titled Esthetique Relationnelle (Relational Aesthetics) written by a young art critic Nicolas Bourriaud in 1998, he tried to highlight what is an obsession with interactivity which crosses our time. In the introduction of his essay, Bourriaud described the human interaction and social relationship based on resistance regarding the proximity and social formatting as if predicting.
In the end of the 1990s, Jia Chang’s art world revealed in a time of transition to the world is parallel to such circumstances and consideration. Her work, which brings up the two issues about identity (identite) and otherness (alterite), examines the positioning of an artist, especially a female artist, and symbolizes interests which shake the era while utilizing a variety of media such as performance art, video, and photography. Something, which has impudence and critical distance at the same time, operates within Jia Chang’s unique processes and methods, and she protects it from the other side of the violent situation she created. The video work titled Physical Condition for being an Artist created in 2000 contains violence in which Jang gets slapped and eggs thrown on her face while exposing her half body. At the end of the scene, she is shown with a broad smile, illustrating her unyielding spirit significantly. Here, it seems that Jang attempts to represent the victory of a group against the unflinching behavior of the other. Her derogatory grin after the ordeal is its obvious evidence.

Clearly focused on challenging the other by demolishing its perceptual practices, even provoking the other from its unstable aesthetic inertia, Jia Chang imagines all forms of comedietta (Saynete) that praise indecent actions and words. In another work Standing up Peeing (2006), which shows the standing naked women urinating in the stands, the two different forms of photography and videos are in the same context. Through this, Jang raises a question about the boundary which distinguishes two genders. In another series of her work titled Pee-Tree(2007) and Fixed Object (2007), she even expresses the poetic territory under the subject matter of urine. In the P-Tree is a sculpture with gigantic tree branches made of metal. The beads are hung in the branches and urine is filled in the beads. Its shadow transforms an exhibition space into a dream-like space through the projection of light. In the series of work titled Fixed Object (2007), the artist fixates salt with urine-based stabilizer onto objects such as a mirror or leather straps. 

In reviewing her entire work, Jia Chang has faithfully performed her role as an alchemist in each artwork. She had left her mark as one of the women artists in the Magiciens de la Terre exhibition in 1989 curated by Jean-Hubert Martin who gains an insight into the new artistic era. Jia Chang’s artwork, which leaves a strong impression behind the audience, is materialization of her reaction against the pitfalls of our world with all its fallacies and violence. More specifically, according to the central figure of the Fluxus movement, Robert Filliou, all acts in life should be integrated with artistic duty, and therefore art is based on a collective power that seeks to bring about changes in life.

Therefore, Jia Chang’s work deals with fundamental and essential problems and the body can be one of the most important mediums. If there is a strong desire to discover the significant touch of feminist in her work, Jia Chang is no more or less a feminist than a male artist is a de facto male chauvinist. The overarching predicament hinges on language and culture, and principles. It is a problem of conventions. All forms of barriers, and whatever they may be, the motivation behind her work is to implode the barriers between art and life?by whatever means necessary. 

Philippe Piguet (Art Critic, Curator)