Human-Cannabis, Jigoku, Singing Winds
Jawshing Arthur Liou
June 11 – July 16, 2022
Jawshing Arthur Liou
Artist Talk: 3:00-4:30pm, June 11, 2022 (Limited capacity, by invitation only)
Chi-Wen Gallery is delighted to present “Human-Cannabis, Jigoku, Singing Winds”, a solo show by Taiwanese artist Jawshing Arthur Liou. The exhibition showcases three series of video and film created in 2020, Human-Cannabis II: ASA (2020), Jigoku series (2020) and House of the Singing Winds (2020).
Human Cannabis II: ASA
Inspired by the ancient worship of hemp in Japan, Human-Cannabis II: ASA (2020) is a memorial of the plant’s cultural heritage, enduring spiritual connections, and untold histories. The film depicts a story of a medieval hemp farmer, his relationship to the crop, and memories of a young girl. The first-person narration combines elements of poetry and fiction as one of Jawshing Liou’s first attempts to broaden his visual work into text-based expression.
Liou’s interest with cannabis stemmed from a 2012 collaboration with Dr. Alex Straiker, a research scientist at Indiana University in the U.S. Their discussion centered around human brains’ ability to produce close equivalence of THC and CBD, known substances from cannabis plants. These substances are responsible for a wide range of cognitive functions including the ability to learn and to forget. The result of their collaboration was a 4-channel video, Human-Cannabis I: Sonnet 27—featuring a prehistoric encounter between human and cannabis. The images in the video suggest a primordial force both in nature and in our minds. It is a journey of someone’s memories both of a child and as a child, blurred between the lines of remembering and forgetting.
As Liou turns his attention to the world’s cannabis history and culture, he discovers the beautiful and mysterious hemp tradition in Japan. In the Shinto coronation ceremony (Daijōsai), the emperor wears a hemp robe and receives an offering of hemp as a symbolic domain of the plant realm and silk as the animal realm. Hemp rope, paper, and fiber could be seen strung around Shinto temples and spiritual sites. Human-Cannabis II: Asa portrays hemp as a religious medium for the supernatural. The unsettled timeline is a metaphor for the mirrored images between illusion and reality, a notion of life that continues to be the main course of Liou’s work.
Jigoku (2020) is a series of landscape videos of geothermal sites in Kyushu, Japan. Many of them are based in Beppu, a small town with over 2900 hot spring vents. Eight of these hot springs are renowned for the dramatic physical appearance and are named Jigoku, a Japanese word for “Hell.” Those included in the series are “Blood Hell” (Chinoike Jigoku), “Sea Hell” (Umi Jigoku), “White Pond Hell” (Shiraike Jigoku), and “Ghost Buddhist Monk Hell” (Oniishi Bozu Jigoku). Mount Aso, the largest active volcano in Japan, is located just 100km in the southwest of these hot springs. With the influence of Animism and Buddhism, these locations have been regarded as sites of worship since the ancient time. The videos aim to capture the profound spiritual quality of the landscape, while contemplating on the relationship between change and perpetuity in a geological scale.
House of the Singing Winds
House of the Singing Winds (2020) is a three-channel video installation about the memories of a venerated American Midwest Impressionist painter, Theodore Clement Steele (1847-1926), and his wife, Selma Steele (1870-1945). Many of Steele’s masterful interpretations of nature and rural landscape began in his remote Indiana Brown County home, where he was surrounded by his favorite sceneries. The century old house is preserved as a historic site today. With 95% original objects from the family, the house authentically reflects T. C. and Selma Steele’s personality and lifestyle. House of the Singing Winds is an homage to Steele’s work, which depicts the landscapes around and the intimate details inside the historic house. Most of the footage in this piece is filmed with stop motion animation, capturing the fleeting light and passing moments that are once encapsulated in Steele’s paintings. The narration is adapted from Selma Steele’s memoir and provides a rare female perspective on the couple’s pioneering life.
About the Artist
Jawshing Arthur Liou is an artist with a background in photography, digital media, film, and journalism. His recent projects include a pilgrimage in the sacred mountains in Tibet, a journey through the tsunami-ravaged coastline of Japan, and a cinematic collaboration with a brain scientist regarding the connection between endocannabinoids and memory. Liou works with lens-based materials and electronic imaging to create installations depicting mental and surreal spaces. Many of his videos do not contain clear narratives but are meditative in nature, allowing time to slow to a ruminative pace while spatial scales oscillate between the microcosmic and infinitely expansive. Using sources ranging from landscapes and oil paint to human body, much of Liou’s work is related to notions of impermanence, human tragedy, and spiritual sanctuary.
Liou was born in Zhongli, Taiwan in 1968. He received a BA in Journalism at the National Chengchi University in Taipei, Taiwan in 1990 and worked as a video journalist before emigrating to the United States at the age of 25. He pursued a study in Fine Arts and received an MFA in Photography and Electronic Intermedia from the University of Florida, Gainesville in 1998. He was selected as a member of the 1997 National Graduate Seminar in American Photography Institution in New York. While in Florida, Liou studied photography with the renowned surrealist Jerry Uelsmann and Evon Streetman. During this time Liou’s work became more personal and conceptual, and his practice expanded to incorporate video. Liou has been a faculty at Indiana University, Bloomington since 1999. He is currently the Associate Dean and Herman B. Wells Professor of Digital Art at the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design.
Liou has participated in many important exhibitions, festivals and biennials, including: “The world began without the human race and it will end without it”, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Art, Taichung (TW, 2021), “House of the Singing Winds”, Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Bloomington (US, 2020); “Rituals of Signs and Metamorphosis”, Red Brick Art Museum, Beijing (CN, 2019); “Scared Spaces: The Road To…”, the Rubin Museum of Art, New York City (US, 2018); “State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now”, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis (US, 2016); The 12th Sharjah Biennial, Sharjah (UAE, 2015); SeMA Biennale Mediacity, Seoul (KR, 2014); “State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now”, Crystal Bridges Museum, Bentonville, Arkansas (US, 2014); “TRUE COLORS”, the 6th Yebisu International Festival for Art & Alternative Visions, Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokyo (JP, 2014), “Sacred Sojourn”, Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TW, 2014), “Sonnet 27”, SiTE:LAB, Grand Rapids, Michigan (US, 2013).
We would like to thank Digital Art Center Taipei, Liang Gallery and Project Fulfill Art Space for their generous support in making this exhibition happen.