The Zero-Dollar Exhibition: History, Artists, Makers, and Sweat

Article by Ya-Chun Chin, images from the Art Maker Festival

The Zero Dollar Manufacturing artist-in-residence exhibition, running from July 29 to August 20, is part of the Art Maker Festival being held to celebrate the opening of the Chung Hsing Cultural and Creative Park in Yilan County. The exhibition’s main goal is to discuss the “maker” concept that everybody is talking about. The term “maker” might seem strange to some, but to the artists it’s essential. That’s why I set up this exhibition with a “zero-dollar” rule: all participating artists must produce their works without spending money.

The zero-dollar rule is not the only thing that makes taking part in this exhibition harder than usual; another is the vast exhibition space. Seven of the eight teams of exhibiting artists will be in a huge warehouse of about 2640 m2, which translates to over 300 square meters for each team. The eighth team will be at the park entrance and will have 2640 m2 all to themselves.

Mounting this exhibition has been incredibly hard for the eight teams: it’s summer, and they have to work long hours indoors without air conditioning or outdoors in direct sunlight. Even so, they have managed to devise and implement some interesting plans, which is why I want the public to witness their creativity and commitment. On the other hand, the behind-the-scene moments don’t always end up in the final presentations.

1. Trail Band by Wenyi Choo

Wenyii Choo has hosted workshops in many Yilan County elementary schools, teaching hundreds of students to make their own “trail instruments”. The “trail” idea comes from one of Choo’s earlier works, consisting of a small device containing a suspended pen and piece of paper—when you move, the pen marks the paper, making a virtual “trail”, a map created by the movement of your body. For the Trail Band project, Choo helped children create trail devices and make their own “trail maps”, while also trying to turn the devices into percussion instruments.

The devices made by the children will feature in the exhibition as part of the artist’s larger device. The children will also be invited on stage to perform on the trail instruments they made on the first day of the exhibition.

2. Transit Rest Area by Cheng-Liang Li 

The artist uses materials from old buildings, scrap iron, driftwood, old furniture and windows, and display panels within the park, to create a 4-meter-high rest area. As well as serving as a display area and rest area for visitors, the Transit Rest Area can also be used as a projection space for all sorts of maker seminars. Li has also worked with other artists to build a large desk and chairs in a strong modern style, yet retaining the attributes of the original driftwood and scrap metal, that will be used for dynamic activities during the exhibition.

3. Thumb Cinema by Wan-Jen Chen

Wan-Jen Chen is an expert in dynamic imaging, but for this exhibition he is using aerial footage of Yilan surfers and swimmers as the materials for his flip books. Chen found a huge abandoned roof in the park that is still in one piece, and he is going to turn it into a bookshelf for his flip books. In addition to the dozens of flip books the artists prepared for the exhibition, we also managed to get Epson to sponsor all the printers and ink, so visitors will be able to pick their favorite characters and make their own flip books to have fun learning about the principles of animation. Products made by visitors will also be displayed in the exhibition.

4. Two and a Half Million Carats by Yen-Ying Huang

Yen-Ying Huang has taken abandoned park structures and calcinated them, turning them into black diamonds weighing more than 2,500,000 carats (5 tonnes). The work symbolizes how the 100-year-old paper factory that once stood on the site of the Chung Hsing Cultural and Creative Park will soon become a strong cultural influence again, but differing from its past in terms of both appearance and meaning.

It is worth mentioning that Huang is not a woodworking expert. Through a local artist friend, he met two young local farmers, Xiao Shi (小石) and Steven, who were fascinated when they heard about Huang’s project. Since they were both in a slack season, they decided to join the artist in his zero-dollar diamond project. All three have carried out research and worked hard to complete this labor-intensive Chung Hsing Cultural and Creative project.

5. Exhibits by Zan Lun Huang 

During the Japanese colonial era, the park was known as the Taiwan Industrial Corporation (臺灣興業株式會社). The site’s historic value caught the attention of the artists, and this is how Zan Lun Huang got his inspiration.

The park contains dozens of historic buildings, and over the years many of them have lost doors and windows. Originally, Huang wanted to use these materials to build a new space, but his plan was shelved because the park has yet to decide whether or not to keep the objects. Huang then turned to a collector friend who provided him with old doors and windows from other historic buildings and helped him complete his work. Inside the device, audio is played from interviews with former workers in the paper factory during the Japanese colonial era. In this way, there is still light in this huge, dark warehouse, and the past is not forgotten.

To meet the zero-dollar rule, it wasn’t enough to get the materials for free, so Huang enlisted his father, Ruiguang Huang (黃瑞光), to help with the construction. Their contrasting clothes and the way they quarrel while they work has made preparation for the exhibition highly entertaining!

6. Building a Canoe With This River, the Lanyang River Basin by Chen-Yu Yeh

Chen-Yu Yeh has created a series called “Building a Canoe With This River”, building one canoe out of junk he found in the Tamsui River and another out of styrofoam used by oyster farmers on Zengwun River. However, neither canoe is seaworthy, so now Yeh wants to hand-build a canoe out of a log from Yilan, the source of the Lanyang River, which had a glorious lumber history. (Wood was also the main construction material of the old paper factory.)

This project has gone through some twists and turns. The Luo Dong Forestry Bureau was supposed to be sponsor, but its complex administrative procedures took too much time. Luckily, a friend at the Forestry Bureau was able to procure a cedar log from a kind individual, thus enabling the project to see the light of day.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing from there. Yeh agree to take part in the exhibition out of friendship, and took on the work of planning and organizing the entire exhibition, which means he is in charge of the exhibition’s overall visual design, in a warehouse dozens of meters tall, without an aerial work platform, without sufficient funding. He also has to take care of projectors, display panel output, lighting, and more. All this responsibility has put his canoe building project on indefinite hold.

7. Chun-piao Lai by Leo Liu

This work is named after a reporter who has campaigned for forest conservation. Leo Liu believes that it is reporter Chun-piao Lai’s articles published in the late 1980s that focused public attention on forest conservation and eventually led to changes in the conservation of forests in Taiwan. The work is named after the reporter to acknowledge his unwavering devotion to environmentalism.

Liu got his inspiration from a pile of wood in the park, consisting of about 1000 pieces of scrap wood of different sizes, unearthed during a recent park revamp. Some may have been buried for over 30 years, and there is no way to tell who buried them or why. Some of them weigh over a tonne, and some only dozens of kilograms.

These pieces of wood were originally destined for paper manufacture, but now they are useless. Knowing that the site is going to be turned into a cultural space, the authorities are responsible for putting these materials to good use, but for now the artists will have to turn them into art.

For Liu’s project, he single-handedly moved the wood piece by piece, displaying them on the concrete area at the park entrance. He did it all by himself in order to push himself to his physical limits, thus showing respect to the forest deities and all the unsung heroes who fought for the environment in the past.

8. CASTAWAY by Xuan-Zhen Liao, I-Chieh Huang, and Chia-Hung Lee

Xuan-Zhen Liao, I-Chieh Huang, and Chia-Hung Lee are three friends who just graduated in Fine Arts from the Taipei National University of the Arts. Only this year, the team was nominated for the Taishin Arts Award for their film Time Splits in the River. Already, they have been receiving invitations to film festivals overseas. The art world has high expectations of these young creators.

They are also very interested in the history of the Chung Hsing Cultural and Creative Park. With CASTAWAY, they aim to make reference to people’s experience and the place itself. First, they used simple materials to build a complete set of models of the park, which consists of 27 buildings, then they asked Chia-Hung Lee, from Taichung Municipal Taichung First Senior High School, to start working on the models.

 

This is the first art installation in a park that covers an area of 22 hectares, so it has not had access to the best facilities or resources. The future of this sire is still uncertain, but it has potential and is worth keeping an eye on. All these talented art students and artists face a challenging future.

 

The “Zero-Dollar” Artist-in-residence Exhibition

Curator: Ya-Chun Chin
Co-curator: Ching-Pei Hung
Co-ordinator in Residence: ChengShu Li
Exhibition planners: Chen-Yu Yeh, Cheng-Liang Li

Exhibition Dates: 29/07/2017–20/08/2017
Venue: Chung Hsing Cultural and Creative Park Youliao warehouse & entrance areas

Artists and works:

Trail Band by Wenyi Choo
Transit Rest Area by Cheng-Liang Li
Thumb Cinema by Wan-Jen Chen
Two and a Half Million Carats by Yen-Ying Huang
Exhibits by Zan Lun Huang
Building a Canoe With the River, the Lanyang River Basin by Chen-Yu Yeh
Chun-piao Lai by Leo Liu
CASTAWAY by Xuan-Zhen Liao, I-Chieh Huang, and Chia-Hung Lee

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