Video art arose in Taiwan and Hong Kong around the same time in the early 1980s. Artists employed media that allowed convenient filming and immediate broadcasting to actively intervene in social issues. Comparing to the narrative films and documentaries produced in Hong Kong and Taiwan around the same period, the video art form that combined creativity and political statements did not catch too much attention, and because rather disadvantaged and marginal. Taking a retrospective look on the video art in Hong Kong and Taiwan during the 1980s and 1990s, the unique sensibility and insights demonstrated about historical incidents, in fact, introduce an opportunity to revisit and reflect upon the history given the tense political situation among Hong Kong, Taiwan and China nowadays.
The year 2018 serves as a vantage point to look back on historical incidents; it marks the twentieth anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong as well as the thirtieth anniversary of the lifting of martial law in Taiwan. Although the two places seem to have moved towards opposite ends of the political spectrum, Hong Kong and Taiwan have both undergone the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984, the lifting of martial law in Taiwan in 1987, the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 and the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997. This exhibition features seventeen Hong Kong and Taiwan artists, together with twenty video artworks that are regarded as historical documents, of which their political statements will be forever effective.
Politics is unquestionably a common subject in these works, and it is closely related to the Cold War. Since the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, Hong Kong artists have started a dialectic process regarding the crisis of identity, contemplating on the future and trying to find a way out against the fate that seems predetermined by others; artists in Taiwan have attempted to honour the image of dissidents who have voiced their critique of the state and media under the authoritarian regime. The Tiananmen Square massacre has become a shared trauma by artists in Hong Kong and Taiwan: the unknown future and probable predicaments, remembrance and expatriation as well as reflection and critique consequently formed the duo tones of Hong Kong video art before the handover of Hong Kong; on the other hand, video art in Taiwan demonstrated multiple perspectives that encompassed both local and international political situations while criticising state violence across the Taiwan Strait.
To confront historical incidents, artists have adopted poetic deployment to construct their videos, such as unmatching image and sound, juxtaposing text and picture, and the ensemble of different voices. Furthermore, cinematic rhetorical schemes including long take, chapter, and montage have been used alternatively in an elaborate and symbolic way to create mesmerising works. Archive images and historical scenes are interwoven together to create surprising results and reconstruct memory.
Hong Kong and Taiwan video art in the 1980s and 1990s as a form of political critique and aesthetic experiment is still faced with unresolved historical incidents after three decades. These artworks are not merely historical documents with realistic meanings; they are also a re-encounter between the beginning and the contemporary, which will re-initiate an interactive and diverse cross-regional dialogue.