Curated by Alice, Nien-pu Ko
Opening Reception Thursday June 29, 6-8pm
Microscope is pleased to present “A Dweller on Two Planets,” a group exhibition curated by Alice, Nien-pu Ko featuring new and recent works in video and video installation by four East Asian and Southeast Asian woman artists: Ayoung Kim, Yin-Ju Chen, Sow Yee Au, and Su Yu Hsin.
Inspired by the early science fiction novel, ‘A Dweller on Two Planets,’ by Frederick Spencer Olive, this exhibition suggests some possibilities for cultural engagement today. This story of time-traveling consciousness, revealed by an Eastern spirit, depicts imaginary submerged ancient civilizations that have developed futuristic technology and scientific discoveries, including holograph-like art works and interplanetary cohabitation. This fictional story discloses a vision of human existence in the future, where the co-existence between East and West extends into outer space. Taking these speculations as a starting point, this exhibition links four media artists based in Asia. Together, their recent works explore cultural interference, remixing historical events and colonial legacy in order to develop an alternative narrative that suggests a mode of planetary thinking with regards to immigration, futurism, and nature.
Chen Yin-Ju’s “Extrastellar Evaluations III: Entropy: 2580” (2018) contemplates human civilization and humanity’s future through an investigation of space physics, extraterrestrial myths, and cosmography. By using hypotheses and prophecies founded upon a choreography of fragments of history, as well as mass media imagery and information, eponymous video ‘Extrastellar Evaluations III: Entropy: 25800’ attempts to reveal when exactly doomsday takes place. This video further adapts the notion of ‘entropy’ from the second law of thermodynamics, and connects it to the avarice and belligerence of human nature. Interspersed in the video are the narrations of a non-human intelligence named ‘Ra’ affirming that everything is the distortion of the one infinite Creator.
In “Blast Furnace No. 2” (2022), Su Yu Hsin weaves together archival materials, documentary film, sound, and interview excerpts into a fictional narrative, which provides a kaleidoscopical perspective of the metal iron. “Blast Furnace No. 2,” tells the story of a filmmaker who comes to Hattingen, Germany for a shoot. She follows the trail of Lin, a Chinese translator who accompanied the dismantling of the blast furnace in 1990. Shortly before the closure of the Henrichshütte, blast furnace 2 was purchased by a Chinese steel mill, transported away, and rebuilt in Hunan. Lin has left behind an unfinished sci-fi novel. In the novel, the protagonist develops a utopian machine in the form of a blast furnace. With this device, she catapults herself into space with the goal of finding an alternative energy source to replace coal. The filmmaker continues the story by speculating on the year 2050: Had mankind been able to solve the energy problem by then? By switching between a planetary and locale scale “Blast Furnace No. 2” examines the interconnections between geological and social history, globalization, and resource extraction, which have shaped not only the fate of the workers from Hattingen and Hunan but also — regarding climate change — the future of life on earth for millenniums to come.
Au Sow Yee reveals the underside of ‘image-making’ while exploring the hidden dynamics of national borders and the political and historical ties between Taiwan, Japan, and Malaysia. “2 Electric, Cosmos and the Seance” (2022), focuses on a historical figure, Tani Yutaka, also known as “Harimau” (meaning “tiger” in Malay), a bandit who served as a secret agent for the Japanese military in Peninsular Malaysia during the Pacific War. The artist thus uses the changing conceptions of Yutaka in popular culture to reflect upon the fluid boundaries and the dynamics of power in the South China Sea, Indian Ocean, and Pacific Ocean, while exploring diverse aspects of Japan, Taiwan, and ASEAN countries. In doing so, she compels us to consider how unbalanced forces related to borders, wars, religions, and beliefs, are embedded within fictional artifacts of history.
Ayoung Kim’s “At the Surisol Underwater Lab” (2020) is a work of speculative fiction that is set in the near future, just after the COVID-19 global pandemic of 2020. In the wake of climate change and the depletion of natural resources brought on by fossil fuels, eco-friendly biofuels have become society’s main energy source. The chief source of energy in the world is algae — macro-algae that are fermented to produce biofuel. In the Korean city of Busan, a ‘biomass town’ has been established over a long belt stretching from Gijang to the waters near the Oryukdo Islands. Surisol Underwater Lab, which manages an integrated process involving seaweed farming, water quality, ocean currents, and biomass, is also located in the area of the Oryukdo Islands. Sohila, a former humanitarian status holder who left Yemen to escape the Yemen War, is a senior researcher at the lab conducting the investigation into the waters. She hears good news and bad news from Surisol and sends Turbo Shell (the remotely operated vehicle) to conduct reconnaissance in the waters in question.