“Spectrosynthesis: Asian LGBTQ Issues and Art Now”

Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei
No.39, Chang'an W. Rd., Datong Distict
September 9, 2017–November 5, 2017

Su Hui-Yu, Nue Quan, 2015, two-channel video installation, color, sound, 9 minutes.

This is the first major museum exhibition focusing on LGBTQ issues in Asia, and it is apt that it is being held in the capital of the first Asian country to move toward legalizing same-sex marriage. Taiwan is a complex and ever-evolving society—remarkably more open to the progressive values of the global Left than its surrounding nations in East Asia, while at the same time wedded to traditional notions of what constitutes family, as could be expected in a country molded by Confucian values.

The local polarization of cultural values is addressed directly in many of the works and makes itself felt indirectly in the presentation broadly. To wit, seemingly innocent works such as the videos Nue Quan, 2015, by Su Hui-Yu, and Jun-Jieh Wang’s Querelle-inspired Passion, 2017, which both feature no nudity but rather the mere implication of sex, require a stamp on the hand signifying one is over the age of eighteen to be admitted into their installation by docents stationed outside.

Given that Asia is a massive continent with a diverse array of traditions, seeking a unified aesthetic or even a solid set of issues would be a slippery endeavor, and what this exhibition does best is to point to an array of fractured potentialities comprising a terminally incomplete queer aesthetic. In particular, that aesthetic in progress is enriched by the contributions of diasporic artists such as Ho Tam, whose photographic zine series Poser, 2013–, mates the perennial outsider’s gaze with a 1990s punk attitude, and Ming Wong, who re-creates Luchino Visconti’s 1971 film Death in Venice, playing both of the main characters, Aschenbach and Tadzio, in a hilarious and potent attack on the unquestioned whiteness of the Euro canon.

— Travis Jeppesen