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Included in the group exhibition On Tenderness & Time — curated by Jenn Ellis and presented by Daniel Katz Gallery and Xenia — Taiwanese-born artist and designer Liang-Jung Chen’s poetic practice weaves together ideas around domesticity and societal structures. Her cross-disciplinary projects straddle visual art, product design and performance.

Liang-Jung Chen. Photo: Clemente Vergara

Chen’s latest work, which explores the technological shifts of our era, delves into the subtle political tensions of everyday life, informed by material culture as well as anthropological study, and cinema. On the occasion of On Tenderness & Time, Chen has compiled a list of her favourite films — often those that have most impacted her practice — for Something Curated. The below are her words.

Yiyi, 2000 — directed by Edward Yang

Yiyi is a slice-of-life portrait of a middle-class Taipei family’s intricate existence. The film is known for its reflective shots and multi-layered metaphors. One has to watch the film more than once to decode the subtle textures and meanings behind many scenes. It is a film about time and requires time. 

Having lived in the UK for so many years, Yiyi is an ultimate homesickness of mine. Each emotionally-repressed character and their manner remind me of my own relationship with my people in Taiwan — seemingly closely-knitted yet feeling alienated at times. Edward Yang masterfully encapsulated the fundamental sentiments in simple stories with subtle details at a level that I try to achieve in my own works.

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring, 2003 — directed by Kim Ki-duk

Set in the Korean wilderness, a boy is raised by a Buddhist monk in an isolated floating temple where the years pass like the seasons. Extraordinarily aesthetic, the simplicity of the story makes the watching experience a highly contemplative one.     

The film took me back to my childhood when I was living with my grandparents with a stoic lifestyle where morals and disciplines were the priorities. I wasn’t able to appreciate the monotonous life as a kid yet as I get older, I come to realise the immense positive impact it has on my practice as an artist. Focused and non-materialistic. 

Hail the New Puritan, 1987 — directed by Charles Atlas

A fictionalised documentary about the Scottish choreographer Michael Clark, the film depicts a day in his life as he and his company prepare for a performance. “I’m feeling… quite three-dimensional today…” one of the dancers Gaby Agis said while walking and bouncing along the canal. The quote sums up the film and how it will make you feel.

The choice of this film is dedicated to all my mad artist friends in London who constantly surprised me with their unconstrained expressions. In the past few years, I have tried to incorporate contemporary dance into my installation works. To be more experimental and experiential. Michael Clark has been a great inspiration.   

In the Mood for Love, 2000 — directed by Wong Kar-Wai

Set in Hong Kong, 1962, two neighbours form a strong bond after both suspect the extramarital activities of their spouses. However, they agree to keep their bond platonic so as not to commit similar wrongs. In a film critic’s words: “Never before has a film spoken so fluently in the universal language of desire.”

Melancholic and mesmerising, I found the elastic tension between the two protagonists very liberating at the same time. I appreciate it when directors create space for imagination. So much more could happen in the viewers’ own brains. This is a quality I try to embody in my own work — to tickle and to arouse, effortlessly.     

Persepolis, 2007 — directed by Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi

In 1970s Iran, as Marji grew up, she witnessed first hand how the new Iran, now ruled by Islamic fundamentalists, has become a repressive tyranny on its own. The animated film tells the story of struggles and strength through a refreshing animation style.

Politics is a challenging topic to deal with in the arts but that’s also what makes it one of the most charming ones at the same time. The world is being torn apart today. What could we do as artists to spread awareness and to heal the wounds? This film is one of the great examples.

Feature image: Still from Edward Yang’s Yiyi, 2000

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