Hou Chun-Ming

Born in Liuchiao Township, Chiayi County, Taiwan in 1963, Hou Chun-Ming graduated from the National Arts Academy (now Taipei National University of the Arts) and styles himself as Hou of Liuchiao Township. He engaged in taboo-breaking installations and woodcut prints as early as in the 1990s, and his uncanny and ritualistic artworks always faithfully reflect the political and social status quo of Taiwan. Hou has been invited to participate in many international art exhibitions including the Venice Biennale, Taiwan Pavilion in 1995. In recent years, he has re-orientated his artistic practice towards freehand drawing in which he finds inner sustenance, écriture automatique, and Chinese characters that represent an aesthetically pleasing mix of configuration, pronunciation, meaning and Taiwanese folk beliefs. Since 2008, Hou has embarked on The Asian Father Interview Project, an interview-based art series created successively in Asian cities including Yokohama, Taipei, Taichung, Bangkok, Chiayi and Hong Kong. His latest work Body Images once again uses interview-based techniques and methodologies to transform bodily desires into artistic expressions.

He is the author of several books, including Anecdotes about Spirits and Immortals (China Times Publishing, 1994), A Suicide Message of Dying on Love at Age 36 (Locus Publishing, 2002), Grain Rain. Amorous Affair (Cans Art, 2007), The Caution in Mirror (Psygarden Publishing, 2007), Legend Hou’s Sin & Punishment (Garden City Publishing, 2008) and Suffer from Desires: Hou Chun-Ming’s Free Drawing (Psygarden Publishing, 2013).

Anecdotes about Spirits and Immortals 1993

Anecdotes about Spirits and Immortals is originally an ancient Chinese book title, in which Kan-pao of Jing Dynasty (265-420 AD) collected many contemporary urban legends to interpretate as morals. In this book, there are stories describing when victims cannot fulfill their wishes, they would realize their wishes via transfiguration.

When I read it, I feel such simplified and yet primitive theory of consequence is so ridiculous that it projects certain strength.

During my college years, I went with Professor Tsun-shing Chen to Tainan visiting Dong-yu Den (East Temple of Hell), the so-called temple of the death world, and Long Fa Tang where mental disorder patients are took care with very special and yet controversial way such as locking all patients with iron bandages. We also went visit self-taught sculptor Yuan Lin (1913-1992) at Nan-tou. All those experiences inspire my strong interest in Taiwan folk customs and also bring impacts on my thoughts. Later I involve with theatre events and those themes are relating to Taiwan history, local culture and ideology, which provide me more opportunities to access and observe the lower rank of Taiwan society through field survey. Among those folk events, temple fair is one of the most intrigue events, as well as the most observed one to me. The strange power of folk religion intrigues me and brings up more questions.

There are a lot of temples and people worship all kinds of gods. I am very curious about why people worship those gods. So every time I enter a temple, I ask local residents which god they worship here and the background information about this god. Most of time, I don’t get very comprehensive information. They either double-talk or cannot answer my questions. Sometimes I wonder if they just make up a story. As a result, I decide to create my own gods and make up my own myth.

At that time, Taiwan society just underwent martial law-lifting and all taboo could be discussed and touched. Along side with the so-called “money-fluid economic miracle” of economic growth, the society was full of unthinkably strange phenomena. I created those gods in the linkage between my personal life experiences and social issues, with traditional Chinese myth stories as parody or implication. All those gods were created based on the prototype of Hsing-tien (an ancient Chinese mythic figure) as an expression of undying desire. I named those gods and wrote their biographies. I also invited my friends from art and literature circles to conduct collective creation. They watched images of those gods I created as inspiration and used their imagination to fabricate another version of mythic stories in a fashion of ancient Chinese classic books. This format is an annotation to ancient classic and it creates more confusion to those mythic stories.

Lu-Ting (Lantou): Re-engraved 2014, Solo Engraving

Cardboard carving、Oil paint
198X216 cm

Lu-Ting (Sunflower Movement version)

During the Sunflower (political protest) Movement in Taiwan in 2014, Hong Kong’s Para Site independent art center invited Hou to create a special exhibition to recast the city’s imaginings on ‘1997’ – the year that Hong Kong was handed back to Chinese control.

Anecdotes about Spirits and Immortals / set of 16 plates

Relief Printing、Art paper
290 X 204 CM

Anecdotes about Spirits and Immortals, an ancient text attributed to Jin Dynasty author Kan Pao (4th century AD), is a collection of contemporary tales of the paranormal. Most of these tales either impart moral lessons or prognosticate on things to come, with the reader urged to walk the ‘straight and narrow path’ to ensure his (or her) avoidance of misfortune and calamity. In some of the tales, the persecuted protagonists end up mutating and then returning as a different physical manifestation to complete their unfinished business on earth. An underlying message of this text is that base human desires have the power to change our physical composition and appearance. This section, inspired by the Chinese demigod Xing Tian and focused on 18 deities, features creative works made by a diverse mélange of the author’s friends, who were invited to create updated versions of ancient Chinese deities and demigods. The results of their collaborative efforts don’t disappoint. Creator goddess Nu Wa dominates all she sees as a phallus-headed, new-age woman; the Great Lady dominates all, suckling the masses with her ample breasts; Qing Gu’s desire for carnal pleasures knows no end, invariably turning love into enmity in the bedroom; Flower Godhead holds the secret of manly sexual prowess, offering seekers the power to pleasure many through the night; the Floral Gentleman is sensitive and easily hurt; and the Love Goddess reinvigorates the wilted libidos of men and women who are past their prime. Creatively inspired images of these and other deities convey the idea of the insatiable nature of humankind’s base desires.

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