Charwei Tsai: Coming Together

Charwei Tsai: Coming Together


March 9, 2022
Charwei Tsai
Coming Together
February 19–April 30, 2022
1F, No.15, Ln. 548, Ruiguang Rd.
Taipei 11492
Neihu Dist.
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 11am–7pm

T +886 2 2659 0798
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In my soul,
there is a temple, a shrine, a mosque, a church, where I kneel.
Prayer should bring us to an altar where no walls or names exist.
—Rabia al-Basri (717–801)

Coming Together, Charwei Tsai’s latest solo exhibition at TKG+, was born out of conversations and collaborations with artists and communities, within the confines and collective trauma of the past two years. This exhibition gathers a diverse array of hand-crafted textiles, natural pigment paintings, and multi-channel videos, as well as Japanese colonial-era artifacts on loan from the aboriginal village of Bulaubulau in Yilan, Taiwan.

The central piece of the exhibition is Numbers (2022), a multi-channel video and sound installation that marks Tsai’s first collaboration with Stephen O’Malley, an experimental and drone metal composer and founding member of the band Sunn O))). The work was co-commissioned by Sydney Opera House and Taiwan Contemporary Culture Lab for an online streaming project titled Returning. Tsai and O’Malley invited five prominent opera singers to reflect upon numbers that are significant to them, and to perform the act of singing these numbers at a recording studio in Sydney. These figures measure the global population, the days of family separation, the ages of those who have been lost, the pandemic’s rising death toll.

From his studio at La Becque in Switzerland, O’Malley composed an electroacoustic piece responding to and incorporating the opera singers’ recordings, with additional arrangements performed by the musician Kali Malone. In Taiwan, Tsai collected video recordings as a response to the composition, mixing in imagery of the natural elements of water, air, earth, and fire. The hands of an indigenous hospital worker appear throughout the video, counting the numbers as they are sung. This work reflects on the numeric system’s dominant role in our human connection to the natural environment.

During the production of Numbers, Tsai made frequent visits to Bulaubulau, an indigenous, self-sufficient farm and experimental school in the mountains of Yilan, Taiwan. She took special interest in traditional Atayal weaving, a centuries-old custom of hand-spun yarn and natural dyes that had been banned in the late 19th century by Japanese colonial authorities seeking to disrupt its communal significance. In 2004, the Bulaubulau family revived this knowledge, starting with the grandmother re-learning the weaving techniques, which she passed down to her daughters and granddaughters. In recent years, one granddaughter, M’l’s, re-discovered how to produce dyes from local plants, such as guava leaves, turmeric, twigs, and berries. During Tsai’s stays with the family, she practiced some of these basic weaving techniques. Together they conceived the textile piece Coming Together (2022), which honors female labor and the social impact of this craft’s revival on the community.

The upcoming issue of Lovely Daze is inspired by the women weavers in the Bulaubulau village, and is dedicated to women artists and their communities, mainly from the Global South. The conversations between featured artists, including Eun-Me Ahn, Mella Jaarsma, Ashmina Ranjit, Melati Suryodarmo, Wu Mali, and I-Lann Yee are presented alongside the complete set of the publication.

A new installation, A Temple, A Shrine, A Mosque, A Church, made with handwoven palm leaves by craftswomen of Al Ghadeer from the United Arab Emirates, commissioned by Art Dubai; Offering of Mount Meru - Night, a circular black felt mat hand-stitched in Mongolia; and a series of paintings on linen that Tsai created by working with mineral pigments, such as agate and shells, are featured as well.

Coming Together has been two years in the making, over continents, oceans, and invisible barriers. The textiles hanging in midair, the searing sounds of eulogies, and the poetry visualized coalesce into a spiritual offering from the artist and her collaborators.

Charwei Tsai
Charwei Tsai was born in 1980 and currently lives and works in Taipei. She graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in Industrial Design and Art & Architectural History (2002), and the postgraduate research program La Seine at L’École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris (2010); Tsai’s works are in public and private collections including those held at Tate Modern, London, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, M+ Collection, Hong Kong, Faurschou Fondation, Copenhagen, Kadist Foundation, San Francisco / France, Contemporary Art Institute, Villeurbanne / Rhône-Alpes, France, and FRAC Lorraine, France.

Tsai has also published an annual curatorial journal titled Lovely Daze twice a year since 2005. The complete sets of Lovely Daze are in the library collections of Tate Modern, London, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Pompidou Center, Paris, and MACBA, Barcelona.

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March 9, 2022

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