Coming Together, TKG+

Coming Together, 2022, TKG+, Taipei, Taiwan

Coming Together (solo exhibition)
TKG+, Taipei, Taiwan, 2021
Press Release
3D map of the exhibition

“Coming Together” is an exhibition born out of conversations between Charwei Tsai from her studio in Taipei with other artists, creatives, and collaborators from different parts of the world during this period of collective trauma that the world has faced. Through the process of working in collaboration and dissolving the role of the artist as an individual entity, gradual healing and regeneration began. 

The central piece of this exhibition, Numbers, 2022, is a multi-channel video and sound installation that marks Tsai’s first collaboration with the musician Stephen O’Malley. It is co- commissioned by Sydney Opera House and C-Lab, Taipei for an online streaming project “Returning”. Tsai and O’Malley invited five prominent opera singers to reflect on and to perform the act of singing numbers that are important to them at a recording studio in Sydney. The numbers that they chose range from the world’s population to the number of people who have contracted the virus or who had died from it, to the days that they were apart from their families, and the ages of those who had lost their lives. From O’Malley’s studio at La Becque in Switzerland, he then composed an electroacoustic piece responding and incorporating selections of recordings, with additional synthesis arrangements performed by the musician Kali Malone. While reflecting on the composition, Tsai collected video recordings of imageries that rose to mind including elements from nature such as water, air, earth, and fire. In a four channel video work, a hand appears in the video counting the numbers that are sung. This work is a reflection on the ways by which the numeric systems plays a dominant role in the human connection to the natural environment. 

During this time, Tsai also made frequent visits to her indigenous friends’ self-sustainable farm and experimental school Bulaubulau in the mountains of Yilan, Taiwan. She took special interest in the traditional Atayal process of weaving and its social and environmental implications in today’s world. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the Japanese colonizers imposed the “five year aboriginal policy”, which banned tattooing on the face and restricted traditional weaving. Therefore, the knowledge of hand-crafting the yarn and dye from local plants passed down from generation to generation has been lost. Almost two decades ago, the Bulaubulau family revived this knowledge starting with the grandmother recollecting the weaving techniques and passing it down to her daughters and grand-daughters. In the recent years M’l’s (pronounced as Merlers) who is one of her grand-daughters, took the process further and relearned how to make plant based dye locally from plants such guava leaves, turmeric, twigs and berries. During Tsai’s stays with the family, she learned some basic techniques of weaving and together they conceived ideas of creating new textile pieces that honors the female labour and social impact on the community of reviving the craft. 

Inspired by the working environment of the women weavers in the Bulaubulau village, the new issue of Lovely Daze Issue 12, is dedicated to women artists and their communities who are mainly from the Global South. This will be the first issue where conversations between the artists are presented alongside their projects. The book launch of this new issue will take place during the opening reception of this exhibition. 

Additionally, the exhibition will also feature a new installation, A Temple, A Shrine, A Mosque, A Church made with handwoven palm leaves by craftswomen of Al Ghadeer who are from United Arab of Emirates, originally commissioned by Art Dubai (It was a project that they commissioned then cancelled due to the pandemic); Offering of Mount Meru – Night, a circular black felt mat hand-stitched in Mongolia, and a series of paintings that Tsai has created working with mineral pigments such as agate and shells on linen. 

Exhibition Advisor: Dr. Jau-lan Guo Exhibition Designer: Wei-lun Chen 

A Lullaby for Mother Nature

Lullaby for Mother Nature, 2020 – Performance by Mongolian artists

Lullaby for Mother Nature, 2020
Performance by Mongolian artists Ganzug Sedbazar & Davaajargal Tsaschikher
Produced by Charwei Tsai
For the occasion of Lovely Daze Issue 11 book launch
TKG+, Taipei, Taiwan

Photo by Anpis Wang, Courtesy of TKG+

From ancient times, nomadic Mongolians have performed many important customs and rituals and one significant part involves rituals for infants. When an infant is frightened or suffering from an illness, certain rituals are performed to dispel the demons and the words “Not to fear” or “Buu ai” is sang to the infant as an reassurance. In time the phrase “Buu ai” was transformed to “Buuvei” or Lullaby. Inspired by this ancient tradition, the artists offer their own interpretation of the said ritual to criticize and highlight the destructive paths of contemporary techno-evolution on our environment.

Root of Desire

Root of Desire solo exhibition, TKG+, Taipei

Root of Desire Charwei Tsai solo exhibition
8 December 2018 – 20 January 2019

Charwei Tsai’s solo exhibition, the Root of Desire, centers around desire and preludes to the classical maieutic discourse of the Vimalakirti Sutra. It is a profound and sophic exploration of the metaphysical troika encompassing her own life, nature, and humanity. This ancient spiritual text is one of the first recorded in Asia that discusses women’s rights and gender equality. When asked “How should one look at a sentient being?” Vimalakirti responded, “the way a wise person looks at the reflection of the moon in water.” The non-duality “propositioned” in the text alludes to equality and sameness. The exhibited works showcase Tsai’s long-term examination of Mahāyānaand Hīnayāna Buddhismand is an experiment in exhibiting both her personal and social practice.

Transcribing the Vimalakirti Sutra, the artist imprints this vessel for emptiness upon her impermanent form until she becomes one with it. It is with this that the artist unveils the exhibition with a video work, Water Moon(2017). Nature as her metaphor, the artist captures the moon’s reflection in a dark pool alluding to the simultaneous existence of reality and illusion or the mundane and the sublime. The exhibition moves on to a personal journey through a vast desert landscape portrayed in the new video installation, Root of Desire(2018). In this work, the artist inscribes a conversation between Vimalakirti and Manjusri that deconstructs desire into rootlessness. As the sand is scattered by the wind, the text also disintegrates. The work articulates the search for desire in its differing manifestations.

In a new series of drawings, “The Goddess” (2018), the artist inscribes a text from the sutra onto drawings of a forest. This excerpt derives from a notable passage in the sutra: a Goddess conducts a gender exchange between herself and a monk to illustrate equality between the sexes. “The Goddess” marks a transition from the more introspective works to the outward-looking projects on social change that mark the artist’s recent works.The artist contemplates nature at this stage to exemplify the Buddhist philosophy of emptiness, which is the experiential understanding that all compounded things disintegrate. 

Three videos installations of people forcibly scattered across the corners of this world mark the end of this journey.The three video installations, Songs of Chuchepati Camp, Nepal (2017), Hear Her Singing (2017), and Songs of Kaohsiung Migrant Workers(2018), capture people from all over the world who in face of displacement as a result of social, political, and economic injustice. The artist thus shifts her focus to humanity and collects a series of voices that have been overlooked in this world.Various songs expressing the universal sentiments of the desire for love and the fear for separation are vocalized by earthquake victims from Nepal; female asylum seekers detained in the UK from Iran, India, Jamaica, Kyrgyzstan, Namibia, Sri Lanka, and other locations, as well as Southeast Asian and Africa migrant workers in Kaohsiung. Their voices bridge a connection that transcends race, economics, culture, and religion.Tsai’s creation is redolent with ideas from Buddhist philosophy and her own understanding of life, aspiring to compel the masses and negotiate equilibriums between dichotomous extremes. 

The solo exhibition catalogue will be released during the exhibition as well. It will embody interview with Stephanie Rosenthal, director of Martin-Gropius-Bau Museum in Berlin and essay by Tiffany Leung, curator of Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA) in Manchester.

We Came Whirling Out of Nothingness

We Came Whirling Out of Nothingness, 2014, Exhibition View, Photo courtesy of TKG

TKG+, Taipei, Taiwan
13 September ~ 12 October 2014

Exhibited works:

– We Came Whirling Out of Nothingness, 2014, Drawing series
– Spiral Incense Mantra, 2014, Installation
Incense Mantra, 2013, Video
Lanyu: Three Stories, 2012, Video Installation
Lanyu IV, VII, 2012, Photographs
Circle II, 2011, Video
Lovely Daze Complete Set, 2005-Present

Press Release:
We came whirling out of nothingness
scattering stars like dust.
The stars made a circle
and in the middle we dance.
‐ Jalaluddin Rumi

TKG+ is pleased to present Charwei Tsai: We Came Whirling Out of Nothingness. Comprising videos, installations, photographs, and the artist’s curatorial art journal Lovely Daze, this solo exhibition examines the ways in which human perception of time and space is dependent on and parallels nature’s underlying revolving and repeating circular and spiral forms. The works consider how these structures might inform us about natural occurrences in our universe, from the simplicity of a snail shell to the spectacle of the galaxy. Encompassing Tsai’s exploration of Sufism, as well as Buddhist traditions, the exhibition also highlights a transition in the artist’s practice of applying the Buddhist concepts of emptiness and interdependence to a universal concern with the environment.

The centerpiece installation of the exhibition, We Came Whirling Out of Nothingness, an 18‐meter‐long montage of notes, sketches, drawings, paintings, photographs, and objects, contemplates the spiral form and other circular movements. The work stems from Tsai’s fascination with Sufism, and especially the spirals and circles produced by the spinning of the dervishes during the ritual dance of the Mevlevi Sema Ceremony. According to the 13th‐century Persian poet and mystic Jalaluddin Rumi, whose teachings serve as the basis of the Mevlevi Order, the dancing dervishes represent the planets revolving around the sun. Immersed in their microcosms, the dervishes create new worlds and make contact with eternity.

Drawing from a Buddhist perspective, and the artist’s Taiwan‐formed traditions, the exhibition also includes works based on the cyclic, rather than linear, understanding of the world. This section includes works that examine the relationships between indigenous beliefs, the spiritual realm, and nature, through a new ephemeral installation of large burning spiral‐shaped pieces of incense, Spiral Incense Mantra (2014), the three‐channel video projection Lanyu: Three Stories (2012), and three photographs from the series Lanyu (2012).

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue that surveys the artist’s practice since 2005, with an essay by Mami Kataoka, Chief Curator of the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, Japan, and an interview with Tsai by artist, curator, and writer Heman Chong.

Elemental Light

Elemental Light, Exhibition View

A solo exhibition by Charwei Tsai
TKG+, Taipei, Taiwan
13 August ~ 11 September 2011

Press Release: TKG+ is pleased to announce Charwei Tsai’s first solo exhibition in Taiwan, Elemental Light, which will be on view at our Neihu venue from August 13 to September 11, 2011. From Tsai’s earliest works embracing her personal connection to Buddhism, to her recent pieces, which draw inspiration from other religions, the photographs, videos, and multi-media installations of Elemental Light contemplate the religious concept of primordial light, a source of basic human goodness.

The exhibition opens with one of Tsai’s earliest pieces, Frog Mantra (2005), a photograph on which she delicately wrote the Heart Sutra – a seminal Buddhist text and recurring motif through which she has explored transience. Similar themes, under new inspirations, appear in the photographs of the series Gone (2011), on view for the first time. Here, in Sanskrit, the Heart Sutra can be found within the diffusion of light of the photographs, taken with a camera with a broken lens.

In her new works Tsai continues to place keen attention on spiritual texts, their application to organic and inorganic materials, and the meaning behind and produced by the process of inscribing such materials herself. Text and metaphors of transcendence are also at play in the video and sound installation Ah! (2011), where visitors approaching the image of the dissolving ink letters are surrounded by voices repeating “ah,” a sacred sound in many religions. This piece transforms sound into a visual and audio vibration that highlights the environment and spirituality.