Thursday, 13 November 2008

CHANG CHIEN-CHI : Doubleness

Adding on to the gallery shows posting, here is another :

Magnum photographer Chang Chien-Chi from Taiwan is staging a major exhibition at the Singapore National Museum, and I popped along to the magnificent building by Fort Canning Park yesterday. The exhibition is showing 3 of his most reported projects, and the theme of the show is titled 'Doubleness'.

Chang Chien-Chi (or 'CC' as he is known, apparently) is a small unassuming, coy man who is the first Asian to join the prestigious Magnum Photo agency, founded by Cartier-Bresson and a few other renown photojournalists. He photographs human relationships of utmost hardship, torn families of immigrants and mental disabilities. Often, as a photojournalist, he immerses himself completely with his subjects, and gains their confidence through living and sharing their plight.

In 'Double Happiness', a series of black and white photographs depict the varied facial expressions of brokered marriages between Taiwanese men and Vietnamese women. Staged weddings of emerge as a conveyor belt of images as couples after couples pose for the 'first kiss' on a raised stage.

The other two series are 'China Town' : a photo-essay following Chinese migrant workers living in cramp and squalid conditions in the Land of Opportunity, New York City..

..and 'The Chain', a disturbing metaphorical portrait study of mental patients of an institute in Taiwan. Inmates are chained together, two by two, often a more able one with a dependent inmate. The bonding and companionship is depicted in a series of life size black and white portraits, arranged around a darkened gallery space adds to the powerful presence of something beyond the true narrative of the images.
Alienation and connection is the metaphorical message here.

The gallery was quiet during my visit, and Mr Chong, a volunteer guide took invaluable time to explain the artist's message to me and another visitor from Sri Lanka. He belongs to a group of volunteers who help national institutions during exhibitions, unpaid, which is highly commendable.

The exhibition was brilliantly staged, with subdued lightning throughout, video projections and well chosen imagery.

As a viewer, each series builds upon the previous, as the Doubleness theme is reinforced despite being of varied subjects, ie : brokered brides and grooms, one searching for love and the other as a way out of poverty, or the migrant father missing his family and wife back in China, or the interdepency of the chained inmates. A thoroughly recommended show.

Doubleness : Photography of Chang Chien-Chi
10 Oct 2008 ~ 4 January 2009
National Museum of Singapore


oceanskies79 said...

Hi Steven, thank you for the succinct post.

I have went for this exhibition twice, and I agree with you that this is a highly recommended exhibition to catch.

svllee said...

Hi there oceanskies! Thanks for your visit and comment. It was one of the most memorable exhibitions I have visited. If you get a chance you must see Annie Leibovitz and also Diane Arbus's shows. Are you familiar with objectifs in Singapore? They will be exhibiting in march some photographs from their recent India workshop. I might pop down when I am back in KL then.

Happy New Year!