Transaction / Translation │ 10th Taipei Biennial, Taipei Fine Art Museum, Taipei (TW) │ 2016

The two-year-long project “Transaction / Translation” is an attempt to preserve me within society. Trying to leave a trace of me on the planet, trying to keep myself existing as long as possible, trying to prove that I ever existed, trying to make myself a reference of the present. Think of a computer file, which results from a programmed process and can be deleted by default; metaphorically spoken I “implant” myself into a computer's operating system like a virus, which barely can be noticed and is difficult to be removed without disturbing the computer system itself. The computer is the monetary system, and I am the file. In this project, I explore the methods of self-preservation within social networks of circulation, for instance, the monetary system.

I develop my work in the context of monetary circulation in Taiwan, using one-hundred NTD (New Taiwan Dollar) notes as a medium for self-preservation. I always start with baking 24 loaves of bread conserving my labour, translating the loaves of bread into money by selling them for 100 NTD each and using the notes for further exchanges. By “translating myself” into money, I search for “me” and find myself within the tension between my aspirations of self-preservation and the limited, fixed opportunities of the medium money. I decided to bake bread as the initiation point, as each particular bread at least could preserve my labour and represent myself as the person who baked the bread. By bringing the notes back into circulation, myself becomes preserved in the society's everyday transactions.

This project includes three sub-projects. Each of these projects is reflections gathering around the negotiations among the ideals of leaving a mark, being oneself, and making art within modern society. Sub-project I “Translation” explores the opportunities given by the monetary system to preserve oneself. Sub-project II “Documentation” concerns the necessity for artists to document one's art practice. Sub-project III “Conversation” deals with the embedding of artists within institutional contexts. All sub-projects start with baking and selling 24 loaves of bread. 

Subproject I “Translation” 
24 x times of labour were preserved in 24 loaves of bread, then transferred to 24 one hundred New Taiwan Dollar notes, with the serial number and date of labour inscribed on each bill. The inscribed date of labour served as a mean to preserve my work on the particular bread I earned the 100 NTD with.

The photo documentation of the loaves of bread and their corresponding 100 NTD notes can be found on the website :

A 100 NTD note with the serial number and date of labour inscribed on it. 

I exam the conceptual and material character of 100 NTD notes. A 100 NTD note is a piece of paper which makes it easy to work with. It carries a small amount of value (about 2.5 Euro), which makes it easy to circulate it around people and represents an accessible public space for exhibition.

The final collection of the 24 notes was given to a framer, in exchange for a frame which frames the exact area of 24 one hundred dollar notes (58 cm x 24 cm). Due to paying the framer with 24x100 NTD for the frame, I bring my labour as conserved in the notes back into the monetary system, preserving myself. The sub-project culminates in the frame displaying the bill I received from the framer, as a proof of my existence within the monetary system.

twenty - four 100 NTD notes and the frame exchanged with them

Subproject II “Documentation”
24 x times of labour were preserved in 24 loaves of bread, then transferred to 24 one hundred New Taiwan Dollar notes, with the serial number and date of labour inscribed on each note. Each note was given to an artist, in exchange for a piece of art. Artists responded to an open call and could decide which of their works is worth 100NTD in exchange. Each artwork became photographed and made into an image, which has the size of a one hundred New Taiwan Dollar note.

The images were compiled to 24 small books consisting out of 24 pages. Each book's page-front displays one specific artwork, whereas each page-back shows the permalink to the picture of its corresponding bread.

The content of the documentation book

Nowadays artists are required to document their artworks, for instance in the form of photos, videos and accompanying texts. Documentation replaces artworks due to its representative function, and also lead to systematic negligence of non-documentable art. This coercion of documentation equals an interpretative re-creation of art as documentary mediums alter the documented work itself; the opportunities for taking a perspective on art becomes determined. What is the artwork in the context of being documented?

Subproject III “Conversation”
24 x times of labour were preserved in 24 loaves of bread, then transferred to 24 one hundred New Taiwan Dollar notes, with the serial number and date of labour inscribed on each note.

In the prior sub-project “Documentation” 24 books were created. Each book then received a different front and back cover. Each note - gained by selling the third batch breads - was used as one front cover of a particular documentation book. Each book’s backside cover was the image of the bread, which was sold for their corresponding front cover.

the front and back cover of a documentation book

The final installation was displayed in the 16th Taipei Biennale ‘Gestures and Archives of the Present, Genealogies of the Future: A New Lexicon for the Biennial’ in the Taipei Fine Art Museum.

The installation

The final installation not only serves as a vehicle for documentation and archiving the prior art practices but also offers the produced commodity (the books) to the visitor in the form of an abstract market stall. The stall installation collects the objects of documentation (i.e. books, bill, frame), gathers them together, and thus signifies what has happened. 

a visitor and me

The 16th Biennale took place from Sep/2016 until the beginning of Feb/2017. During a 3-months period from Nov/2016 until Feb/2017, I sat next to the installation to sell the 24 books and allow conversation with visitors. Since one page in each 24-pages book documents one particular work, each page represents one artwork exchanged for 100 NTD. Accordingly, the price of each book was 2400 NTD.

Due to my presence, I tried to prevent the alteration of my work due to its being in the museum context, and allow visitors an interactive engagement with the work and myself. With this, I attempted to demystify the image of the artist as a somehow superior close-to magical being only observable due to his or her works or its representative documentations. I wanted to be there, preserving myself as myself in the memory of the visitor.

The necessity to be present, next to my work, reveals the impossibility of art-documentation itself. Even more, also my presence as an attempt to be preserved in the visitors' mind failed, insofar as the context of an art museum, the medium I was represented in, degraded my attempts to truly interact and to be there like myself. I became a complementary asset of the market stall installation itself.