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Graduation Photos - Project Portraits of Cities
Artist(s): WU Shang-lin
Date: 6 Jul - 12 Aug 2012

Schools and educational institutions take up nearly a quarter of our lives. Campuses inside tangible and intangible walls have therefore become places where many have spent most of their youthful days at. Schools are also a nation’s developmental foundation and comprise important aspects in its urban planning. The purpose of education is for us to be enlightened; however, as we roam in spaces interlaced within these educational institutions, do we ever notice the changes occurring around us, and thereby attempt to contemplate from different perspectives about the causes and triggers behind these changes?

Wu Shang-Lin’s solo exhibition, “Graduation Photos - Project Portraits of Cities”, at MOCA Taipei includes his photography series and videos. These works are based on the style of conventional graduation photos, but their contents and artistic gestures completely alter the traditions of graduation photos that have been used by schools (including individual portraits and group photos). Prior to striving to the next phase in life as graduation commences, the photographs taken by the artist do not portray a “focused gaze into the future”; instead, they are personal portraits about “self-reflection with closed eyes”. Under the direction of the artist, the presentational style with people “facing the camera with closed eyes” is used for personal portraits and then developed into group photos for the entire class and then the entire school. Behind the scenes, concept communications, persuasions based on emotions, and behavioral cooperation with different people (the principals, teachers, parents, and students) were conducted, and there were certainly a fair share of challenges and difficulties along the process; however, these are all vital aspects that one should not miss when looking at these what appear to be calm and objective photographic works.

The Graduation Photos” series are a range of creative projects that Wu has undertaken with different youths in several cities from 2008 to 2012. The artist utilizes a mixed array of media including photography, videography, and actions to engage in exchanges and dialogues with these youths, and together they have discovered emotional states that are either visible or invisible in everyday settings. Three projects of “Graduation Photos”, “Homebound Project”, and “Together” have resulted from these endeavors.

Inside MOCA Taipei’s experimental exhibition venue, the portraits and videos in “Graduation Photos”  illustrate the interconnectedness between the tri-factor of school (space for learning and growing), individuals (subjects of feelings and perceptions), and educational system (prototype for state rule and social norms). On the other hand, through the collective yet calm group movements and treatments of artistic deconstruction, criticism and alternative responses are proposed for the traditions, customs, norms, rituals that are still commonly prevalent in schools and the education system.

About the Artist:

Wu Shang-lin (1977 born in Taipei), one of the new generation of multimedia artists in Taiwan, lives and works currently in Taipei as a photographer, video director, performance and interdisciplinary artist. After obtaining the French national degree of École Nationale Supérieure d’Art de Dijon in 2007, in the recent years, he has traveled and worked as an artist-in-residence in Korea (The National Goyang Art Studio), Taiwan (Taipei Artist Village, Taipei) and Japan (Arcus Project, Moriya). The main message he would like to deliver through his work accomplished during this period, is to discuss various problems caused by the constant expansion of modern cities.By exchanging personal prospective with his interlocutors, he presents different aspects of the method each individual chooses to deal with the current situation.

Recent exhibitions include False friends, An Ephemeral Video Library Jeu de Paume National Gallery (Concorde), Paris, France 2010(Group), Rear Windows for Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei, Taiwan 2010 (group), Multiscape for 315 Art Center, Masan, Korea 2009 (group), Portrait of Cities - watching & feeling for Dogpig Art Cafe, Kaohsiung, Taiwan 2009 (solo), Portrait of Cities – Labyrinth for Taipei Aritst Village, Taiwan 2008 (solo) and Art Studio Network for Bongsan Culture Center, Taegu, Korea 2008 (group).

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