YANG Shun-fa, born in 1964 in Shanhua District, Tainan, is currently working in China Steel Corporation as a blue-collar worker. He started to learn photography in 1985, the year when he was recruited by China Steel Corporation, and since then he has introduced his works to the public until now. In his creations, Yang often employs different props in the background and arranges various characters to create real and surreal stages, such as his early series: “Rebuilding the Kingdom” and “Rampant Beasts”. Through the created scenes, he attempts to expose and mock the hypocrisy of the society in reality. From his observations and experiences, the “current reality of Taiwan” is full of “phenomena” like disparagement, flamboyance, obsolescence, brutality, and vulgarity. Under the deceptive surface of “beautiful Formosa”, Yang’s “current reality of Taiwan” may disclose the ugly truth.
In the series of “Home and Rootless” and “Hongmaogang Monument”, Yang shows his compassion for the land and humanity. By documenting the existence and disappearance of the fishing village, he also recorded the memories of villagers in this community. Through the contrast between true memory and the story Yang fabricated, viewers can see the sorrow of history and the powerlessness of the city.
To depict the story of once the largest lagoon in Taiwan from the past to the present, he developed creations of coastal scenes. Located in Tainan, the largest lagoon is also the place where coastline landscape changes the most. In history, Koxinga landed at Luermen in his effort while it is now the destination easy to arrive in by car. After decades of natural evolution and human activities, there have been multi-layered stories from the history of the coastlines. Natural landscapes have changed by the lapse of time. Rising tides lift boats. Land emerges when water subsides. History leaves marks on the constantly changing seashore of Tainan. Hard working Taiwanese people have contributed to the prosperous industries here, from salt-making to aquaculture industries, through which every generation has left traces on the coasts of Tainan. The dramatic scenes in Yang’s works are presented in a soft tonality. The submerging coastlines, inundated official residence, flooded agricultural fields, and destructive consequences the land has suffered are depicted in an artistic setting, placed in oval shapes like traditional Chinese fans. Yang has turned this tragic chapter of the land into ethereal landscapes. YANG Shun-fa, who has been tough and strong when working in Xiaogang District in Kaohsiung, becomes more romantic and tenderer when returning Tainan.
The Submerged Beauty of Tainan
Scientists estimate that a hundred years later, sea levels will rise by one meter from today resulting from climate change and global warming. But in fact, when we look around current situations, humans may not have a hundred years to see this coming. We have built sediment retention dams and sand pumping structures. We have seen excessive extraction of groundwater from coastal areas, which suffers the consequence of subsidence. Deforestation of windbreaks leads to the retreat of coastlines. We are challenged by the changes of ocean current directions, of climate, and of wind directions. Natural disasters happen more frequently with the increase in intensity. Natural environment keeps changing; however, humans’ thinking seems to stop to go any further; instead, we choose to deceive ourselves and stay negligent. We’ve been ignoring the warnings from Mother Nature and still foolishly believe that humans can conquer the environment with strength.