海馬迴光畫館Fotoaura Institute of Photography
有別於一般以為攝影作為證據的性格，攝影其實也參與了反主體的陣營。班雅明（Walter Benjamin）在〈機械複製時代的藝術品〉（The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction）曾經討論攝影作為一種新技術，如何挑戰了過往藝術觀。後者致力透過照片再現完整的對象（彷彿靈光），而前者卻把藝術從此任務當中解放。這個說法對於主體問題有兩個影響：一是藝術的主體，從對象轉移到技術本身。使得攝影從一種題材論中解放。另外，攝影與現場的紐帶也因此鬆動，照片不再是一個「再現」主體或是聯繫「現場」的工具。後現代攝影對於單一主體的懷疑更為激烈，例如瑪莎羅斯勒（Martha Rosler）從根本上反對紀實攝影「呈現」對象的可能，主體在此意義下只能是一種混雜的複數，無法通過照片或文字來代言。
What is the subject of Taiwan?
We need to embark on the concept of subject. To begin with René Descartes and his idea of subject and object,the world is divided into two parts: what we know to be real with the subject confirmed by our knowledge, and another part which is outside of the subject where the reality of the object is nowhere to be confirmed. This philosophical debate has later expanded into other fields outside of the academia. People started to make the analogy of describing a nation or a culture as an entity similar to a person. When people say: “Taiwan has no subjectivity”, this implies the island is like a subject that lost its agency and the meaning of its very own existence.However, this concept is later reexamined by the anti-modernism movement in the 1960s. Since then, Structuralism, Deconstructivism, and Post-modernism all strives to eliminate the notion of fundamental and central subjectivity in existence.
What is the relationship between the notion of subject and photography? In Walter Benjamin’s essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, he discussed photography as a new technology that challenges the classical idea of art that was anchored in the presence of aura. The later tries hard to represent the wholeness of an object through images, while the former liberates art from this classical mission. This strand of thought resulted in two types of influences on the issue of subjectivity: firstly, the subject of art now transfers from object itself, to focus on the technology of photography. Secondly, the link between photography and ‘being present’ is subsequently loosened by such new proposition, as photos now no longer represent a subject, nor do they present a tool for connecting to episodes in the moment. Popular doubts toward a singular subjectivity in post-modern photography have become ever stronger, where Martha Rosler fundamentally denies the possibility of documentary photography to present objects. Under this later context, subjectivity is converted into a hybridized and limited way of seeing.
In contemporary photography, few artists hold the belief that photograph is capable of mechanically representing a subject. Despite the fact that photography has been introduced to many fields and archival works, in the hope of excavating the cultural subjectivity of Taiwan, this methodology is slightly different from classical anthropology that utilizes photographs to document the object of their scientific pursuit. This new approach, to a greater degree, makes photography a contested field, where the power struggles between an individual and the society are in mutual effect. That being said, the narrative of using photography as a means to “excavate”, “connect”, “analogize” the culture of Taiwan is still very much in full swing. In other words, Taiwan’s subjectivity is an existence that requires observation in silence and photography becomes the means to discover Taiwan and a way to further accumulate the culture of Taiwan.
We took another approach for our exhibition. We subverted the method where people believed content can be discovered through creative form. Instead we ask: if we start our journey from Taiwan, what kind of creation and form can it enable? On the logistical side, we place more emphasis on to what degree Taiwan and its subjectivity are influenced by technical dominance and construction, rather than examining the cultural subjectivity of Taiwan through imageries. Subjectivity in this attempt is in a placeholder that needs further definition, which is similar to where in a computing system the variables can be neither zero nor one, but “null” which situates in an undefined status and is allowed to be given a value only when it comes to actual computing.