[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I had an hour in between classes yesterday so I decided to check out the National Museum (one of the advantages of having a city campus as I always say).

There was a photography exhibition going on so I decided to check it out.

I am not sure if this was a retrospective. There were projects done over two years and another that took a decade to produce. Three works by Chang Chien-Chi were on display altogether.

Chang is a photographer and lives and works in Taipei and New York city. He is works for an agency, Magnum, that provides photographs to the press, publishers, advertising, television, galleries and museums across the world. It has four editorial offices in New York, London, Paris and Tokyo.

The exhibition called Doubleness is dialectic yet about repetition.

But Chang has a different way of interpreting that. As I approached the entrance a quote by Chang struck me.

"For me, repetition is not about repeating two identical things. It's about adding another layer to the theme, and using visual means, doubling and intensifying the viewer."

Quite apt for his ten year project, China Town. There must have been intense research and planning for a project of such a scale. He juxtaposes the bleak life of illegal immigrants to New York city in black and white tones, with coloured images of their families back at Fuzhou, China.

The video also had these elements. It was an ethnography - in between the photos, Chang, who has photojournalism background, interviewed individuals and asked them about the separation. There were lots of dialogue = the men who left were married yet single, familial yet appeared childless, Chinese but yet American.

Another project on show was The Chain - a take on mental patients at the Long Fa Tong temple in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. In this work, several black and white photos (set out in a square area) of men and women are chained to each other. Their facial expressions seemed to intrigue. Some were sad yet others were scary. It was odd to see them face-to-face.

The last, Double Happiness, was about marriage and Vietnamese brides. I think what Chang did was to show the entire process of getting a Vietnamese bride. An essay to describe the work mentioned that each Korean or Taiwanese man had paid about US$8000 to pick a bride. The photos and videos documented the initial phase of meeting, passing customs checks and finally scenes of mass weddings for the couples.

One could see the uncomfortable and tense reactions of such marriages - men and wife are alien to each other and they speak different languages. Yet, they are together as though they are one.

As a photographer, it is a challenge to come up with works with deep meanings. But I feel Chang has done it deftly and the photographs have reflected the notions of doubleness, of duality. Although the objects have two sides to it or two images, each reflects its own character and style. Same same but yet different?


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