Artist & Work

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Yin-Ju Chen

Born in 1977, lives and works in Taipei

Liquidation Maps is a series of works that reexamines and investigates political genocides and massacres in recent Asian history from an occult angle, fusing astrology and astronomy. Yin-ju Chen has chosen five historical events: Lesser Kinmen Massacre in 1987 (Taiwan), Sook Ching Massacres in 1942 (Singapore), Khmer Rouge genocide in 1975 (Cambodia), massacres in East Timor in 1999 and Gwangju Uprising in 1980 (South Korea). Chen has created star charts based on astrological permutations at the time when these historical incidents started, and extrapolated upon the circular nature of the star charts into mandalas for each incident. The star charts and mandalas are symbols of reincarnation and non-linear time. The circular shape bring to mind the circular design of wrist watches, and the Chinese title plays on the Mandarin homophones of “chart” and “wristwatch”.

By re-examining historical incidents through the lens of the occult, Chen is not only attempting to rethink the subjective awareness of history writing in textbooks from the past, she is also questioning whether such actions by humanity are inevitable under the predetermined and inexorable laws of the universe, whether these laws constitute a form of cosmic force majeure. Corresponding to the belief that purification and perfection are achievable through violent means, in the artist’s video work, the planet Mars represents the god of war and Pluto represents the utter persecution and destruction that precedes the reconstitution of order. This underlying concept is similar to Jung’s belief that one’s natal chart could represent a prototype of collective human consciousness. In critiquing Chen’s work, critic Rikey Cheng pointed out that “natal charts are a form of intellectual temptation for their audience, as their symbolic meaning only surrenders to the manipulation of the hand that draws the chart, provided that information is masked and phases are purposely made vague… And these sketches adhere more closely to the labors of ancient astrologers rendering natal charts by hand in the absence of computer technology. Rather than bringing audiences an instant chart readout with internet technology, they lead viewers on a voyage of discovery towards the soul.”(1)

(1) From “A User Guide to Internal Maps”, Rikey Cheng’s commentary at Yin-Ju Chen’s 2014 Dead Souls at the Test Drive exhibition.