Spellbinding in absolute silence and magnificence, the three intensely cinematic films of Chen Chieh-jen resonate with Taiwan’s unsettling economic and political history. In the shadows of labour abuse, devastating unemployment, and haunting abandoned factories, Chen’s powerful portrayals illustrate a paralyzing, isolated, and lawless landscape.
In Factory (2003), Chen invited textile workers to revisit the garment factory where they worked seven years ago. As his camera gently moves in and out, he focuses on the beauty and simplicity of weathered faces and working hands, evoking the resilience of the individual. In 1995, controversial port privatizations led unions to refuse a scab ship at the ports of Vancouver, Yokohama and Kobe. Taiwanese workers, not knowing of the international disputes, acted against their fellow colleagues and accepted the cargo at the Port of Kaohsiung. His most recent film, The Route (2006) gives actual Taiwanese labourers the chance to rewrite history in a secret restaging of a dockers’ strike. Finding escape in the still barricades of abandoned technology, Bade Area (2005) features a lost man lingering through remnants of a once-thriving industrial city known as “The Majestic Town”.
With contemporary cinema’s trend towards everything louder, faster and bigger, Chen’s deliberate choice to create silent stately films reflects the unheard voices of marginalized people. The artist states: “Taiwan has become a ‘fast-forgetting’ consumer society that has abandoned its right to ‘self-narration’ and this has spurred me to resist the tendency to forget. One of my methods of resistance is to view each film I make as an act of connection, linking together the history of people who have been excluded from the dominant discourse, the real-life situations of areas that are being ignored, and ‘others’ who are being isolated. In this way, I resist the state of amnesia in consumer society.”
– Heather Keung
Taiwan 2003 | 30:00 | DigiBeta | Silent
Taiwan 2006 | 15:00 | DigiBeta | Canadian Premiere | Silent
Taiwan 2005 | 30:00 | DigiBeta | Canadian Premiere | Silent
Chen Chieh-jen was born in Taiwan in 1960, and has gained both local and international acclaim for his important works in photography, installation, performance, and video art. Chen Chieh-jen has established himself on the international stage, having shown his work at Bienal de São Paulo (1998), Venice Biennale (1999), Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris (2001), Taipei Biennial (2002), and Liverpool Biennial (2006).