The Adventures in Mountain Yu V (From Michel Foucault to Our Glorious Future) Single-channel video installation, 07’07", 2011

The Adventure of Mountain Yu - From Michelle Foucault to Glorious Future
Tu Pei-Shih

The Adventure of Mountain Yu critiques Taiwan’s ‘lost history’, which was whitewashed from the educational system under the period of Marshall Law. Taking the style of a children’s storybook, innocent scenes of children at play are depicted on a vertical tableaux of lushly forested hills. But the Garden of Eden quickly becomes a battlefield, scattered with scenes of mass murder, rape and torture, that unfold under the gaze of Michel Foucault, who appears as comic character driving by in a delivery truck.

Every colonizing regime has tried to reshape Taiwan by imposing to its own ideology. Here, successive colonisations collide. Aboriginals converse with European navigators, soldiers, monks – and Michel Foucault. Perspective is reduced to contiguous planes of flat colour while historical eras overlap and pile up upon one another, reflecting Foucault’s assertion in his essay ‘Of Other Spaces, Heterotopias’ that having left behind the nineteenth century obsession with time, ‘We are in the epoch of simultaneity: we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed.’

Foucault’s essay goes on to suggest that colonies might serve as ‘heterotopias of compensation’, where vigorous control could create ‘another real space, as perfect, as meticulous, as well arranged as ours is messy, ill constructed and jumbled.’ In The Adventure of Mountain Yu, Foucault is confronted with a diverse, heterogeneous paradise, and with the terrible, disordered reality of colonization. Using the childish style of the books that for decades deliberately glossed over the massacres committed by Chiang Kai-shek’s invading army, only heightens the horror of these crimes.

But in its depiction of the heavenly garden, there is another link to be drawn between this work and the text on heterotopias: Foucault says, ‘The garden is the smallest parcel of the world and then it is the totality of the world. The garden has been a sort of happy, universalizing heterotopia since the beginnings of antiquity’. In the context of this exhibition, the case could be made that Taiwan is ‘the smallest parcel of the world and then it is the totality of the world’.

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