Signature acts as a symbol of power, a symbol itself has no meaning but it embeds strength through its authoritative power. Acceptance, exclusion, or misperceptions are forms of power identification. Searching one’s own national identity by obtaining autographs from the heads of the state can be read as a gesture for external recognition which may reassures internal acceptance. As if the national identity can be formed through the pursuit of international recognition
Yi-Ya tried to create a questionable space for the viewer to rethink about national identity in front of the world’s most powerful politicians, are these national identity symbols or simply idolized political figure? Viewers seem to pursuit their institutional belongings alone yet together in the process of reading and imagination of identification.
The signature of a statesman symbolizes (normally) his power, his authority and his righteousness.
His photograph should teach us (normally) about his aura, his charisma, maybe even his charm.
During two years Yi-Ya CHEN wrote each president of every country in the world.
Some answered directly, others the second time or third time around, some never. (1)
Certain have answered immediately other have written a year later.
Some have answered in the name of their predecessor.
Letters have been lost, others have been withheld by the Chinese popular party, which claims the politic rights of the isle.
Yi-Ya CHEN has, let’s say, eased by writing to the presidents of the whole world, the signal of existence of her isle and asked in return a form of official recognition by sending her a copy of their official signature. An answer that would be worth the undeniable recognition of the Taiwanese national identity by the outside world.
Thus this exterior recognition could reassure the Taiwanese about the fact that they aren’t the sole that recognize themselves as such.
In reality, only a minority of the presidents have answered and mostly those that don’t mind the jealous reactions of their big Chinese neighbor.
The installation is composed of those answering letters of the presidents and their picture positioned on a world map of which Taiwan is the center.
In the center of the map some questions appear (2) (video projection) which addresses the spectators that can then start to form a beginning of an answer.
What does this work talk about?
First of all what draws the attention is the pure formality of the whole, an almost academic purity that can be find somewhere between an fluxus installation, the organogram of a multinational present almost everywhere in the world, and a scheme of an scientific presentation.
Which guides the viewer afterwards to the pictures of the “world leaders” : they are smiling, friendly, engaged, almost buddies, parents or even potential Facebook friends.
Of course these are nothing more then carefully retouched official photographs, chosen by communication counselors, destined to show an image of confidence, of altruism and dialogue.
The picture of Angela Merkel by example is sublime: it’s the picture of a soft, available, friendly, caring and protective woman. A near-saint.
What meets the eye next is the homogeneity of these images: all saying the same thing, they aren’t saying anything at all.
Even worse, the standardized answers have the same allure. Not only don’t they answer the question asked by the artist (which would be the start of a conversation and so the awaited altruism), but also don’t give any kind of information what so ever. These are letters that came out of nowhere and are destined to return towards that vacant hole directly.
The apparent naivety of the artist’s way of doing allows us to clarify certain things:
What purpose does a presidential communication service serve if it answers ever so cheaply?
Do we have to give in, so accept, or amuse if not cry upon the fact that they systematically view their writing public (so artists, so others) as brainless fools that only can kneel in front of an icon?
A vulgar icon calibrated by the vulgate of the press people. Leading a country is thus really nothing more than that : acting like a football player or a pop singer ?
If it really is like this, that means that the real power, the real authority, the real righteousness has to be found somewhere else, probably efficient and real because of its invisibility.
« Dear President » exposes the leftovers of the politic identity while the rest is absorbed, like all, by the “show-off society” (only not to say “cannibal society”).
And the destiny of Taiwan and its people, little isle in the middle of the world, is fit to the image that the other countries, themselves little isles in the middle of the world, accord them in the world spread drift of continents and financial fluxes.
The countries that have answered :
North America : Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic
South America : Colombia, Brazil, Chili
Asia : Afghanistan, Israel, Mongolia, Singapore
Oceania : Australia, New Zeeland
Africa : South Africa
Europe : Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, - Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Lettonia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Holland, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK
Following, an extract of the letter written to the presidents :
Dear president,￼ I hope this letter finds you well. My name is YI-YA CHEN, a girl from Taiwan.
I am planning to do a project ; this project is to get the autographed photos of the president around the world.
Therefore, I get up the nerve to write this letter, hope that you can help me to finish this project.
There is an island named Taiwan, we try hard to prove ourselves to the world, but there are too many reasons that make us stuck in today’s situation.
That’s why I want to make this project. I am always thinking, how much we know about the world when we expecting Taiwan to be known by the world ?
It’s interesting for me to compare the different between Taiwan and other countries. It makes me rethink what is Taiwan really needed.
At last, if you willing to accept my request, I wrote down my address below. Looking forward to get your letter soon.￼
Questions asked to the spectators
Among all the letters, the majority is European countries, is that because Taiwan is more famous in Europe or this fact does not mean anything ? ￼
Why did the countries having diplomatic relations with Taiwan not reply ?￼
The outgoing heads of state usually answer all mails before leaving office.￼ Most Asian countries did not reply, is that because those Asian countries are conservative or the relations with Taiwan are sensitive ?￼
In some countries, the heads of state wage war domestically and establish a good image to foreign countries actively.￼ Is what you see an idolized political figure or a country ?￼
The current head of state of Mexico responded to the letter I sent to the former head of state a year ago.￼ Does the absence of Asian countries, the United States, and Chinese reflect the situation of Taiwan currently in the world ?￼
The autographed photos and letters of all countries seem to have followed a set pattern, which is the standard official response.￼ Among all the reply letters, no one mentioned Taiwan.￼
Mongolia has always been with anti-Chinese complex. However, it is the only one Asian country replying letters and the head looks like Taiwanese.