Ting  - Tong Cheng © Asia House, London.

London - “P’eng’s Journey to the Southern Darkness” by Ting-Tong Chang was a great exhibition at Asia House.

The Ting-Tong Chang solo exhibitionP’eng’s Journey to the Southern Darkness” was first London solo by Taiwanese artist. His work is focused on machines, from automata to avatars, and it analyses the ecological relationship between humans and nature.

The title of the exhibition originates from influential Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi’s text “Free and Easy Wandering” in which the fish K’un in the North Ocean turns into a giant bird called P’eng and sets to travel to the South Ocean, whilst a cicada and a dove mock him for its effort – mirroring the practice change of the artist.

The exhibition consisted of three kinds of installed elements, mixed around the room and with explanatory videos: taxidermy sculptures; self- sustaining ecologic system; and drawings.

Firstly, were displayed four sculptures of crows on elevated plinths and a collection of taxidermy birds, with internal computer circuits in their stomachs out in the open, pronouncing rejection letters from numerous open calls from which the artists was rejected. The number and the type of bird signify death in Chinese traditions and Chang playfully questions the proliferating bureaucratic art world of today.

Secondly, the birds were encircled by film documentation of various symbolic performances. Ting-Tong Chang collaborated with scientists and engineers to create a self-sustaining ecology installation within which he integrated himself, focused on the inter-relationship of consumption, industrial production and ecosystem.

“Whence Do You Know the Happiness of Fish?” (2015) is a large-scale installation combining durational performance art with science. With the assistance of biologist, Andreas von Bresinsky, Chang constructed an indoor fish farming environment using techniques and equipments from the aquaculture lab Fischwirtschaftsbetrieb. He lives in the exhibition space and feeds himself only from the pool. The fish caught are then cooked on a gas grill and consumed by the artist.

“Spodoptera Litura” (2015) is a live installation work developed in collaboration with the Department of Entomology of National Chung Hsing University and biologist Tuan Shu-jen. During the three-day-performance, Ting-Tong Chang seals himself in a greenhouse with hundreds of caterpillars (Oriental Leafworm Moth) and wild cabbage plants. An ecosystem is formed within the installation: the caterpillars are cooked and consumed by Chang for him to sustain himself. His urine is gathered and distributed through a watering system, providing nutrition to the plants. Finally, the plants provide nourishment for the caterpillars.

“Second Life: Habitat” (2016) uses laboratory processes as a means of artistic expression. It creates an installation at the interface of art and a natural scientific experimental set-up, converting the rooms into a rational ensemble of greenhouse, breeding chamber and factory. Ting -Tong Chang collaborated with prof. Haung Rong Nan and Department Graduate Institute of Entomology, National Taiwan University. In a series of greenhouses, the artist breeds eight thousand Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), that go through all of their life cycle stages. Grown mosquito fly, mating and finally end its life cycle in a bug zapper. Each dead mosquito creates an electric signal to a computer system. Life of mosquito is then converted into a computer-generated avatar. These avatars are virtual human beings inhabiting a simulated island, members of the audience can control these avatars to wander around, talk and sleep. Their lifespan is 10 hours and will be terminated by the system. During the period of the exhibition, the artists donate 200cc of blood each 2 weeks. The blood transfusion devise is connected to a blood feeder. Each terminated avatar transmits a signal to the system and the blood is released into the feeder. It provides nutrition for the next generation of mosquito and the cycle of life-avatar-energy-electric signal is complete.

Third element of the exhibition was a series of drawings Chang made whilst he confined himself in these self-torturing ecosystems. The illustrations unfold his cynical yet comical imagination of the Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest ecology of the ‘artworld’ he has taken part in over the past decade as a migrant from Asia in London.

Ting-Tong Chang was born in Taiwan and received his MFA at Goldsmiths, University of London where he currently lives and works. Chang has exhibited and received a number of awards internationally. Recent solo shows include Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop (2014), Manchester Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (2015), Christine Park gallery London (2016) and Asia House London (2016). Group exhibitions were held in Taipei Biennial (2008), National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Warsaw Centre for Contemporary Art, Moscow Museum of Modern Art and Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. Chang’s major awards are Edinburgh Creative Initiative Award 2013, Bursary Award 2015 of Royal British Society of Sculptors and RISE Award 2016 at Art Central Hong Kong. His works are collected by Taipei Fine Arts Museum and private collectors in Europe and Asia.

Supported by the Ministry of Culture (Taiwan), the exhibition P’eng’s Journey to the Southern Darkness” by Ting-Tong Chang was at the Asia House, London, from 23rd August until 2nd September 2016.