Condensation: Chen Chieh-jen at the Asia Society


Still from Chen Chieh-jen's video Factory (2003)

The Asia Society organized the first solo show of the Taiwanese video artist Chen Chieh-jen. Among the harrowingly uncanny videos on show, the first, "Factory" (2003) stood out for me. It focused on garment workers returning to an abandoned factory where they had worked for the best part of their lives, prior to its sudden closing in the mid-'90s due to the decline of the Taiwanese manufacturing sector. Shot in Super 8mm and shown at a slow speed without a soundtrack, the video lyrically captures the female garment workers’ feeling of mourning and loss for the abandoned building (whose previous bustling rhythms are shown through interspersed historical footage). The work they once completed there is symbolized by a leftover men’s suit jacket, held up at the beginning of the video. This ordinary looking jacket stands as a statement to the complex personal and collective narratives which imbue even the most simple of garments. (For an extract of the video and exhibition info, click here)