To Martian Anthropologists


To Martian Anthropologists

The exhibition To Martian Anthropologists invokes the imaginary future scenes from In the Name of Art by the Belgic art critic, Thierry de Duve, and invites the artists to leave, both in cyberspace and in the physical venue, all kinds of clues for the martian anthropologists who might land on Earth someday to launch a field research on the human civilizations.



  • As always, the fish doesn’t know it’s in the water.
    --Thierry de Duve

Dear Martians,

Welcome to the earth!

If you have started exploring around the earth, I would like to introduce some earthlings’ artworks to you by the exhibition entitled, To Martian Anthropologists. We have prepared for such a long time for your coming, prophesied already by the Belgian art critic, Thierry de Duve, in his book In the Name of Art. For an Archeology of the Modernity (1989): “You descend from Mars to the earth and know nothing about it. Therefore, you have no prejudice (except for that of seeing everything with the eyes of a Martian)....” ¹He describes that you start, without any inkling of the earth’s civilizations, observing human beings, their customs, rituals and myths, from which you hope to draw a constant, in order to render intelligible the earthlings’ way of thinking and the arguments that underpin their social order. Meanwhile, you explore step by step what human beings call “art.” (It’s also an indirect gesture to invite readers to re-examine the art world, from a temporary perspective beyond that of the earthlings as well as the deep-rooted, unconscious “prejudices” against art.)

This is an exhibition planned in particular for you. (Of course, we keep thinking about what on earth is the condition for an exhibition to take shape and why it is able to cover everything that the proper noun “art” signifies.) Now, via the “internet,” a sort of space invented by the earthlings, you can launch a field research of the human art practices. (“Safe social distancing,” an anti-epidemic slogan occurs in human society in 2020. As an alternative to physical exhibitions, many “online exhibitions” emerge spontaneously on the earth, as an online browsing interface for those who are not able to attend personally the site.²) In the official website, ³ the artists choose “web pages” as the specific site where their works take place, i.e. where the exhibition is substantially and actually inaugurated. (However, especially in the past half century, “attending personally the site” has been generally and ideally taken for granted as the way of seeing an exhibition.) In addition, the artists will extend the online works to the physical exhibition venue, leaving a variety of clues for you coming from far away.

Indeed, words, images, materials, objects and so on: all you see right over there refer in distance to the online works, thus constituting together an “index interface” which allows you to browse all the works and to elaborate the creative conceptions. Here are the 15 participating artists from all corners of the earth: Wan-Jen CHEN, Chien CHI, Claude CLOSKY, Yannick DAUBY, Dorian GAUDIN, Joyce HO, Yu-Cheng HSIEH, Jui-Chien HSU, James Ming-Hsueh LEE, Chih-Sheng LAI, Jun-Qiang NIU, Craig QUINTERO × Riverbed Theatre, Yung-Chun SHIH, Ya-Hui WANG and Eric WATIER. Inventorying the artworks, you will observe the rich aspects of human behaviors in creation. I believe it will be helpful to your exploration of the civilizations on the earth. I am expecting that, by shuttling between online and physical interfaces, you will be approaching what human beings call “art.”

Sincerely yours,
Taipei, August 4th, 2020

¹ Thierry de Duve, Au nom de l’art. Pour une archéologie de la modernité, Paris, Minuit, 1989, p.9-65. The author borrows Martian anthropologists as a metaphor, in order to introduce a perspective beyond the earthlings’ prejudices and to explore what human beings call “art.” The exhibition conceived and developed from the author’s imagination tries to ask the question: what the artists hope to offer as clues to “Martian anthropologists” for their field research of the human art practices. At the same time, it serves as a response in 2020 to the words written by the author in 1985 (published in 1989).

² From the reflection of this phenomenon, this exhibition invites the artists to begin with the online works which deploy as an index echoing distantly the physical works in the exhibition venue as an extended interface. By the corresponding relationship, the exhibition encourages visitors to rethink the accustomed seeing experiences between exhibition and artwork: “physical works as primary, online works as secondary.”

³ Official


*The names are arranged in alphabetical order.
Wan-Jen CHEN (TW)
With a focus on video art, the Taipei-based artist diligently explores the possibility of moving images--from space installations and theatrical experiences to interdisciplinary experiments. His work implies a sharp observation of the behaviors in the routine lives and projects a light sense of humour and absurdity.

Chien CHI (TW)
His work spans a wide variety of media, from painting, installation to video. Through the study of light and shadow, perceptual behavior and site mechanism, he experiments various possibilities between surface and depth, imagination and objective reality. The artist believes that creation is a process where a creator becomes an observer. By a simple and pure manner, he intends to put into practice the complexity of "seeing" itself.
Laureate of the Prize of Marcel Duchamp in 2005, and one of the leading figures of contemporary art in France over the past twenty years. Based on a keen observation of the media, interpersonal communication and consumption in contemporary society, his work resorts to different art forms, such as painting, sculpture, photograph, video, collage, writing and audio creation.

Yannick DAUBY(FR)
Background in musique concrete and improvisation, the sound artist uses found objects, electroacoustic devices and phonographies for creation. As a field recordist, he has particular interest for animals or nature sounds as well as urban situations and unusual acoustic phenomenon. He often collaborates with other musicians, visual artists and dancers and makes sound design for films. Based in Taiwan since 2007, he keeps exploring the island's soundscape and creating art & science projects with biologists.

The New York-based artist works in sculpture and installation. His installations often include masterfully engineered machines that lack any explicit purpose, yet move spontaneously, animated from within. These autonomous and unpredictable artworks of personification allow viewers to question the nature of objects and reflect a subtle relationship between human beings and objects.

Joyce Ho (TW)
Mainly engaged in video, installation and painting, the artist sets foot as well in playwriting, directing and design in theatre. Her work with a surrealist aura is extended from a focus on the insignificant daily routines and conveys an intimate, yet alienated tension between human beings and reality.

Yu-Cheng HSIEH (TW)
Specialized in mixed media and spatial installations, the artist often creates skillfully on-site optical illusions to explore the floating subjectivity among image, machine and illusional phenomena, in the hope to reflect upon by correspondence the relationship between empirical world and existential state of human beings.

Jui-Chien HSU (TW)
Starting from sculpture, the artist is good at employing the media of different natures for installations in space. A tension created between objects, which might depict not only a harmonious relationship, full of resonances, but an implied ambiguity and contradiction.

Chih-Sheng LAI (TW)
With delicate interventions in space and the landscape, the artist pursues a practice that plays with tension, the everyday and personal encounters across multiple media in particular installation and sculpture. There is a playful minimalism in the way he observes details and creates new relationships between different elements of a room, engaging directly the viewer's sense of body and presence.

James Ming-Hsueh LEE (TW)
His work often spotlights on the objects found in all sorts of stores. With a penetrating sense of humor, he reexamines and challenges the conventional understanding of "things" indoctrinated by the media, education and society. Through reversing the concept of objectsㅡcorrect usage, appearance or human perception, the artist is able to offer refreshing and amusing interpretations so as to explore other possibilities of contemporary art.

Jun-Qiang NIU (TW)
Long engaged in the creation of video and graphic mixed media, the artist is skilled in elaborating "the nature of existence". His work begins with the idea of "seeing as a form of existence" and extends to the dimension of space-time, by which the invisible relations are able to connect with each other and the individual, even collective life consciousness can be foregrounded.

Craig QUINTERO × Riverbed Theatre(USA)
Sculptor, installation artist and artistic director of Riverbed Theatre that he founded in 1998. The image-based production of Riverbed blurs the boundary between visual and performing arts. Riverbed has been invited to many well-known domestic and foreign events and prestigious locations, including Asian Biennial, Venice Biennale Collateral Events, Kobe Biennale, and domestic and foreign museums.

Yung-Chun SHIH (TW)
Mainly engaged in painting, sculpture, installation, photography and writing, the artist explores private experiences in daily life and human behaviors as the major axis. A photographing technique of films and dramas as a preparatory process is employed in most of his works, In recent years, he has published his creation in project-based performances.

Ya-Hui WANG (TW)
Engaged in video, installation, photography and painting, the artist raises questions from the overlap of reality and imagery about virtual/real, interior/exterior, essence of imagery and viewing experience. The subject in her work concerns the nature in Oriental philosophy and the relationship between human beings and the world, From contemporary experiences of living, she is genuinely interested in the possibilities to incorporate the Oriental thinking into modern life.

For over twenty years, the artist has been producing printed works: photocopy, book, poster, leaflet, postcard and so on. The most common form in his work is a "thin book" of four pages. In 2006, he published BLOC, composed of more than thirty of his small books in the form of a block of detachable sheets and downloadable freely on the website: The artist abuses as such the formats and overturns with humour the classic modes of distribution.

2020-08-04 — 2020-09-28


New Taipei City Arts Center


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