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- 1 Hsueh-Yuan Road, Beitou Dist., Taipei City Taiwan, R.O.C
As one of the most active and important artist groups in Taiwan today, the Hantoo Art Group is commemorating their twenty-year anniversary with a retrospective exhibition, Fight Club, which pays homage to David Fincher's 1999 film of the same name. The film itself is an adaption of the novel by Chuck Palahniuk, an American freelance journalist who is also known as an interdisciplinary novelist. The film, however, enjoys a wider level of popularity than the book.
Several points worthy of reflection can be drawn from the context of the film's narrative and the curatorial thought behind this exhibition. The first is that the Fight Club film has an alternative title in Chinese, in which the word for 'fight' is translated to 'dou zhen' (instead of 'bo ji'). In Taiwanese semantics, 'dou zhen' refers to a group of people who (enjoy) gathering together on a certain emotional basis. This corresponds to the original founding of the Hantoo Art Group as an organization composed of young artists who graduated from the College of the Arts at Chinese Culture University. With awareness on the difficult realities of the art world, and seeing their weakness as individuals, they resolved to work together, combining the strengths of their friends and peers from different graduating classes. The group was oriented from the start toward sharing what few resources they had, and they formed for each other a system of support through a mutual exchange of empathy, strategy, and knowledge. Another point is that they were able to situate themselves as a much stronger force to be reckoned with through the pooling of everyone's resources and the collective sharing of expenses. In David Fincher's film, the protagonist (whose role is alternately acted by Edward Harrison Norton and William Bradley Pitt), is motivated out of sheer boredom to put on a fighting tournament sans any protective gear. Although the bodies of contestants might end up battered, this contributed to the rapid spread of the organization to cities nationwide, where numerous underground 'fight clubs' were formed. In the end, this led to the formation of a powerful organization that threatened to destroy the social order. The original intent behind the formation of Hantoo not only shares a likeness to such a concept, but it is this concept itself that shaped the Hantoo Art Group as a wild and unrestrained 'fight club' based on a movement from the incidental toward the inevitable — a young and emerging organization that exists as a provocation to the existing order of the art world.
Then, there is the fact that, after the twenty years since the group’s founding, its fourteen current members are no longer the “green behind the ears” youth they once were. From the splendor of the middle-aged years, and passing through the primes of their lives, be it in the practice of art or in daily life, there is no avoiding that long and winding path, and the time that comes to look back in reflection. The final moment of cruelty and shock in the film is when the protagonist must fight against himself, and one side has to die before the other gives up. What could be more similar to the cruelty faced by all who have ventured to make a career out of art? As a retrospective exhibition for the past twenty years, this exhibition marks a stage in time, arranged so that each Hantoo Art Group member is placed in duel with oneself. Representative works from an earlier stage in their career are placed next to more recent pieces by the same artist, enabling them to reflect on their past practices, and to pit their past and present selves in a ring where these two sides can collide. That is to say, while this exhibition is a retrospective looking back, it is also a renewed movement forward.
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