Wu Chi-Tsung

Time and Light

Let there be light. For Wu Chi-Tsung, light is the catalyst in his art, and time devoted in his darkroom allows beauty to gently appear. British video artist David Hall coined the term ‘time-based art’ in 1972, which refers to the art forms that require a certain amount of time to be fully revealed. While the concept was devised with traditional art forms such as paintings and sculptures in mind, and also emphasized the duration of time and the scale in space, Wu Chi-Tsung tends to interpret it in a reversed way. He deliberately uses time as a tool to blur the boundary between new media art and traditional art and to redefine moving and still images.


The necessity of long exposure is shared in most of Wu Chi-Tsung’s still works, such as the Cyano-Collage Series, the Wrinkled Texture Series, and the Long Time Exposed Landscape. Therefore, these works all contain a considerable scale of time and momentum. They have become a living fossil in which a complete time axis is fused together.


In Chinese, the phrase that represents a long period of time is Shiguang (時光), which is a combination of the words for Time (時) and Light (光). The considerable time that Wu Chi-Tsung spends battling with, adapting to, and coping with time and light is a key feature of his works. He tends to focus on simple techniques and daily objects, still he devotes himself to research time and light and applying his learnings to the original material and turning it into something completely different from, and even opposite to, commonplace perceptions.


As one of the furthest-developed works so far, the Cyano-Collage Series demands a large amount of ‘exposed paper’ for paper-reading and collage. As hours of sunlight reacts with the cyanotype chemistry on the Xuan paper, the ordinary wrinkles on the paper transcend their physical features and gain a similar spiritual quality as in traditional ink painting. After this, the artist observes the textures and folds of every paper, to ‘read’ and contemplate them, and pick the ones that evoke and inspire the artist the most. For this precious ‘decisive moment’, which is almost one in a hundred, processing and storing paper have become a daily routine.


For his installation and video works that are more qualified to be called ‘time-based art’, time seems to be wasted or irrelevant. It moves forward, yet sometimes cycles; it goes by, yet sometimes stalls. As a reversed interpretation of time involving the artist’s understanding of Asian philosophies, these works have contributed to the complicity of the artist’s exploration of temporality. For instance, the Still Life Series, the Landscape in the Mist Series, and the Dust share a similar sense of stillness, in effect an almost nerdy gaze. Although these works last up to ten minutes, the visual message conveyed by the film tends to be relatively monolithic, as if they are a still frame stretched to fit a time axis. Nevertheless, it is exactly the seemingly meaningless gaze and the ostensibly wasted time that reveals the artist’s obsessed fascination and adamant aestheticism towards the object before the camera.  Give it time.

August 6, 2020
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