“We seem to measure ourselves according to our level of success and spending power.  So we wear ourselves out in pursuing these things.”

Born Taipei, Taiwan, 1972

Liao Chien-Chung is fascinated by appearances and by modern society’s obsession with them. His reconstructions of machines and other common objects are amusing reminders not to base judgments on first impressions.  Apart from its pristine cleanness, Garbage Truck (2011) is almost indistinguishable from the rear end of one of the trucks that collect Taiwan’s rubbish, yet it is made almost entirely of wood. Transformer Box (2011) also looks identical to those seen on many streets, right down to the mountain scene painted on it: municipal authorities in Taiwan see to it that all transformer boxes are decorated.  Are replicas of such mundane objects worthy of the label art? Liao Chien-Chung seems to ask.  If so, what makes them so?  Their plausible surfaces, or what lies beneath?  A similar question animates Goddamn Life (2008), a home-made Harley-Davidson with pedals where the foot pegs should be. “Like most boys, I always dreamed of owning a real American Harley-Davidson,” he says. “But this dream will never be a reality for me.” On the other hand, he wonders, “Can you say you own a Harley if you have to pedal it?”  (The Mandarin word for motorbike sounds like a swear word in the Taiwanese dialect. Among the young, “motorbike” is widely used as a less-offensive substitute: “motorbike life” is the equivalent of “&#$@* life”.)


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