phantom pain clinic
Curated by Shen Chen
Yoshikatsu Fujii (1979), Hsu Che-Yu (1985), Shen Linghao (1988), Max Sher (1975), Sheida Soleimani (1990), Wang Tuo (1984).
Phantom limb, firstly coined by American neurologist Silas Weir Mitchell, is the sensation that an amputated or missing limb is still attached. Phantom pain is described as the feeling of pain in an absent limb or a portion of a limb. The experience of pain is physical, yet psychological.
Applying the basic prototype of “Loss/Damage - Pain - Observation - Intervention”, the exhibition Phantom Pain Clinic takes “phantom pain” as a metaphor, survey the types and mechanism of different “phantom pains” and try to find the therapies. The pathology of phantom pain can be psychogenic but also an intrinsic stress response to the loss of the organs. It is easy to recognize the loss of part of the bodies, but hard to perceive the broken personalities, the losing or erasing of memories, and the damage or division to the social structures.
In the exhibition, artists are also doctors. They observe and reveal different kinds of phantom pains:
In Hiroshima Graph – Rabbits Abandon Their Children, Yoshikatsu Fujii put his focus on Okunoshima, Hiroshima Pref.. 72 years after WWII, Okunoshima, also known as “Rabbit Island”, has become a peaceful and enjoyable resort destination, but its history as Poison Gas Island during WWII is somehow concealed purposely. The works, flashbacking constantly among the ordinary island scenes, the archival images and text as poison gas production evidence, tried to pass on the truth about an almost forgotten criminal history.
Hsu Chey-Yu’s November 11th, 1970 was derived from an old news story in 1970 of setting statue of Chiang Kai-shek in Zhongshan park in Taiwan. With on-site scenes, virtually animated figures and original yet tampered report, Hsu tries to reappear a period of ghost-like history he didn’t experience.
In the Scenery in Heart - Theater of History, Shen Linghao presented the interior of Jiangnan Shipyard and Chiang Ching-kuo’s former residence, which was converted into light-sensitive images in dark boxes. The factory that was once seized by invaders became their exhibition pavilion once again; Villa that was once frequented by celebrities was leveled to ground overnight. All these are like a disoriented theatre, in which various self-conflicted dramas are presented.
The background of Max Sher’s Map and Territory is based on the history of 1941-44 Nazi Siege of Leningrad. It shattered the State-controlled simplistic historical discourse to construct a sort of a speculative museum based on a deliberately labyrinthine mixture of "fact" and "fiction". It also investigated the Soviet political regime in a situation of an enemy siege which included an almost total ban on non-authorized image-making and possessing of images in the besieged city. Taking the “counter-revolutionary” photographers' group People’s Eye, nurse Antonina Lavrova, who “illegally” possessed German landscape postcards, and blind person Pyotr Gorchakov, who wrote his diary in braille, as prototypes, the artist played the role of a spy in the project. Through these fictional profiles, re-shot surroundings, “secret” graphs, braille diary, as well as cut-out postcards, Sher unfolded the substituted meanings and challenged a piece of real yet falsified history.
In National Anthem, Sheida Soleimani, as Iranian American, paid her attention to those forcedly disappeared Iranian females who were executed because of resisting to violence. She appropriated low-resolution online profiles, cultural symbols, and signifiers so as to create a position regarding her viewing the Middle East from an outside lens and accused the extreme guilt happening in the past and at the present.
Wang Tuo’s Meditation on Disappointing Reading was inspired by Three Daughters of Madame Liang (1969), which was not widely accepted in China. Through reproducing and creating two female figures, the artist discussed the awkwardness we run into when failing to read or approach some documents that are deliberately covered up. Time is like a filter screen, showing us only the trauma left by historical events without knowing the causes.
In the above works, the artists have appropriated, more or less, forgotten or lost images, texts and plots. They were like phantoms wandering around somewhere else in the world or on the internet. They used to point to the ambiguous imagination, stir up interlinking possibilities and trigger narrative illusions, but can never be completed. The artists attempted to restore or recontextualize them and have them anchored, so as to explore these “phantom pains”.
“Phantom pain” does not lead to death necessarily, but reminds of the once-existed absence and the survival remains through the anguish ceaselessly. “Phantom pain” can only be mitigated or suspended to some extent, but hard to be cured completely. Facing up to it, nevertheless, may be the first step to understand and to heal.