Chen Chieh-Jen (Taoyuan, Taiwan, 1960) is one of the most important Asian artists on the contemporary international scene. In his work he presents a critical reflection on the strategies of power, with which he explores the recent history of his country and rescues specific situations that highlight control devices, violence, subjugation and alienation, while exploring with artistic languages the complex relationships between visual image and power.
Chen grew up under the Kuomintang dictatorship imposed on Taiwan until 1991. Near his home was a prison which held political prisoners; it was also military court during the years of Martial Law (1947-1987). The exhibition is organised around this prison, recently converted by the Taiwanese government into a Human Rights Memorial. In the early eighties, Chen was part of groups of alternative artists. He became interested in performance during a period of great cultural fervour in a context which vindicated the end of the military dictatorship imposed by General Chiang Kai-Shek. The year 1987, with the lifting of Martial Law and after almost thirty years of dictatorship, represents the starting point of a contemporary art that has a true Taiwanese identity, without ignoring the role Taiwanese intellectuals played from the Seventies in the demand for democracy and a cultural identity. Among so many changes, Chen tries to understand the complex political, social and cultural factors that underlie Taiwanese society, tracing the places of his childhood and the memory of his country.
Chen's work has been selected to participate in renowned biennials such as São Paulo 1998, Venice 1999 and 2005, Shanghai 2004, Liverpool and Sydney 2006 and Istanbul 2007. Recently, the Asian Society and Museum in New York has dedicated a retrospective exhibition of his video art production.
Military Court and Prison (2007-2008) consists of two videos. In one of them the artist reflects his memories of the prison and military court that was near his home in Taipei, while the other represents the official vision of the government regarding the years of the dictatorship and Martial Law in Taiwan. This is his first work with sound, compared to his previous slow-motion and silent work, two of the technical characteristics of his work.