A number of eschatological beliefs predicted that the world would end on December 21, 2012 – the last day of the 5,125 year Mayan calendar. In preparation for the apocalypse, survivors turned to YouTube to learn the best way to live off the grid, while conspiracy theorists flocked to the French village of Bugarach for access to a mountain that was meant to be the landing site of a UFO they were facing a catastrophe. In Taipei, art student Pin Chun Kuo accepted her fate far more and chose photography as the medium for her salvation.
“People kept telling me that artists are only recognized after they die,” she says. On January 1, 2012, Pin – an installation artist whose work explores the relationship between pop culture, contemporary society, and modern technology – took a Polaroid camera and took her first self-portrait. It was a threatening shot lit by a safety vest of a street cleaner outside Taiwan’s presidential office building at dusk. For the rest of the year, she took a photo every day in maximalist costume to complement the setting she was in – fruit and vegetable print tights for a kitchen portrait, and a rainbow sweater that was outside the graphic walls of Guandu Temple.
When December came and went without a catastrophe (no black hole appeared in the center of the galaxy and the earth did not collide with the mythical planet Nibiru), Pin decided to continue the project “until the true end of the world finally comes or I die,” said she says. “Over time, I became more and more familiar with the compositions and the color of the photos.” The series, which emerged from all of Pin’s Polaroids, is both a personal diary and a socio-political commentary on life in Taiwan.
In March 2014, hundreds of student protesters took over Taiwan’s national lawmakers for three weeks to oppose a proposed free trade agreement with China, which they believed would damage the country’s economy and subject it to political pressure from Beijing. The movement, dubbed Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement, joined a wave of youth-led protests across Asia, after the thousands of sunflowers donated to the front of the protest by a local florist, in which activists against repression and brutal crackdowns on civil liberties have fought and human rights.
After joining the crowds that gathered outside the legislature, Pin began incorporating politics into her Polaroids (her April 10, 2014 self-portrait was taken in front of the armed police who were deployed to keep the students at bay ). Though she always has a side of dark humor, she admires her favorite artists: French conceptual artist Sophie Calle and the work of Tokyo-based art collective Chim Pom, whose multidisciplinary practice responds to contemporary social problems. “I don’t think I’m an aggressive activist,” she says. “But I deal with political issues in my own way and use art to convey messages.” Pins portraits highlight subjects that are important to her and are shot in front of signs advocating a change to Taiwan’s curriculum in high school, election campaigns, on dropped advertisements and at a plastic recycling facility.
But color is just as important for Pin. She is drawn to Mika Ninagawa’s oversaturated photographs of flowers, goldfish, and landscapes. “I love anything that really catches the eye,” says Pin. “You can tell from my work and my outfits. I love a scene with a lot of information. “From crowded rooms painted pink and filled with cuddly toys, flags, and giant plastic ice creams to an extravagant set that looks like a beauty pageant for Taiwan model Kiwi Lee Han’s cosmetic commercial, their Polaroids are filled with unconventional colors and curiosities .
With a day job at the vintage shop called Flower Whispering, Pin always adapts her locations to her clothes, inspired by the fashion of the early ’00s as well as the costumes in the manga books she devours. “These days we live in the age of information research – different styles of clothing have become more accessible to young people,” she says. “[But] Some young people treat culture right away and blindly follow trends without knowing what they want. “Lately, Pin has become fascinated by astrology, reading her daily horoscope and choosing her outfits based on their daily color.
The artist finds endless joy in the fantastic street scenes in Taiwan, in which colorful billboards and written slogans, temple gods, mosquito net sellers and fashion lines serve as a cinematic backdrop for her portraits. “Taiwan is a country full of cultural diversity,” she says. “It was colonized by many other countries,” including the Dutch and Spanish in the 17th century, followed by the Chinese in the Qing dynasty and the Japanese forces in the 20th century before their defeat in World War II. “When you go for a walk in the street, you see a conflict between cultural buildings, chaotic but kind of sensible.”
The 31-year-old artist also integrates her installation work into the Polaroids, such as one entitled “Single KTV” in which she set up a karaoke booth in a shopping mall and invited strangers to join her or watch her sing a love song . “I only had one friend in my life,” says Pin. “After we broke up, I’ve been single for over 10 years. In Taiwan, people really enjoy singing karaoke. When I go out with my friends, I sing some love songs for fun … But after I sang the love song, my friend looked at me pityingly, as if he was so sad for me because I don’t have a boyfriend. “The portrait“ Single KTV ”and Pins’s oeuvre are intended to challenge society’s view that single people are lonely and depressed and counter the pressure on women to find a partner.
Pin’s paintings are decorative, kitschy, and playful, but the essence is that life itself is fleeting and should be embraced. The photographs are a collection of memories – some bold and political, others not extraordinary and mundane: from graduation ceremonies, dinners and festivals to long walks. All steeped in nostalgia and magic. “Polaroids fade over time. My evidence of documenting the world before the end will also fade, ”says Pin. “But the idea of images disappearing is very well suited to the end of the world.”
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