Copyright Linhuei Chen studio

Metaphoric Stereoscope 

Journey to the West  西遊記

Steresocopic image forming process as the metaphor for the formation of cultural hybridity 

Having left her homeland Taiwan to live in Europe already more than 15 years ago, Linhuei Chen realised that she constantly compares things between different cultural experiences. For example, when she joins a Christmas dinner, it seems as if she is just enjoying her food and the conversations with other people, but at the same time she thinks about how she celebrated Christmas back in Taiwan: with her friends instead of with her own family. She now understands the role and meaning of  Christmas dinner in Western culture: rather than a party with friends, it is a gathering with family members. This has triggered her memories about the Lunar Year family gathering, and led to a feeling of homesickness.

Compared to people with a singular cultural background, people with transcultural experiences have different cultural references in their minds when they undertake any activities. We physically live in one locality at a specific moment, so we actually compare our current experiences with those in our memories. For the artist, it is as if she uses a telescope to look at the past in Taiwan with one eye while examining her life in the Netherlands with a magnifying glass with the other. The vision/mental imagery from two eyes merges in her mind and forms the third imagery. In her opinion, this is how cultural hybridity happens in people’s minds.

In 2018, when Chen lived in London, on a Saturday morning, she went to the famous Portobello market, where she found a Holmes stereoscope from a vendor who sold all kinds of vintage cameras. She was very fascinated by the 3D effects created by this optical viewer. On a stereoscopic card, people can see two similar images placed next to each other. When we look at them through the lenses, these two images merge into one through binocular vision processing in our brain. For her, the whole viewing process is like an analog of the forming process of cultural hybridity in our minds, especially because forming the third imagery requires the visual function done by our brain, which creates a more engaging imprint in our memories.

During her residency (Winter Sessions 2022) at V2_, Chen started experimenting with the visual forming process in our brain and how it reacts to different combinations of images with all kinds of colour effects and forms. Further on, she used images of popular Taiwanese and Dutch food which are similar to each other. The similarity of the food tricks our brain to see a new mixt food more easily.

In this project, Chen integrates modern technology with the classic stereoscope to extend the possibility of her visual research: the source of the stereo-image is not limited to small, two-dimensional still images anymore. This setup allows the viewer to engage and experience the stories the artist conveys through different dimensions of media and multiple sensations.

At the end of this residency, Chen made two videos that reflect her life experiences about the past and now, with the stereoscopic images. In both videos, you can see the artist is putting Chinese Opera make-up on while the music of the Chinese instrument gong is playing. It is an improvising performance in which she transforms into the Handsome Monkey King, who is a famous character in the classical Chinese epic Journey to the West - a tale about spiritual enlightenment, heroism, and a journey in search of the holy teachings of the living Buddha. Different from the Western stories about going on a journey, where the heroes fight external challenges to reach their destinations, it is a journey for the Monkey King to conquer his sins to reach the West (central Asia and the Indian subcontinent): an internalised salvation. This performance is a key element that connects other autobiographical footage of this two channel video installation and symbolises her transformation during her journey to the West.

Journey to the West

(to be added)

Video’s with different audio contents: 

Percussion: Mei-Yi Lee (Taiwanese musician based in Den Haag)

Documentation (V2 Winter Sessions 2022):

This Project is supported by V2_ in Rotterdam.