29.06—06.10.2024
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TRIENNALE KORTRIJK OPBOUW 043

Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story, 2024

Pei-Hsuan Wang, TW

With Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story, Belgium-based Pei-Hsuan Wang unveils an ambitious solo project in the project space rhizome_. This total installation offers a polyphonic narrative exploring themes of homing and hybridity. Wang often uses shapeshifting as a metaphor for her and her family’s migratory experiences across different continents. Her oeuvre, deeply influenced by transnational kinship, reflects the journey from Taiwan to the United States and to Europe. The diasporic perspective is further enriched with elements from East Asian folklore and mythology, presented with playfulness and a profound sense of aesthetics.

At the heart of the installation is an altar, where Wang brings together displaced objects and sculptures from various faiths alongside her own creations. This scene recalls her earlier video work, Like Paradise, which features a Thai Buddhist temple in rural Hong Kong whose garden has become a sanctuary for rescued statues and memorabilia from other religions. The installation is the result of an extensive search through institutional collections (such as Museum M in Leuven, Belgium, and the Warren Anatomical Museum at Harvard Medical School in Boston, USA), the city of Kortrijk’s archives, bric-a-brac markets, moulages from Academie Kortrijk, the former Carmelite convent, and private collections, including Wang's own. Each component carries a unique story and origin. For example, references to Norma and Normman—anatomical models made in the early 1940s by artist Abram Belskie and obstetrician Robert Latou Dickinson—illustrate the concept of the 'average' American man and woman, constructed using data exclusively from white individuals. Complementing these objects and imageries are Wang’s sculptures, including representations of the 12 animal signs from Chinese astrology portrayed as vessels, evoking offerings and a cyclic cosmology.

Those who look deeper into the space will uncover a multitude of elements that reveal the intricately layered narrative. For instance, the ends of the twirling fly swatters, typically found on butchers' counters in Taiwan, are made from flagging ribbons used for marking boundaries or hazardous areas in the US. The washing machines not only reference rhizome_'s past as a laundromat, but also subtly nod to the stereotypical career paths of Asian migrants in the US. One washing machine spins a white plastic bag with a red design—however, instead of the usual Chinese takeout logo, it features a custom-printed image of Penglai Island, a mythical paradise believed to hold the secret to eternal life.

Another washing machine contains napkin strips embroidered with words from a verse in Octavia E. Butler's novel Parable of the Sower (1993): ‘All that you touch / You Change. / All that you Change / Changes you. / The only lasting truth / Is Change. / God Is Change.’ In Wang's interpretation, the verse is scrambled, creating new poems with each tumble of the machine. A third washing machine spins two hedgehog plushies, dancing like tango partners and evoking Wang’s solo exhibition Ghost Eat Mud (2022, Kunsthal Gent), which features a running hedgehog toy train that connects themes of speed and progress with a child’s obssession with Sonic the Hedgehog. The final washing machine appears empty, but in reality, it contains love secrets whispered to the machine by the artist. These secrets, like the emptiness of the metal drum, are open to interpretation.

The wallpaper with whimsical swaths of pink and blue is adopted from a watercolor painting by Wang’s niece. This scene serves as a nod to the ‘elderly jpegs’—kitschy and dreamy images with well-wishing text popular in group chats among senior generations in East Asia. In the back space, a video is displayed in which a boy, the artist's nephew, narrates an epic story through a transforming sculpture made from dumpling dough. In the background, Wang's mother can be heard performing chores in the kitchen. Wang chooses to include this excerpt as a reference to the young generation that will inherit our world of tomorrow. Symbolically, the video is positioned on a fort of boxes that are used to transport the artwork in the exhibition.

Wang's body of work unfolds like a continuous narrative, each piece weaving a new thread into the evolving storyline. Take, for instance, the two ceramic statues on display, serving as the prototypes for the bronze guardians Al Met Der Tyd currently on view at Triennale Beaufort—a pair of doppelgängers, intricately entwined. Furthermore, Wang views Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story as a direct extension of her 2022 exhibition, Ghost Eat Mud, a title derived from a Cantonese expression illustrating series of thoughts that seem disjointed and incoherently transmitted. In many ways, this impression pervades Wang’s overall practice. The installation in rhizome_ elaborates on motifs and references in a manner that defies linear interpretation, creating space for a fertile cross-pollination of cultures, traditions, and symbols. Her work is a poetic revelation, unfurling like a slowly opened treasure chest, offering layers of meaning for visitors to discover.

23 artists present inspiring work at unique locations at historical sites in Kortrijk

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