Asia

Hung-Chin Peng
Excerpts from the Analects of Confucius

In Excerpts from the Analects of Confucius, Peng Hung-Chih explores the relationship between Confucianism and religion. Specifically, the piece questions the influence of Confucian teachings on the role of the intellectual in contemporary Chinese society. While Confucianism has its own ritual systems and temples, it is not known to be overly concerned with supernatural beings such as gods and demons. Yet, the video shows a dog making phrases from the Analects appear by licking a wall repeatedly as if the dog is a medium channeling whisperings from an ancient spirit. Although the performance takes on the form of a miraculous apparition brought on by a prodigious dog, Peng Hung-Chih dispels the magical by including the sentence: “Confucius did not talk about prodigies, force, disorders, and gods.” This final statement, in contrast with the video, reveals the ambiguity with which the role of Confucius is received, the towering impact that his teaching and philosophy have had across world reaching a near sacred status.

There is a palpable urgency in the work of Taiwan-based Peng Hung-Chih, who uses video, sculpture, installation, and painting as means to criticize society. As the artist states: “art should be a tool of propaganda, a tool to awaken the collective conscience. This is the only choice under very pressing conditions.” Characterized by a wry and intelligent humour, the cultural commentary relayed by his works has both local universal reach: from aspects of China’s political past and present, to problems of racial and ethnic identity, collective history, spirituality and even our thwarted relationship with the natural world. Several of his works speak of our inability to see outside of our own perspective, as part of a religious or cultural groups, or even as a species. His well-known series Face to Face, for example, consists of sculptures of dogs with small monitors where viewers can watch footage shot from a canine perspective, and his piece The Deluge – Noah's Ark, a monumental eight-metre-long sinking cruise-ship assembled from over 8,000 3D printed parts, foregrounds the anthropocene. From small gestures to gargantuan statements, Peng Hung-Chih’s works are a timely meditation of the inescapable follies that bind humanity together.