Metaphors about Islands

Metaphors about Islands 

Exchange exhibition with Waley Arts, Taiwan and Gallery Mcube, Nepal
12th November – 28th November 2021

Curatorial notes by Curator Sandy Hsiu-chih Lo 

Curatorial unit of “metaphors about islands” hopes to use metaphorical imagination from the perspective of islands to try to outline the mapping of alternative inner Asian relationship. 

My heart is an island 

In fact, everyone’s heart is an island. Especially in the era of global pandemics, the forced isolation of individuals at home is more like isolated island. How to establish the relationships with outside world stands the test of any kind, especially the ability of mobility, connection, imagination and creativity. It is the principle that never changes in any time. This curatorial unit “Metaphors about Islands” starts from “My heart is an island” to reimagine the relationship between the individual and the world. 

I look at you on another island from this island 

There are thousands and hundreds of relationships between islands, not only the different in size, but also the master-slave relationship, or special historical, economic, political, and cultural linkages. No matter looking at from which island or seeing through which perspective, you will find that there are unlimited possibilities to depict the picture of “I look at you on another island from this island”, which outline the relationships between an island and another island. 

Pearls lost by the Gods 

The interconnections between multiple islands are often named beautifully, such as “Pearls Lost by the Gods”, “Gem Bracelets”, “Pearl Necklaces” and so on. In fact, some of the relationships between islands have the same beautiful and intimacy as the names; however, there are also some relationships between the islands that are as mysterious and thought-provoking as the names, such as the famous “boundaries of the first island chain.” As a metaphor of the archipelago, “Lost Pearls of the Gods” intends to imagine the possible relationship between groups or collectives, or the various possible scenarios of collective narratives. 

Forgotten islands 

There are many islands that once existed in history but long been forgotten in a certain time and space, or abandoned in an unknown corner, such as the Kingdom of Shailendra dynasty that once connected Cambodia and Indonesia. Moreover, numerous isolated islands that coexist with us in the present time and space are neglected for various reasons, such as enclaves, refugees, migrant workers, special places (such as Diamond Island in Phnom Penh) and so on. This curatorial unit aims to view these islands through an artistic perspective, and to reveal these isolated islands forgotten by the world. 

Legendary Utopias 

Utopia was originally a fictional island in the Atlantic Ocean and an organized ideal society described by Thomas More in the book Utopia published in 1516. However, other concepts such as dystopia, Cacotopia, kakotopia, or anti-utopia are also derived from it. In many cultures, there is also a concept similar to utopia; therefore, in this curatorial unit, we try to find new narratives that build the future together by rethinking the concept of utopia and the metaphor of dystopia and heterotopia in different cultures and legend. 

Just like the dialectic utopia discussed by Jean Baudrillard, utopia is a fundamental modification of the existing order. The realized utopia is a new place that will be subject to new criticism and attract newer utopias. Utopia is a stage of theoretical construction and can only exist as part of a dialectical utopia. Only through a dialectically updated utopia can we articulate new ideals of residence, both inside and outside the current system. Therefore, “Metaphors about Islands” not only pays attention to individual differences, but also a brand-new community discourse. It does not seek the integrity of the place that is still lost, but seeks a brand-new community focusing on the cultural imagination of the invisible subjects/ unclassifiable multitude. The key is to regard the art practice as an open platform for communication and exchange, and a public space that condenses the imagination of the community, a “critical, liberatory, and emancipatory” concept of time and space, and is also a heterotopia between reality and imagination, calling for the production of the relative and relational space, and both dialectically operating in the actual living space and acting on the abstract immaterial cultural space. In this way, it provides an approach of art practice which intends “to promise a better future world.” 

Curator Sandy Hsiu-chih Lo 

She is an independent curator, whose main research areas include urban theory, philosophical construction of space, gender politics, contemporaneity of aboriginal art, and situated knowledge. Her current program focuses on curating as a method of social practice, spatial practice, and critical thinking. 

Curating topography, a curatorial practice method that she has actively used in recent years, uses relative and relational spatial concepts to bring to light different cultural concepts such as myths, legends, history, memories, morals, ethics, desires and rights embedded in the pluralistic dialectic concept of place in order to strengthen political and ethical transformation through the contrast, confrontation, overlap, and juxtaposition in the becoming of space. 

Kuo Chin-Yun

Chinyun Kuo, whose work focuses on material media, space, and the interaction between people and the space in which they occupy. Since she graduated from the Department of Architecture at Shih Chien University in2012, Kuo has been involved in art, spatial and theatre designs. Her in-situ works of the urban landscape often occur within the field of daily life, challenging the rationale of the collective consciousness. After relocating to Berlin in 2016, Kuo became aware of the unique position of Taiwan in international relations, the influence of colonialism, and the conflict among multiple ethnic groups and cultural identities in Taiwan. Kuo hassince focused on colonialism, human migration, and globalization in her artistic work, seeking the connection between historical context and the individuals. Her works are often presented as installations, performance art, and in-situ projects. Kuo is currently studying at the MA program in Spatial Strategies at Kunsthochschule Berlin Weissensee.


Video installation, 28’31’’,2020

Stepping on this blank zone in October 2019, I wanted to know if I, as a modern Homo Sapien, have the animal instinct to follow the same path of my traces. The route that Truku people migrated to east had already met the colonial modernity at the end of the 19th century. The colonizers established an army to conquer Truku tribes in taking the very same route of the migration. The colonial governance hit the tribal world almost like a pandemic disease, and no sooner had they implemented the census, jurisdiction, and tax system. In order to obtain food, the aborigines followed animal trails to expand their hunting field. In Truku’s oral history that there were black dwarves living here long before they came here, and this land they inhabited was not their discovery. 

The colonists followed the same trails to expand governance, and on the other hand, they required fine colonial engineering that eventually including land surveys, 

anthropological and topographic investigation, and cartography. In this land of hardship, the implementation of governance techniques needed to create a fictional collective consciousness that overrode individual will to construct an ideology that “dehumanized” the aborigines on the land. Only by claiming the “barbarism of the savage” could legitimate the enforcement of state formation. These traces of control have already occurred on the land that is now scarcely traced and hard to reach. 

At the moment when this engineering of modernization is completed, the cross-island highway constructed by the following regime who took over the island has detoured and no longer cut across this place. The land that we called nature, that covered by secret forests, full of the few remains of schools and police stations left by state formation engineering, and countless survey points.

When I arrived at the old Qlapaw tribal site, I accidentally discovered the abandoned hut of a mountain farm. It was a shelter built with canvas printed campaign portraits, bamboo and wood of various lengths. It looks like a nest woven with plastic straps in order to lay eggs by parent birds who weave its nest in the wastes of the modern world.  It had been the base of the Qlapaw hotel of the national park, for 60 guest-occupancy with a dining hall and a bathhouse, that altogether built on the site of the original tribal house by Japanese occupiers. 

Today, this hotel of national park, nicknamed the “Qlapaw Club” by the explorers of the colonial heritage, is left with a stone-built three-burner stove. Over the centuries, dwarves, beasts, Truku people searching for hunting grounds, explorers of the Japanese army, Burmese and their descendants, as well as lost migrant workers who altogether arrived, expelled, and were displaced from a foreign land settled in the high mountains. After the reigned map drawn by the cartographer dispatched by the state no longer cares about this place, what remains are the wanderer’s ghostly nomad, drawing a meandering map on the blank zone.

By Cetus Chin-Yun Kuo


Yan-Xiang Lin, born in Taoyuan, 1997. Studying in Graduate Institute of Trans-Disciplinary Arts, National Taipei University of the Arts.

His works focus on multiple imagery in words, images, and bodies, and has long been interested in flora and fauna, geopolitics, religious beliefs… and other issues. With Route as the origin of thought, finding the border among the ever-changing boundaries. Through field practice and writing, he produces differences and perceptual experiences, then responds to the social phenomena and our own feelings that we are concerned about.

Recent projects include the study of the land gods from the perspective of pan-spiritual beliefs: Fu-De (福德), If mountain has deities, and Lyu-Feng Temple, which shown Xinbei and Taoyuan. The Aerotropolis in his hometown which was acquired by the government. Sacred Ibis which responded to environmental politics with the theme of animals, etc.

He has been a participant and curator in Reentry TNUA Dept. New Media Art Graduate Exhibition 2019, co-participant in Island Tales: Taiwan and Australia in Taipei Fine Arts Museum. He also exhibited in 流浪的土地公-北投社保德宮的神明地誌學 at Honggah Museum, Photo GO -Tainan International Foto Festival, Taoyuan International Art Award, etc.

Copy Island

Two-channel Video 4K Ultra HD, 3D Print Model, wooden Model, 12’33’’, 2021

The video “Copy Island” is based on a temple built on an artificial island. Following the will of the land Gods, an artificial island in an isolated pond was built by locals, thus creating a fictional landscape that exists in reality.

This video is constructed by the intertwined narrative of the island and the land Gods, by using 3D modeling in computer software to simulate the process of visualizing faith in religion, grafting the spirituality from different eras in a fictional way, to reflect how nature is capitalized in the society, at the same time, responding to Taiwan’s ideology of being an “island”.

Liang Ting-Yu 

Liang Ting Yu (b. 1994, Taiwan) received his master’s degree in trans-disciplinary arts from Taipei National University of Arts. Liang’s practice focuses on integrating regional investigations and studies with project-based art actions and mixed media art. He examines issues related to historical archives and ethnic relations, and has recently expanded into exploring archives and local myths and legends. Using motion images, local ghost stories, image production, and writing, he creates art that looks into relationships between ghosts and topography.

Earthquake Disaster, Shooting and Dead Body

Video installation, 4’37’’, 2021

With similar geological conditions, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia and Nepal are located at the boundaries between tectonic plates and the fault zones. Images of victims’ bodies were seldom found in highly-developed areas, on the contrary, death photography were found mostly in the peripheral regions. Starting with the photography of victims’ bodies taken after an earthquake in Taiwan during Japanese colonial era, Earthquake Disaster, Shooting and Dead Body connects a death photo of the 1906 earthquake in Taiwan with contemporary post-disaster photography of the dead in Kathmandu, Wenchuan, Kobe and Indonesia. Portraying the hands of victims, the video builds a narrative of the production chains of death photography and the necrophilia.

Manish Lal Shrestha

Manish Lal Shrestha is a multidimensional visual artist based in Kathmandu, Nepal. He has Bachelor Degree of Fine Arts from Sir J J School of Fine Art, Mumbai in 2001. Shrestha started his own unique style in which he uses contemporary motifs since his early period. He is well received visual artist who led the postmodern movement of Nepal that was nascent in early 2000. He has had 19 solo exhibitions, several workshops and residencies internationally in Holland, Switzerland, France, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, USA, South Korea, Taiwan, China and Nepal. He was also part of Kathmandu Triennale 2017, Nepal, Busan Biennale Sea Art Festival 2019, South Korea, the 4th Today’s Documents 2019, A Stitch in Time, Today Art museum, Bejing China. He has several awards in his credit including the National Fine Arts award (2011), from Nepal Academy of Fine Arts. He is also a visiting lecturer at the Sirjana College of Fine Arts, Nepal. He had curated several international art projects including “Made in Mind series II” experimental video art project 2020 during Covid Pandemic. Also, co-curated First Yanjiao Biennial 2020, China.  In addition, he is founder Director/ Curator of alternative art space as Gallery Mcube to support and promote wide range of contemporary and multi-disciplinary art in Nepal. 


Video Installation, 2021


The Cup as a metaphorical representation of the Kathmandu Valley, I feel the valley is like an island just surrounded by the waves of high mountains instead of the sea. The valley became the junction of economic, politic and cultural hub of the country. Diverse communities dwell in the valley with cross cultural relationship. Since the earlier era, many changes happened in our socio-culture due to natural disaster, political milieu and also through ritualistic behaviors. 

This work is minute research and minimalistic ideology on the behavior of everyday rituals of people living in the Kathmandu valley. Every day in the name of gods, people offer rice grains, foods, colors, flowers, coins and even slaughter animals during big festivals to the monumental statues of gods in the temple. The offering covers entire sculpture and sometimes even distort them. Many people offer without understanding the real essence of the offering. These layers of blind belief are transforming from generations to generations and again it is moving towards the future, hiding history with thick layers.

This is how people share through ritual practice without passing the knowledge of spiritual understanding or without sharing the values of the roots and its meaning. The video installation depicts the minimalistic observation on different layers of memories and the evolution of layering history of the mankind. This video brings the quest on the conservation of the iconic monuments and depicts the fact of inquisitiveness in finding the roots of existence.

Ashmina Ranjit

Same River- but the Water?
Stuck. Land-locked.
Search sacredness: no results found.
Barren; my mind, my soul, my land.
So, I,
Return and reverse against the flow.

On the morning of March 24 2016 Nepali performance artist Ashmina Ranjit
embarked on a 12 kilometers journey from the oldest settlements of
Kathmandu Valley to the thriving cultural metropolis of Kathmandu.
Crossing paths with the Bagmati and Bishnumati; two rivers that have given
shape to the civilization of Kathmandu Valley, the passage she took is an
important section of the Indo-China trade route that goes through
Kathmandu. It was the first time she would return to her childhood place.
She walked in reverse, each step returning her; to her personal history and
to the history of her land.
Positionality and occupation of the spaces we inhabit for briefs moments of
time are the key themes in this project. As such, I am hoping to replicate
this experience for the audiences in the design of the installation. It is the
audience themselves, who must decide which way they face: the video
installation or the infographic. This area of Kathmandu has been shaped by
the significant trading routes of traders for centuries. It is only in 19th
century that national boundaries were drawn.
Ashmina Ranjit, Nepal


Passage of Life

Search Sacredness: No result found.
River of Thoughts, Sediments of the Cities
Running kids, Rolling Wheels, Waiting Passenger

Passing crossroads
Reminders of the moment
once left behind
long ago

Growing lives in the Flowing Cities;

Thinking ‘I know’

… …

Do I really know the unknown ahead?

Illusion and reality,

The time as it slipped off underneath
Everything looked the same,
Same River but the Water?
Nothing stands still

The sacredness is where I stand


Ashmina Ranjit, Nepal