The action of taking pictures binds memories and experiences onto a continual growth. Not unlike attempting to find comfort in motherhood, a way of being reconciled to memory by the promise for another future. My pictures—always made on the go—are simply a way of examining myself engaging in this world.
That being said, the intention of making is different from taking. The moment of taking a picture is also the evidence of its passing. Image making attempts to reengage the trace left in an image, the plasticity found in reorganizing memory and intention. However, no amount of altering can completely erase that initial sense of passing, death as a picture.
This intense gravity toward manipulating things already past is due to my own insecurity toward authenticity, continually de-centered by the dramatic shifts in generational norms and values commonly found under the rapid development of East Asia. Any attempt to relate to Taiwan from the perspective of being a woman finds my mother’s generation increasingly abstracted and my grandmother’s heritage nearly extinct (Indigenous Taiwanese).
Medium into material and back into becoming another medium. Photography and the photograph bridge in their countless reflections, intentions and personal memories in order to bring something back, namely an impossible security in being a Taiwanese woman. A half-blood offspring of dying people (Kavalan) populated more by old amateur photographs than those living today.
Artist statement by Wen-Li Chen
Wen-Li Chen has lived and worked in St. Paul, Minnesota, since 2015 after relocating from Taiwan. She holds an M.Des in photography from The Glasgow School of Art, UK, and a BA in Russian from Tamkang University, Taiwan. In addition, Wen-Li has taught graphic design, art photography, and a 2D foundation at UW-Stout (2015-2020). She is a visual artist and designer who works with artist books, photography, videos, and installation.
Recently commissioned works include: what opens - like a blaze of fire (artist book collaborated with Twin Cities-based artists and poets - Charles Manson Lume, Joyce Sutphen, Galilee Peaches, 2020-21), The Sheer Of Aboutlessness Of Being (artist book collaborated with Twin Cities-based artists Charles Manson Lume and Andy Sturdevant, 2018).
Wen-Li has exhibited internationally in the UK, Singapore, USA, Canada, and Taiwan. Recent solo and group exhibitions include Title Collective at Niche Gallery (2021, MN), Belonging at Northfield Arts Guild Gallery (2020, MN), Wisp at FOGSTAND Gallery (2019, MN), UnRipening: Recipes for Decolonization at Kelowna Art Gallery (2019, Canada), To My Unborn Child at Richmond Art Gallery (2018, Canada), Untitled 14 at SOO VAC (2018, MN). She was a finalist for Jerome Early Career Fellowship (2020-2021), and a shortlist for Taipei Biennale in Taiwan (2015-2016). She was a resident artist at Lanesboro Arts (August 2021).
Formally trained in foreign language and literature and inspired by cinema, poetry, familial history, and personal experience, linked—by blood—to a dying indigenous Taiwanese tribe. Shifting under the constant flux of a small sociopolitical environment considered, by some, not to exist (Taiwan). With these inheritances both tethered and untethered, she cannot help but explore through fragments, further eroded by a wide array of media, mediums, platforms, methods, and internal motivations. For the “cross’ in cross-disciplinary is the only way she knows how to express the feeling of being lost in ongoing intergenerational conflicts, to the confusion/conservation of identity, amid the loss of persistent anchors to memory and facing questions of authenticity itself.