Chia-En Jao’s REM Sleep draws on the artist’s broader practice, rooted in the historical, political and cultural narratives surrounding Taiwan. REM Sleep examines the plight of migrant workers in Taiwan through the accounts of 18 invited speakers, each of whom recount one of their dreams in front of the camera. Often taking the form of nightmares, these dreams serve to highlight the poor conditions of migrant labourers in Taiwan, acting as a kind of alert from a national subconscious, as well as a challenge to its conservative ideologies and mainstream social conventions.
This 2011 three-channel video was made in response to Taiwan’s “Go South Policy”, initiated in 1994 as a means to disinvest in mainland China by importing migrant labour from Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia. It was imagined that the policy would bolster Taiwanese independence by strengthening its local economy while redressing a perceived imbalance in its society, though the consequences of this for the migrant labourers were often poor working conditions and discrimination. In October 2011, the number of migrant workers in Taiwan surpassed 420,000 people.
Exhibited at Te Tuhi, REM Sleep provides a nuanced perspective on intercultural dialogue between Asian communities. Refusing the categorisation of these communities as a singular bloc, the film uses its surreal lens to open up spaces of conflict, divergence and conversation, while also highlighting the global realities of migrant labour.
About Chia-En Jao
Chia-En Jao’s project-based practice stretches across different mediums, including drawing, performance, site-specific installation and multichannel video installation. His international experience informs his perspective on the particular conditions of Taiwan’s political, economical, and social situation. His practice — deeply rooted in his local surroundings — has more recently delved into colonial histories and the cross-cultural tensions in the Asia Pacific region. His anthropological and collaborative approach has led him to work with civilian protestors, taxi drivers and immigrant workers from Southeast Asian countries. For Jao, these personal encounters have generated intriguing and valuable interpretations of history that subtly subvert and question the established, official versions produced by the nation-state and media.
In 2016, Jao was commissioned to make works that entered Guggenheim’s collection as part of the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative. He was part of the exhibition Tales of Our Time (2016-2017) at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. In the recent decade, Jao has exhibited at international prominent institutions, including Parasite, Hong Kong (2016); Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Germany (2015); National Museum of Art , Osaka, Japan (2013); QAGOMA, Brisbane, Australia; MOCA Shanghai, Shanghai, China; Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan (2012); Museo di Arte Contemporanea di Villa Croce, Genova, Italy (2011); and Ludwig Museum, Budapest, Hungary (2010). The artist has also participated in notable exhibitions including, the 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Shanghai Biennale (2012), and Taipei Biennial (2012, 2010).