Yao Jui-Chung + Lost Society Document + Sandy Hsui-chih Lo

Mirage: Disused Public Property in Taiwan

Yao Jui-Chung is a renowned Taiwanese artist, curator, writer and educator. As an artist he works across photography, traditional Chinese illustration and video. MAMA is proud to be exhibiting the recently acquired work Mirage: Disused Public Property in Taiwan, (2010 – 2014) an ongoing photographic project led by Yao, and possibly his most celebrated work.

The Mirage project began as an educational tool. As Yao explains:

In 2010, I was set to teach courses on contemporary photography and performance art at two major Taiwanese universities. Before each class began, I posed a question to my students: Would they prefer that I follow a conventional curriculum and use textbooks? Or would they prefer to turn their class into a field survey of “Mosquito Halls”—abandoned public construction projects that were now, as their colloquial name suggests, only good for breeding mosquitoes?

Yao’s challenge was taken up by his students and a survey of Taiwan’s Mosquito Halls began. These Mosquito Halls are remnants of a nation building exercise undertaken by the newly formed Taiwanese government in the wake of the collapse of thirty eight years of martial law in 1987. Over zealous urban and rural development resulted in many newly constructed buildings never becoming occupied and urban renewal projects that were sadly not fit for purpose.

Hundreds of examples of Mosquito Halls were documented by Yao and his active group of collaborators, known as Lost Society Document (LSD). The involvement of fellow Taiwanese artist and filmmaker, Sandy Hsui-chih Lo further enabled Yao and LSD to chronicle the the state of these disused architectural projects, the Taiwanese community’s relationship to these structures, as well as recording the group’s process of using an artistic medium to make a social record.

In 2016, Mirage: Disused Public Property in Taiwan was presented as part of the 20th Biennale of Sydney. The project occupied a space at Sydney’s Carriageworks that was itself a disused office at the former rail yard. Some 140 works on paper were exhibited, each presenting multiple photographs that recorded the state of Taiwan’s Mosquito Halls. Alongside these images were maps, surveys and interactive displays that developed visitor’s understanding of the effort and ambitions that inform Mirage, and also sought local input. Where are Australia’s “Mosquito Halls”? What architectural structures in Sydney could be better put to public use? And are these failed structures examples of poor design, institutional neglect, changing times / needs, or something else entirely?

The Biennale of Sydney and Yao Jui-Chung have generously gifted Mirage to MAMA and we now embark on expanding the documentary work of this group of artists, filmmakers and social advocates to the Albury region.

Through a series of lectures and focused photographic explorations of the Albury area, Yao Jui-Chung, Sandy Hsui-chih Lo and Lost Society Document will see the investigative nature of their work address an all-together different environment. Do examples of under used public architecture exist in Albury? What examples do we have of spaces that could further drive community cohesion? What effect can a diligent, community led group of photographers have on advancing urban and rural renewal?

On the evening of Wednesday 6th July, Yao, Lo and LSD will present a public lecture on their project at the Albury campus of La Trobe University – MAMA’s local eduction partner. Following this lecture Yao and his collaborators will lead two walking tours of disused public architecture in Albury, visually recording the structures and sharing their insights on creating a social document with members of Albury’s active photographic community. Through this process valuable knowledge and experience will be shared between one of the Asia Pacific’s most respected artists and a skilled and enthusiastic local audience.

The work undertaken by members of Albury’s photographic community will form the basis of an ongoing Mirage project – one that adapts the focus of this celebrated Taiwanese artwork to a local audience and empowers them to use artistic practice to encourage direct societal benefit.

A dedicated server will archive the social document produced in Albury under the banner of the Mirage project, with all photographers credited for their work, as in the original project. This archive and an ever expanding series of photographic prints will be exhibited alongside the original photographic works from Mirage: Disused Public Property in Taiwan at MAMA.