群像的預示

杜韻飛《未來祖宗像》
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2019 / 10月

文‧沈柏逸 圖‧杜韻飛


我們如何面對「未來的我們」?而一個時代的肖像,又要如何跟未來產生跨時間的對話?這是杜韻飛在新作《未來祖宗像》提出的問題,也是今天社會開始面臨的現況。

 

 


肖像的關注:《生殤相》與《未來祖宗像》

傾心於「肖像」的攝影家杜韻飛,從拍攝流浪狗在安樂死前容貌的知名作品《生殤相》開始,他的作品調性轉換成較為冷峻的影像,以類似建檔的方式記錄流浪狗死前的莊嚴姿態。換言之,他不只是關注到賦予人性關懷的感傷肖像,而是試圖透過攝影記錄下這些生命面對死亡的存在面貌。

這次以新住民二代為主題的《未來祖宗像》,雖是探討台灣人在高度全球化下複雜的身分認同,但同時也預示著這些混血新住民二代在百年後死亡,他們死後卻會成為未來台灣人的祖先。杜韻飛看似在記錄這些新住民二代當下混雜的面貌,實則替他們提早製作過於精緻的「遺照」,而這遺照也將留到未來,供未來的人思考我們這個時代的議題。這些作品回應了新住民二代(未來台灣人)的繁衍與續存,就像是站在更具生命力的角度,考慮關於「台灣人概念」隨時間演進後的不同變貌。

去美學化的拍攝方法

值得一提杜韻飛的拍攝方法,《未來祖宗像》如同身分證般的肖像,是極度嚴謹的透過垂直、水平、對稱、平衡的方式,透過頂級規格的攝影器材拍攝,進而輸出成巨幅的尺寸展示。也就是說,他以作者高度介入的方式,營造出「近乎絕對客觀」的氛圍。

高規格的影像拍攝與輸出,令人想到常見的那些過度美化的肖像,然而杜韻飛思考的卻恰恰相反——如何讓這些肖像「如實地」呈現在我們眼前?假如觀者走入展覽直視這些巨幅肖像,會反而因為這些巨幅的肖像是如此真實,甚至比真實還更真實地有著清楚的毛孔、細紋、青春痘與各種皮膚瑕疵,因而喚起某種詭異的感受。

創作主體的後退:影像與文論

他在作品展覽前,便邀請各個領域的專家學者與被攝者本人,書寫關於這件作品的想法或延伸。他不是主動地提出藝術家論述(Artist Statement),而是將各種不同的詮釋角度(包括互斥的),並置於展場,邀請觀者閱讀這些文章並提出自己的詮釋。

他不只在影像風格的表現上後退,甚至在藝術家的觀念宣稱上也跟著後退。與其說他在製作藝術,不如說他像在建立新住民二代的檔案庫。這種極致的後退,反而形塑了杜韻飛的特殊方法,但也有可能弔詭地落入「無風格的風格」或「非美學的美學」的窠臼。

有趣的是,假如杜韻飛只是效仿Thomas Ruff呈現極緻的純粹肖像,可能依舊是美學形式的表現;但他透過文論的邀請書寫,也補足肖像後的脈絡,以及作品背後延伸的國族、共同體、身分認同的議題,這些文論與肖像也互為表裡地形塑作品的開放性與豐沛意義。

將「我們」投射至未來

《未來祖宗像》透過影像與文論的收集與編檔,提醒了關於「我們」的概念是不斷地流變與轉化,我們不是受制於國族主義的管理,也不是透過純種血脈來排斥混種,更不是多元文化政策收編後的一員。事實上,我們當中充斥各種複雜的文化肌理、矛盾衝突以及異質交融,這狀況恰恰就隱藏在生活中,如同杜韻飛揭示的皮膚細節,以及他所建立的檔案。僅管《未來祖宗像》在此時此刻發表,但他所隱含的問題將投射到未來,同時預示未來台灣群像的變貌。

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EN

Tou Yun-fei’s Ancestral Portraits for the Future

Shen Bo-yi /photos courtesy of Tou Yun-fei /tr. by Brandon Yen

How do we face our future selves? And how does a portrait created in the here and now communicate with future generations? These are questions explored by Tou Yun-fei in his new series of photographs, Ancestral Portraits: The Future, and these are also issues that are becoming increasingly relevant to our society today.


Memento Mori and Ancestral Portraits: The Future

The photographer Tou Yun-fei has an abiding interest in portraiture. His Memento Mori was a widely known series of photographs that captured the looks of stray dogs before they were euthanized. It marked a stylistic shift toward images exuding an austere coldness. Using a quasi-­documentary approach, Tou recorded the dogs’ dignified solemnity shortly before they died. In other words, he did not merely produce sentimental portraits invested with human sympathies. Rather, through photo­graphy, he perpetuated the transient expressions of living beings facing imminent death.

Tou’s new body of work, Ancestral Portraits: The Future, focuses on second-generation immigrants. The series tackles the complex ramifications of Taiwanese identity in a highly globalized context, but it also presages that a hundred years from now, these mixed-blood children of immigrants will be remembered as ancestors of future Taiwanese people. On the face of it, Tou is recording the various looks of immigrants’ children in the here and now, but in fact he is also creating remarkably elabor­ate “funeral portraits,” well in advance of his subjects’ deaths. These photographs, when passed down, will help future generations think about the issues with which we are confronted today. Tou’s work responds to the family perpetuation and survival of second-­generation im­migrants (and future Taiwanese people), as if considering, from a more vital perspective, how perceptions of what it means to be “Taiwanese” will change with time.

De-aestheticizing

Tou’s approach to photography is worth contemplating. Like portraits on ID cards, the images in Ancestral Portraits: The Future place a rigorous emphasis on vertical and horizontal lines, and on symmetry and balance, rely­ing on top-of-the-range photographic equipment. Extremely large prints are then produced for display. That is to say, Tou has been deeply involved in every stage of the process in order to bring out an atmosphere that is of “almost absolute objectivity.”

When it comes to high-quality photographs and prints, we tend to think of those excessively edited portraits that we so often come across nowadays. But Tou goes against that grain in considering how to present “faithful” portraits to his audience. Those who visit his exhibition and gaze on the large-scale portraits may in fact feel a sense of eeriness because the portraits are so real—more real than reality itself in that they show the pores, fine wrinkles, pimples and other defects on the subjects’ skin.

Stepping back: Images and writings

Prior to the exhibition, Tou invited experts from various disciplines and his subjects to write about their reactions to this series of photographs, as well as the issues raised by it. Instead of furnishing his own artist’s statement, he introduced various critical perspectives into the exhibition, including those which contradict each other. He invited his audience to read these writings and to come up with their own interpretations.
Tou takes a step back and breaks away from others not only in his photographic style, but also in the articula­tion of his artistic concepts. More than creating art, he seems to be compiling an archive for second-­generation im­migrants. This radical approach has enabled Tou to shape his unique methodology, although in doing so he also risks falling into other clichés, such as an “anti-­style” style or a “counter-­­aesthetic” aesthetic.

Interestingly, if Tou had merely followed Thomas Ruff in creating utterly pure portraits, his work would, in spite of himself, have been regarded as an aesthetic expression. However, by means of the solicited critical writings, he provides full contexts for the portraits and elucidates the issues of nationhood, community and identity that are raised by the portraits themselves. Complementing each other, the writings and the portraits shape the series’ openness and rich meaning.

Projecting “us” into the future

By gathering and arranging the images and writings, Ancestral Portraits: The Future reminds us that the idea of “we” is always in flux. “We” are not defined by nationalism, “we” do not exclude others through pretensions of purity of blood, nor are “we” a product of multi­cultural policies. In fact, the idea of “we” is full of complex cultural textures, differences and conflicts, and it involves the integration of heterogeneous elements. Like the minute details of skin that Tou reveals to us, and the documentary data he has put together, all of these ele­ments exist unnoticed in our daily lives. Despite the fact that Ancestral Portraits: The Future is displayed in the here and now, the issues implicit within it will project themselves into the future, presaging the changeful countenances of future Taiwanese people.

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