帶刺的愛麗絲夢遊仙境──當代藝術家陳慧嶠

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2011 / 5月

文‧林奇伯 圖‧陳慧嶠提供


陳慧嶠,這個名字已在台灣當代藝術史上插上兩個指標性的旗幟。

她擔任企畫總監的伊通公園藝廊素有「當代藝術推手」之稱。陳慧嶠眼光銳利精準,凡選中辦展的新銳,無不在幾年內就能躍上舞台聚光燈下,發光發熱。

她也是台灣當代藝術中神祕璀璨的風景。在極簡有限的媒材裡,每每拓及新境,宣告該媒材的新極限。

陳慧嶠最愛使用的針線、玫瑰花、兵乓球等材料在藝術創作上都不算罕見;但是這些到了她的手上,卻不只層疊出繁複的陰性敘事手法,隱喻更是一重重,走入一扇門後,又是通往更深邃的一扇門。準備好,我們就要跟著愛麗絲跌進去兔子洞了!


 

「伊通公園」名副其實地坐落在台北市南京東路伊通公園旁的公寓裡。一扇常開的鐵門,爬上狹小而陡峭的長樓梯後,豁然一個寬闊的展覽室,明亮而安靜,無人看管,正裝置著藝術家王為河的《十個年頭》個展。

再爬上另一道白色樓梯,則是三樓展覽間;再穿越一道打通的門,走進另一棟公寓的三樓,一個不擺酒的長吧檯,高腳椅整齊排開,陳慧嶠坐在吧檯裡,抬頭,酷得不得了的表情。

許多初訪的年輕人都會被陳慧嶠冷峻的外表嚇到,很久不敢再上門;相熟的藝術家反而會有特別安心的感覺,因為就是這張堅毅的面孔守衛了台灣當代藝術萌芽基地二十幾年。

這是台灣當代藝術界百說不膩的經典畫面,每每被提起時,都要會心一笑。

夢,是一切創作起點

「我哪有酷!只是不愛笑好不好!」陳慧嶠說。但,有時候答案又會不一樣。

「我一向都這麼酷、這麼潮,好不好!」她說。

陳慧嶠打扮中性,一頭凌亂短髮,穿著牛仔褲配T恤、黑皮衣,咖啡和菸不離手,講話快速俐落,攻擊性十足;但在那些尖刺的背後,又可以看出她對藝術與朋友的熱情關懷是洶湧澎湃,絲毫不隱藏。

若進一步和她聊起星座、漫畫等話題,馬上又有一個春意奔放的少女影像和她重疊。

「藝術家的人格特質和作品絕對是很一致的啦,不可能看他的作品充滿才華,見到人卻是索然無味。」陳慧嶠講話很直接,絕不故弄玄虛,聽她談起藝術和人,會覺得原來那麼簡單啊,可是怎麼又那麼豐富呢!

所以問起她創作的起點,她總是能直接了當地說,「我的每一件作品都跟感情經驗有關」,「夢境是我一切創作的起點」,「美麗並不難以碰觸,只是它都會有一個刺點。」

1964年次的她從小為夢境所苦,懷抱滿腔浪漫幻想無以宣洩。中學美術班畢業時,正是台灣解嚴前後當代藝術風起雲湧的年代,陳慧嶠當了3年的上班族,生活讓她深覺庸碌不得志,直到22歲那年偶遇抽象主義藝術家莊普,拜入門下學習當時初引進台灣的多媒材藝術。

突然,一切都變了!就好像童話故事裡被兔子吸引而掉入洞穴的愛麗絲,謎團與狂想不斷,身體忽大忽小,陳慧嶠終於拿到一把自由出入於夢境和現實間的鑰匙,展開顛覆「非黑即白」、「非此即彼」刻板認知的感官視野冒險。

「創作是夢境與想像的凝聚,以物質的方式釋放出來,」陳慧嶠說,做夢是夢,現實裡的理想也是夢,藝術是夢,「伊通公園」也是一個台灣當代藝術家共同營造出來的奇異夢境!

美麗與尖銳的矛盾

從陳慧嶠早期的幾件代表作品就可以了解她「物如其人」的觀點。

最經典的莫若1993年的〈你是玫瑰,我是針〉。陳慧嶠將上千朵鮮紅色玫瑰乾燥後,插上滿滿尖銳的針刺,形成一種「美麗刺蝟」的奇觀。而這上千朵帶刺玫瑰散落在一張玻璃桌面上,甚至牆上與地板上,不只美到難以碰觸,還不容許你踐踏。

這件裝置作品簡直是一場鮮紅無比的苦行。玫瑰雖然帶刺,但刺是長在花莖上;陳慧嶠偏偏說「我」是針,要一根根刺進「你」這玫瑰花裡頭。而這個「你」,既是愛情,也可以是愛情的對象、美的夢境、或是生命的本身。而我們,不就慣常偏偏要用最嚴厲的意志或任性,戳刺在自己生命最美麗的部分嗎?

另一件1998年的〈睡吧,我的愛〉則再進一步。標題引用自歌手許景淳的歌曲名稱,展間只有一張床縟和枕頭都鋪滿白色絨毛的大床,暖暖的燈光下,遠觀是那麼溫柔的邀請,讓人有奮不顧身撲上去的衝動;不過,你原先以為的邀請,待走近一看,才發現這些絨毛上怎麼布滿密密麻麻細長尖銳的縫衣針啊!根本是一種堅定的拒絕!

一件作品中,只有絨毛和縫衣針兩種主要媒材,卻展現了極柔軟、極尖銳,極美麗、極受傷,極想碰觸、又極度猶豫等多層次的對立意涵。台北當代藝術館館長石瑞仁就曾評論,陳慧嶠成功顛覆了美國藝評人湯姆.伍夫對於極限主義「針尖上頭,怎麼能讓天使跳舞」的批評;在她的「女流材料」下,反應了為女性族群除去傳統意識瘖疾(啞而無法說話)的幽默寓意。

極限主義訓練,另闢女性蹊徑

「柔軟╱矛盾」、「夢幻╱危險」、「欲望╱失落」這些對比性,就像是欲迎還拒、患得患失的女性內在,而陳慧嶠的創作歷程也是一則女性覺醒的寓言。

1982年畢業於祐德中學,陳慧嶠是台灣早期的美術實驗班學生;高中時期的她醉心於漫畫與插畫創作,風格接近日本漫畫《芭蕾群英》作者有吉京子的飄逸浪漫。由於學科表現不佳,陳慧嶠說她很有「自知之明」考不上國立藝術學院,畢業後加入當時台灣聞名全球的卡通動畫後製工業,存錢欲往法國巴黎深造。

3年後,有次她和同學到畫廊看展,巧遇當時創辦現代藝術工作室(SOCA)的賴純純、莊普、林壽宇等藝術家,遂拿出自己的插畫作品請教,沒想到莊普當場開口要求可否收藏其中一張。這個舉動大大激勵了陳慧嶠,決定加入SOCA的裝置藝術課程。

同班同學都受過正統大學美術教育,陳慧嶠難免自卑,覺得自己底子最弱;但是,這反而也讓如白紙般的她沒有任何包袱,在媒材的使用上最不畫地自限,成為同學眼中最大膽的一位。

當時的訓練方式是,莊普要同學找出媒材和藝術表現之間的關係,然後以極簡的材料變化出內涵豐富的藝術創作。

陳慧嶠回憶,她一開始是玩釘子,覺得很原創,但莊普告訴她德國藝術家昆特.于克十分擅長這項媒材,當場給陳慧嶠一個晴天霹靂。

「我第一個反應是『別人做過的我才不要做』,但我馬上又覺悟,那麼多媒材,不可能別人都沒發現,重點應該是使用同一個語言,要說出自己的獨特性;運用老師的概念,又要超越你的老師。」陳慧嶠說,那她轉而玩針吧,把針這個媒材玩到精通,然後讓它成為你的形式,別人看到這些簡單的形式卻一下就能認出這是複雜的你。

停不了的夢境詰問,    造就私密宇宙觀

每個藝術家幾乎都曾經歷過一個類似「天啟」式的時刻,當陳慧嶠專注探索媒材的極限時,她也找到生命裡不斷讓她騷動的原點──夢境。

「我從小就幾乎天天做夢,沒有斷過,一天到晚都疑惑地和同學討論夢。」陳慧嶠回憶,每個夢都像連續劇,情節會連續三天,過程往往是第一天進入一個陌生的地方,走著走著就迷失了;第二天她就開始找路,第三天才終於找到出口,走回來原來的地方。莫名的出發,緊接著迷失、打轉,尋找原先自己的立足點,過程十分具催眠性;晚間在夢裡迷失時,陳慧嶠的現實生活也不好受,夢裡找到回來的出口,現實世界也舒暢起來。

夢裡有大水,游著游著看到一台電視機,好奇去驗證它在水裡會不會亮,結果一按整個就發出很大的白光,自己好像被吸了進去。然後裡面是寶石、貝殼、精靈,一片充滿霧氣的森林。

夢裡也常會站在懸崖邊,崖下是湖泊,自己明明是游泳高手,為什麼不敢跳下去?是擔心那個跳下是與死亡重疊嗎?十幾年後,直到有天晚上第一次勇敢跳下,但是,天啊!身上怎麼只有一件浴巾而已?

「夢是進入一個不同的世界,但現實世界的我卻還是存在,其中的關係是什麼?」陳慧嶠說,夢超越了邏輯思考的理解範疇,就像佛洛伊德說的,「夢是願望的達成」,但還不只於此,它還有許多的神諭。所以,陳慧嶠也嘗試以「占星」來型塑自己的宇宙觀,而占星學充滿豐富的神話學、符號學等象徵意義的特點,又賦予陳慧嶠更多創作的元素。

2006年的《此時此刻》個展可說是陳慧嶠的完全放手揮灑開來的作品,集結了她藝術生涯的大成。

三個展間、兩道門,環繞在「夢」與「愛」的主軸下,一端地板上畫著陳慧嶠理解的「愛與夢」關聯示意圖,其上,長出渾身帶刺的玻璃纖維薊花;通過圓形拱門,遠看地上一朵柔軟閃耀的雲朵,誘人走近後,才會發現原來是密密麻麻千萬根縫針和銀蔥線綿密串接而成!

觀者必須繞道經過這危險的柔軟,來到一張橘色兵乓球織成的鮮艷大床,旁邊的牆上則又有一幅靈修顯學「巫師唐望」提到完整自我的「八個點示意圖」;通過這張床鋪,會再穿越一道如鑰匙孔的門,才走進由球體、水波構成,並泛著神祕藍光的綺麗宇宙星河!

向自我和解,不再那麼帶刺

至此,陳慧嶠構築出屬於她獨特敘述觀點的「愛麗絲夢遊仙境」式宇宙觀,卓然成為一家,也在多項媒材上設下後人必須辛苦超越的地平線。

這些奇幻夢境,對陳慧嶠來說是綺麗的冒險,也是靈魂的療癒。就像針黹是傳統女人一針一線演繹生命能量的閨閣煉金術,陳慧嶠的針線雖然帶刺又神祕,卻也是不斷演算、精焠出來的修行法門。

「要插出那麼綿密的針雲,要先將針一根根穿進去銀蔥線裡頭,過程不能纏線,也不能斷線,要依靠技巧和經驗測試出一次穿幾根針才是不斷線的極限,如果斷了,就一切重來!接著,還要能夠把針刺到畫架上去,架構出預想的樣貌。」陳慧嶠說得輕輕鬆鬆,但單單這穿針引線的技巧,她有條不紊地解釋,就花掉十分鐘,那反覆練習、探索的過程,實際上就是她過去20年的藝術生涯。

直到2008年的《雙重火焰》個展,愛麗絲終於不必再疲於在針線活中,此時陳慧嶠轉而探究「電鏽」手法的極限,她在腦袋裡想好版樣,不斷和工廠溝通製版、電鏽,交織出另一番更極簡、抽象的夢境樣貌。

在題為〈七月的星空〉作品中,難得地出現粉紅色基調,絨布上出現主觀將詩句轉換成的音符刺繡,下方以透明金色絲質袋子裝著羽毛、兵乓球、乾燥花等物件,呈現毫不強求的垂墜感。

特別的是,她的作品依舊是刺出來的,但已經不再像以前那麼「帶刺」,許多藝評人均認為這是帶刺玫瑰終於和自我和解的表現。「現在眼力當然不行了,自然而然地就會再發展出一套新的敘事方式,」陳慧嶠輕鬆但又略為感慨地說。

經營藝廊,        與藝術創作殊無二致

雖然每次出手都讓人驚艷,但陳慧嶠的創作量並不特別豐碩,許多藝評人會將此歸因於伊通公園的繁雜行政業務耽誤了她的創作力,但陳慧嶠可不這麼認為。

「創作一件作品也是在考驗你的行政業務能力,要以怎樣的順序處理媒材、用多少經費去調度資源,對我來說和經營伊通這個空間沒兩樣,不可能克服得了其中一件,另一件就克服不了。」她說,伊通公園是好幾個藝術家共同撐起來的,甚至早年有財務困境,都還有商業攝影家劉慶堂一肩扛起,「能夠成就今天,我已經覺得像做夢一樣了!」

童話的最後一章叫〈愛麗絲的證明〉,愛麗絲醒過來,發現原來是枕在姊姊的腿上睡著了,自己才剛經歷了一場冒險,並在夢境的反覆自我質疑中得到成長。

「藝術是未知,創作是行動,生命很抽象,但是實踐很浪漫,而夢境終究還是個問號。」陳慧嶠說,人生已走到一半,她還不知道反覆困擾的夢境源頭是什麼,藝術創作雖無法完全解答,卻至少讓她擁有夢境的主動詮釋與證明能力。

對陳慧嶠來說,愛麗絲早已長大,但夢境的冒險則從未停止過,只是換過一場接一場,仍在持續進行中。

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EN

A Thorny Wonderland:Artist Chen Hui-chiao Explores Life's Mysteries

Eric Lin /photos courtesy of courtesy of Chen Hui-chiao /tr. by Scott Williams

It is difficult to speak about contemporary Taiwanese art without mentioning the name of Chen Hui-chiao. In addition to producing her own work, Chen heads planning at IT Park Gallery, a leading light of the contemporary arts scene that has the power to make new artists. Her keen eye guides her selection of cutting-edge works for exhibitions, works that invariably create a splash on larger stages within just a few years.

Chen's own work has earned her the reputation of a brilliant enigma on Taiwan's contemporary arts scene. She is known for pushing extremely simple materials to their limits, using them to explore new territory.

Chen frequently exploits needles, needlework, rose blossoms, and ping-pong balls in her work, using them to create complex narratives and layered metaphors. One doorway leads to another deeper within. Prepare yourself for a trip down the rabbit hole!


IT Park gets its name from its location in an apartment building next to Yi-tong Park, which lies just south of Tai-pei's Nan-jing East Road. Entering through a steel door, you climb a narrow stairway that opens out onto a broad exhibition space. Quiet and brightly lit, the gallery is currently exhibiting Wang Wei-ho's "Ten Years" solo show.

Another flight of white stairs takes you to the third-floor exhibition area. If you then pass through an open door, you'll enter the third floor of the neighboring building. That's where we find Chen Hui-chiao, sitting behind a long, alcohol-free bar, opposite a row of tall barstools. She raises her head as we enter, looking too cool for words.

Dreams are the starting point

"I'm not cool! I just don't like smiling!" exclaims Chen. But she sometimes offers a different take.

"Hey, I've always been this cool and this hip," she says cheekily.

Chen sports a relatively simple look: a head full of short, disheveled hair atop jeans, a T-shirt and a leather jacket. Coffee and cigarettes are always near at hand. She speaks quickly and eloquently with an aggressive edge. But beneath the sharpness, hints of her passion for her art and her friends peek out.

When the conversation turns to astrology or comic books, a youthful, girlish exuberance quickly surfaces.

"There's no separating an artist's character and personality from his or her work," says Chen. "Bland people don't produce brilliant work." Chen doesn't beat around the bush. When she speaks about people and art, she leaves you feeling it's all very simple, but also -wondering how, if it's so very simple, there is nonetheless so much depth.

Asked about the inspiration for her own work, she gets right to the heart of the matter: "Each of my works relates to an emotional experience." "Dreamscapes are the starting point for every one of my pieces." "Beauty is everywhere, but it always has a sting."

Chen, born in 1964, was overwhelmed by her dreams in childhood, leaving her with no outlet for the romantic fantasies that filled her breast. She graduated high school with a "major" in art around the time that martial law was being lifted and Taiwan's contemporary arts scene was taking off. She then spent three years working a nine-to-five job, learning that you don't achieve your ambitions by being ordinary. At the age of 22, she met abstract artist Tsong Pu, from whom she began to learn about multimedia art, which was just catching on in Taiwan.

That experience changed everything. Suddenly she knew how Alice felt. She'd fallen down the rabbit hole and found herself immersed in fantasies and conundrums, her body huge one moment, tiny the next. Chen had finally discovered the key to the door between dreamscapes and reality, and set off on a journey that would topple the mechanical "black and white," "this or that" categories of sensory experience.

"Creative works are agglomerations of dreamscapes and imagination, interpreted through physical materials," says Chen. She argues that dreams aren't limited to the dream world; real-world ideas are dreams, too, as is art. She even regards IT Park as a fantastic dreamscape jointly created by contemporary Taiwanese artists.

A sharply beautiful contradiction

Chen's idea that the work reflects its creator is plainly apparent in her early work.

Her most iconic piece may well be 1993's You're the Rose, I'm the Needle. For it, Chen pierced a thousand or more brilliant red dried roses with acupuncture needles to form "beautiful hedgehogs." She then scattered these needle-impaled roses across a glass table, the floor, and even the walls to create a beauty the viewer could neither touch nor trample.

The work is a bright red exercise in asceticism. Roses may have thorns, but in the everyday world, the thorns grow from their stems. Chen likes to say that "I" is a needle that always wants to pierce "you," the rose. This "you" can be love, love's object, a beautiful dream, or life itself. Don't we always stab at the most beautiful parts of our lives with our overweening willfulness?

Her 1998 piece Then Sleep, My Love goes a step further. The work, the title of which is drawn from a song by Hsu -Ching-chun, consists only of a bed and pillow covered in white fur. When viewed from a distance, the softly lit scene is gently inviting, calling to the viewer to jump into its cozy embrace. But when you approach, you discover that the fur is covered with long, thin sewing needles that resolutely reject any and all advances.

Using just two simple materials-fake fur and sewing needles-Chen layers multiple opposites: extreme softness and sharpness, extreme beauty and harm, invitation and hesitation. -Shih -Jui--jen, curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Tai-pei, has argued that Chen succeeds in refuting Tom Wolfe's "How can angels dance on the head of a pin?" dismissal of minimalism. Chen speaks for women, who have traditionally been "mute," using "feminine materials."

Minimalist training

Oppositions such as "yielding/contrary," "fantasy/danger," and "desire/loss" echo the coquetry and acquisitiveness of women. The progress of Chen's work can be read as a parable for feminine awakening.

A 1982 graduate of You De High School, Chen was among one of Taiwan's first classes of high school students put through an experimental program in the arts. Enamored with comic books and illustration during her high-school years, the young Chen had a graceful, romantic style similar to that of manga artist Kyoko Ari-yo-shi. Her grades were poor and she says that she had enough "insight into herself" to avoid the National Institute of the Arts entrance exam. Instead, she went to work in animation post-production and saved money for a trip she hoped to take to Paris.

Three years later, she was visiting a gallery with a friend when she met artists Jun T. Lai, Tsong Pu, and Richard Lin, who had just founded the Studio of Contemporary Art. Chen showed them some of her own illustrations in hopes of a critique and was stunned when Tsong asked if he could have one. Tremendously encouraged, Chen decided to take SOCA's installation art course.

The fact that her classmates in the course had all had formal university training in the arts left Chen feeling insecure in her own background. But her lack of formal training also made her something of a blank slate, unencumbered by any baggage. Unconstrained in her choice of materials, her classmates came to think of her as the boldest of them all.

For the course, Tsong had students seek relationships between materials and artistic intent, then attempt to create works rich in meaning from very simple materials.

Chen recalls that she began by fooling around with nails. Though she thought she was being very original, Tsong told her that the German artist Gunther -Uecker was already a master at working with this particular material. The information struck Chen like a bolt from the blue.

"My first reaction was that I didn't want to do it if someone else already had," she says. "But I quickly realized that there was no way people hadn't already made use of pretty much every-thing. The key was to use the same language to express your own uniqueness. You use your teacher's ideas to surpass your teacher." Chen says that she switched to using needles, playing with them until she knew them inside and out. Once you make something an element of your style, people can make the leap from observation of this simple style to the complexity of you, the artist.

Interrogating dreams

Virtually every artist experiences a moment of revelation. When Chen began exploring minimalism in the context of materials, she discovered what had been a constant source of turmoil in her life-dreams.

"I've dreamed almost every day since I was a child," says Chen. "I used to puzzle over dreams all day long with classmates." She recalls her dreams being like soap operas, their plots extending over three days. On the first day, she'd be thrust into a strange place where she'd walk around lost. On the second, she'd begin to find her way. On the third, she'd finally find an exit and travel back to wherever she'd originally been. The progress through the cycle was hypnotic: set out on a strange journey, get lost, get oriented, rediscover her starting point.

One of these dream cycles placed her in a large body of water where, after swimming for a time, she saw a television. Curious whether it would turn on in the water, she investigated. When she flipped the switch, the TV emitted a powerful white light that pulled her inside. There she found gemstones, shells, and spirits, as well as a fog-shrouded forest.

Her dreams often placed her beside a cliff towering over a lake. Though she knew herself to be an excellent swimmer, she was reluctant to dive in. Was she afraid that leaping into the water corresponded to dying? One evening, more than a decade later, she finally got up the nerve to dive in and discovered that she was wearing only a bath towel.

"Dreams took me into a different world," says Chen. "But the me in the real world still existed, so what was the relationship between these two worlds?" She says dreams transcend logical categories of understanding. As Freud put it, they represent the fulfillment of wishes. But they may also provide insights into the future. With those thoughts in mind, Chen attempted to understand the world through astrology and found that its rich mythology and symbolism, fraught with metaphoric implications, provided ample fodder for her creative work.

Her 2006 solo exhibition Here and Now drew together all her various works into something of a retrospective of her career to that point.

The show incorporated three exhibition rooms, two doorways, and the twin themes of love and dreams. On the floor at one end was a schematic representation of Chen's understanding of the links between love and dreams, atop which stood a fiberglass thistle covered in spines. Passing through an arched doorway, visitors were drawn to what looked like a soft, glistening cloud on the floor ahead. When they got closer, they discovered that the "cloud" was actually silver thread strung through thousands of sewing needles.

Passing around this threatening bit of "softness," visitors came to a large bed made of orange ping-pong balls. On the wall beside it was an illustration of the "eight points" of self-actualization mentioned by the shaman Don Juan Matus. Beyond the bed, visitors passed through a keyhole-shaped doorway into an enchanting spherical star bathed in blue light.

Self-reconciliation

Here, Chen built an Alice-in-Wonderland-style expression of her own unique worldview, pushing the boundaries of multimedia into territory that future generations will find it tough to surpass.

To Chen, these fantastic dreamscapes are both enchanting adventures and a kind of spiritual therapy. Just as embroidery once involved a kind of boudoir alchemy, Chen's thorny, evocative needlework also serves as a kind of calculated spiritual practice.

"Creating a cloud out of needles was difficult," explains Chen. "It required first threading each needle with silver thread without tangling or breaking the thread. It took skill and experience to figure out the maximum number of needles I could thread at one time without breaking the thread. If it broke, I had to start over from the beginning. Then I had to be able to poke the needles into a base of some sort to get the image I had in mind."

With 2008's The Double Flame solo show, Alice finally moved past the needle and thread as Chen began experimenting with computerized machine embroidery. For this show, she created still more minimalistic and abstract dreamscapes by having a factory embroider her patterns by machine.

In The Sky of July, she used a swath of pink fabric as a foundation. In the upper part, she turned a line from a poem into a bar of music embroidered on the pink flannel background. In the lower part, she hung translucent golden silk bags with feathers, ping-pong balls and dried flowers inside to suggest the barest hint of a falling sensation.

Interestingly, while her work is still sewn, it is no longer thorny. A number of critics say the new work suggests that the thorny rose has at last made peace with itself.

Running a gallery

Though she's attracted attention with each of her efforts, Chen hasn't been particularly prolific. A number of critics have attributed this to her management of IT Park, which they say saps her creative energy. Chen herself disagrees.

"Producing creative work is also a test of your administrative skills. You have to work out how to deal with your materials and how much money to budget for your resources. I find it much the same as running IT Park. If you can't manage one, you can't manage the other."

The last chapter of Alice in Wonderland is entitled "Alice's Evidence." In it, Alice wakes up and discovers that she's been sleeping with her head in her sister's lap the whole time. Yet, her dream adventure causes her to question herself, thereby enabling her to grow.

"Art is a mystery," says Chen. "Creating means taking action. Life is abstract, but living it is romantic. And dreams are ultimately question marks." She says that her dreams remain perplexing to her even now that she's entered middle age. Her work doesn't fully explicate them, but it at least offers her an approach to interpreting and validating them.

In Chen's eyes, Alice may have grown up, but her dream adventure continues, moving ever forward.

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