Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.
— John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917–1963)
To use this famous quote as the opening of this curatorial essay is not an attempt to instigate nationalist ideological debates over political governance. On the contrary, it is to reveal how, in his critique of John F. Kennedy, American neoclassical economist Milton Friedman (1912–2006) with his idea of the “free man” and absolute freedom that it entails, defied democratic functioning in the name of economic freedom; how biopolitics verged on absolute control; how the neoliberal definition of “freedom” is distorted, to satisfy the desire for economic expansion, by political parties and corporate conglomerates into a weapon to disintegrate a nation and its democratic mechanisms, in turn constraining, trampling, and annihilating human freedom.
A seemingly ironic slogan, “For a better tomorrow” is intended to underline the status quo where we are faced with a structural problem haunted by neoliberalism. The intervention of art turns out to be a catalyst, accentuating the previously neglected issues and phenomena in public discussion, and allowing the oversimplified and consumerized subject to manifest its paradoxical nature and complexity. We must be aware how the global public domain is silenced in media manipulation by multinational corporations, where the ability to initiate public discourse and to form a consensus is debilitated. But at the same time, the repression of reality is breeding a greater force of resistance in contemporary art. Via the reality portrayed through this exhibition, it is hoped that the artistic domain becomes part of the public domain, focusing attention on the political-economic structure, ideological paradigm shifts, and the state of man, all highlighted in diverse art forms. For this is not only a manifestation of democratic ideals, but also an emancipation of the artistic domain, furthering art’s role in knowledge production on global and local levels.
CHEN Po-I, LIN Yu-En, TENG Chao-Ming, WU Chi-Yu