From the 17th of October 2020 until the 28th of February 2021, the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts is presenting its seventh edition of the contemporary art biennial, curated by the artist Jui-Chung Yao (姚瑞中) and entitled “Subzoology”.

By examining the Buddhist belief of reincarnation, where the non-physical essence of human beings begins new life in animals, this biennial focuses on the study of the relationship between the contemporary human and the animal. The animal is a victim of urban development, climate change, intensive breeding, and its equivalence legally to that of an object means it is not spared in the Anthropocene era. In the context of the rising animal rights movement in our societies, is another relationship foreseeable? 

Forty-nine artists have replied, the answers have been divided into eight themes, including: “Sacrifice and Salvation”, “The Sub-History of wildlife Trade”, “Portraits of Unknown Heroes”, “Laboratory/Operating Room/ Specimen Room” … So many representations of the animal: as a war hero, a victim of scientific experimentation, an object of leisure or even a sacrifice in the name of belief. 

The term « Subzoology » which was coined for this event, interrogates the omnipresence of humanity on our planet and its impact on the living and the non-living. The exhibition does not only offer a self-critical outlook, but intends to display alternatives and inspire utopian universes too.

From the artist Li-Chung Lee’s installations which study the role of pigeons during the Second World War, to the condition of stray dogs in Taiwan through Yun-Fei Tou’s photographs, as well the oil on canvases of Pei-Mao Sun that explore the status of animals in zoos, the mediums and the studied topics coincide. 

Collateral exhibitions enrich this biennial, such as those in art spaces at the Taichung Museum of Marine Ecology and at the Daan Matsu Cultural Park. Exhibitions include: “Zoo of Inverted Forms: The Ultimate Other to Imagine Humanity”, “Technological Metamorphosis”, “Acid House” and “Post Anthropocene”…

The activism and thinking that favours the development of a new relationship between humans and non-humans is present in our society today, yet rarely is it relayed in art. This Biennale is embracing this issue, which ultimately invites Buddhism and its “do not kill” doctrine as a tangible moral solution: The Commissioner suggests extending this principle to all animals.

Alice Audouin and Marie Leprêtre 


Novembre 2020

Crédit: Peng Yi-Hsuan, “The smell of the sunshine”, 2020, courtesy of the artist / Lee Li-Chung, “Achive photo of military pigeon wreckage”, 2020, courtesy of the artist

Find all the articles from Impact Art News n°24 – November 2020

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