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Remembering victims of the Troubles: “Linen Memorial,” first exhibited at NCKU, Taiwan

The NCKU Art Center is holding a nine-day pop-up art exhibition, “Fissiparous,” to feature Canadian artist Lycia Trouton’s masterpiece, the “Linen Memorial,” the first ever exhibited in Taiwan. The memorial installation was created to commemorate the lives lost in Northern Ireland’s Troubles.

The artwork has been exhibited in different places around the world. “It is now displayed the second time in Asia after its first exhibition in Hangzhou three years ago. The NCKU Gallery is honored to be the first venue in Taiwan to exhibit the ‘Linen Memorial,’” said curator Dr. Ming Turner.

Dr. Trouton wove the names of the victims of the Northern Ireland Troubles onto approximately 400 linen handkerchiefs. Even though only a third of the artwork can be featured at the NCKU Gallery due to its limited capacity, Dr. Trouton still considers the exhibition a success. “I was impressed by students at NCKU, especially those of the Department of Architecture who assisted me in installing a panel to hang more handkerchiefs,” she said.

The arrangement of the “Linen Memorial” is extraordinarily eye-catching. At the NCKU Gallery, the handkerchiefs are not only displayed as a panel, but also hung on the French windows, through which the sunlight shines. Looking out of the windows where the handkerchiefs are hung, viewers can also see a pair of statues, “Swooping,” by famous Taiwanese artist, Ju Ming.
Dr. Trouton finds the relationship between the “Linen Memorial” and “Swooping” intriguing. Using portable or light material to remember the past, the “Linen Memorial” represents the idea of “counter-monument,” whereas the “Swooping” statues, made of heavy material such as bronze and steels, embody a completely different concept. The viewers can think further about these two rather different pieces of artwork when seeing them at the same time.

In addition to the unique spatial arrangement in the Fissiparous exhibition, the textile used in the “Linen Memorial” provides profound meanings as well. First of all, the linen suggests the link to the colonial textile industry in Northern Ireland. Secondly, some of the linen handkerchiefs’ edges are sown with hairs as a sign of mourning, indicating the loss of life. Finally, linen symbolizes healing of the trauma left by violent sectarianism or civil strife since it is used as a material for covering the wound and the body. That is, the cloth of art is viewed not only as a beginning of recovery but also as a call for peace.

Last Saturday, Dr. Trouton attended the opening reception at the NCKU Gallery to share touching stories behind her work and explain her use of art strategies. She also introduced several pieces of installation artwork made of cloth, zap ties, and wooden spoons. The diverse and unique materials displayed in the exhibition provide the viewers with a peculiar experience of viewing contemporary art.

The thought-provoking pop-up art exhibition offers the viewers a deeper look into the complicated historical issues in Northern Ireland. “Fissiparous” will be held at the NCKU Gallery from May 10 to May 18, 2019.

(End Item:Zoe Chen)
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