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Mirage: Disused Public Property in Taiwan

Yao Jui-Chung
Mirage: Disused Public Property in Taiwan
Murray Art Museum Albury, 2017
Image by Michael Moran.

The role of artists and their collaborators as agents of social change was made paramount with Mirage, an exhibition of video, photography, and participation.

The main body of work, Mirage: Disused Public Property in Taiwan, drew upon the work of artist Yao Jui-Chung, an artist and university educator who led a nationwide photographic project in Taiwan, challenging his government's expenditure on public infrastructure.

Taiwan has seen an unprecedented wave of 'nation building' projects following the lifting of martial law in 1987. Successive governments had invested in public buildings such as laboratories, visitor centres, museums, residential developments, and commercial precincts that are either unfinished, never inhabited, or abandoned after only a few years of use.

With the assistance of Lost Society Document, a group of photographers recruited primarily from the University photography art course he taught, and film-maker Sandy Hsiu-Chih Lo, Yao and his collaborators compiled an extensive folio of images, documenting over 500 facilities from across every province in Taiwan, together with the costs of their construction.

The Mirage project began as an educational tool. As Yao explains:

"In 2010, I was set to teach courses on contemporary photography and performance art at two major Taiwanese universities. I posed a question to my students: Would they prefer that I follow a conventional curriculum and use textbooks? Or would they prefer to turn their class into a field survey of “Mosquito Halls” - abandoned public construction projects that were now, as their colloquial name suggests, only good for breeding mosquitoes?"

Yao’s challenge was taken up by his students and a survey of Taiwan’s Mosquito Halls began.

Seven years later, a selection of photographs and videos were brought together in Mirage: Disused Public Property in Taiwan. The work had been presented as part of the 9th Shanghai Biennale, the 20th Biennale of Sydney, and continued to evolve.

The work had attracted much attention, including that of the President of Taiwan and his infrastructure department. Despite the meetings and correspondence with the President, new buildings continued to be raised, and failed projects continue to be deleted. Yao vowed to continue the project, and focussed attention on the publication of his 6th book of photographs.

The first copy, as always, was mailed to the President of Taiwan.