Chih-Chien Wang: In Search of a Solid Ground

19 September - 8 November 2020

In search of a solid ground


I cut a branch off a tree which was growing crookedly and creating a shade over a vegetable garden. Partially to allow light and water to fall on the vegetable garden and partially because the crooked branch looked odd, the tree was cut. I couldn't stop asking myself questions about functionality and aesthetic. Were these two reasons valid enough to let me to drastically modify the tree? One evening of guilt brought me thoughts reviewing the process of decision making and examining the essence of construction: the construction of images, the construction of identities, and the construction of knowledges. Have I traveled far enough to reach any of the answers? Did I find a solid ground where I can settle and let my future generation grow without being judged or modified by the appearance or the functionality? Did I help my son Shaore acquire knowledge and foster his courage so he could stand strongly and fight for his own future? 


Standing on a mountain I looked at a couple with a baby and a toddler climbing up the tip of another rock mountain. They sat there surrounded by trees, and the peak seemed to be a dangerous place for the baby and the toddler. I had the impression that the parents are well-trained climbers and the two little ones someday would probably become good climbers too. Perhaps future could be predictable like that, but most likely I could be wrong. Only a little confidence is there that as parents we could merely provide what we know the best to our children. How do we build up an image of ourselves, and how do we convey thoughts via multilingual or non-verbal communication? Is it possible that we detach ourselves from cultural code and embrace individual uniqueness? I stood in front of a wax figure of a Homo erectus looking at his hairy body and his dark deep eyes. A melancholic gesture seemed foreshadowing his uncertain future as hyenas awaiting aside. His one hand faced up as if the palm was gathering water, and his other hand touching a rock as if the hand was feeling the certainty of his position and preparing him to gently move forward. What we could not see outside of the scene perhaps would be a little baby lying on leaves and the father was about to bring the baby water to moisture the baby's lips. Would that father ever reach the baby? Who was the person behind the construction of this scene, and why does the Homo erectus look melancholic to me? How is an image or a meaning constructed and perceived? I indulged myself contemplating the Homo erectus, the cut branch, and the far away family on the tip of a rock mountain. Do these thoughts make any sense aside from me? Could these experiences be transmitted, or could they form any kind of information or even knowledge? Are these all I can offer for the future generation? I feel guilt thinking of Shaore and my students. 


Longan, a tropical fruit, which alongside lychee brackets the end and the beginning of summer in Taiwan, and their tastes condense and evoke memory of my childhood. Having longan in Montreal has been a luxury attempt, and it often results in failure as it is simply too long a distance for the fruit to travel to North America and keep its freshness. During the last Lunar New Year, I couldn't resist the desire of buying longan while having complex feelings about it because I never had fresh longan during New Years in Taiwan as it was simply not the right season for it. I haven't been back for New Year for more than ten years after Shaore was born so questioning the right season of it somehow seems ridiculous. That sense of reality has long been forgotten and lost its relevance. The longan surprisingly was not as bad as I expected, but its journey of transportation and the process of preservation keep me wondering what brings a fruit to another world and creates a reality to which it doesn't belong? Is it still a real fruit, or does it become a fiction? Our perception of reality is constructed with seasonal and natural limitation, but memory ironically could call to break that boundary of reality and create a new one. I photographed and re-photographed the longan fruit, its shells and seeds, as if this action of taking apicture is ritualized enough to pay homage to the lost sense of reality and the memory of it. 


Am I useful, and can I produce light? What kind of future can I bring to my child, and what kind of knowledge can I deliver to my students? Shaore broke his elbow last fall and what I could do was simply hope the elbow would grow stronger by itself. For growth how do I provide nutrition and care, or if the best thing to do is simply leave it alone? Looking at moist and hairy grass growing alongside the hiking trail where human activity met nature, an intact piece of nature with close interaction to human activities might be a result of conscious decisions that not-to-touch and not-to-modify could be the best ways to respect its presence. The lakes formed in the Protected Landscape Area of Łuk Mużakowa are evident of coal excavation and the reclaim of nature, while they witness the progression of civilization and the development of consciousness. How far have we traveled, and are we independent individuals or carriers of a history?  

Perhaps darkness is a reminder of light. 

Chih-Chien Wang

Aug 5, 2020