2008年許家維拍攝作品〔和平島故事〕之後,發現和平島上曾有一座十七世紀的北荷蘭城(1642年的聖薩爾瓦多城),便興起對荷蘭東印度公司複雜網絡的探索,連結到1641年的麻六甲古城以及1643年的柬荷大戰(柬埔寨與荷蘭)。在這些網絡之中,歐洲列強所屬的海洋貿易組織,各國的東印度公司扮演了至為關鍵的角色,它們在海上貿易的影響力,甚至也連帶地擴張了歐陸海權帝國在殖民時期對於東亞、東南亞等地在科學、藝術甚至政治領域上的影響力。

 

本次展覽共展出十餘組件作品,這些是藝術家以將近兩年的時間,整理出以前述脈絡出發的作品:〔在聖堂裡的一場演出〕中的影像和裝置,除了呈現考古團隊如何將現代科技應用於考古學科,主要更是讓觀眾觀看藝術家如何看待並轉化運用這些影像和聲音;〔尋找沈船〕是藝術家依循考古團隊根據《綠島鄉誌》進行水下探測找到古代沈船的研究資料,用現代科技去想像和模擬出一個我們未曾經歷過的時空;〔武士與鹿〕的創作源頭是荷蘭東印度公司在各地「以物易物」的方式,例如從台灣獲得鹿皮後轉往日本出售以換取白銀,作為後續投資的資本。直到後來台灣的鹿皮供不應求時,該公司便轉向柬埔寨企圖控制當地的鹿皮市場,進而發生激烈的衝突;在〔黑與白—馬來貘〕一作中,講述英國東印度公司在東南亞開發時以新加坡為商業據點,同時也啟動了當地在動植物學與博物館的資料搜集與建構。英國東印度公司派駐馬六甲的第一任司令威廉‧法夸爾(William Farquhar,1774-1839)轉赴新加坡時便曾雇用中國畫師,針對馬來西亞的物種做大規模的繪製與整理,因而記錄了一種身軀黑白顏色相間的當地特有種生物:馬來貘。這件作品希望從百科全書式的敘事方式來處理一種人與非人、人與自然之間,一種平等非主從的關係,並探討現代人觀看影像方式的變化。作品中採用的畫面來自新加坡國家美術館、李光前自然歷史博物館、新加坡動物園、搜尋引擎與多重視窗的場景間移動,開展出東南亞地區的動物園歷史與殖民時代的政治關係。

 

前述的諸多過往人事物,今日都已無法親自體驗,但是近年來考古學門加入了許多新科技和跨學科的研究,已能更具體地描繪我們所從未經歷的時空,進而能對當時的情境進行不同程度的想像。藝術家許家維便是把考古研究中對於歷史再現的不確定與真實性,借用物聯網將異質事件及個體相互連結的概念,將根源已不可見的意念、概念轉化成實體,完成一幅或一件的影像、圖像、雕塑和裝置。本次展覽的作品,便是取法今日考古學科的技術開放與融合趨勢,從考古出發,跨越歷史、政治,進入到聲響、當代藝術,並以當代跨學門的技術去面對不可考的情景,從中再創造一場一場的演出。

After Hsu Chia-Wei made his The Story of Hoping Island in 2008, he noticed the Fort Noord-Holland built in the 17th Century (Fort San Salvador in 1642) on Hoping Island, which soon raised his interest in exploring the complex network of the Dutch East India Company and how it was connected to the old city of Malacca built in 1641 and the war between Cambodia and the Dutch in 1643.  Within these interrelated networks, the marine economy of the European great powers institutionally depended on the East India Company of each country, while the companies’ play in the sea trade even indirectly helped to expand the impact of the sea powers of colonial empires on East and Southeast Asia in the fields of science, art, and politics.    

 

The exhibition features more than ten pieces/sets of works, created by the artist who has spent nearly two years contextualizing the materials within the abovementioned framework: the video and installation in A Performance in the Church not only demonstrate how the archaeological team apply modern technology to archaeology, but is more about presenting the way how the artist sees, uses, and transforms these videos and sounds to the viewers; in Search for Shipwrecks, the artist follows the research materials documented in Green Island Township Chronicle about an underwater archaeological survey and discovery of a centuries-old sunken ship, as he adopts modern technology to imagine and simulate a spatiotemporal world we have never experienced. The starting point of Samurai and Deer is the barter economy practiced by the Dutch East India Company across and around Asia, such as trading Indonesian spices for Taiwanese deerskins before selling the deerskins to the Japanese for silver as capital for future investment.  As the supply of deerskins from Taiwan could no longer meet the rising demand, the Dutch East India Company turned to Cambodia with an attempt to have a control on its local deerskin market, unavoidably followed by a consequential series of conflicts. Meanwhile, Black and White—Malayan Tapir brings us back to the days when the British East India Company chose Singapore as a commercial base to develop Southeast Asia, thus starting to collect data and build museum-based archives to establish its local flora and fauna studies.  William Farquhar (1774-1839), the first commandant of the British East India Company stationed in Malacca, once hired a Chinese painter for a comprehensive visual documentation and categorization of the species found in the Malay Peninsula, and the archive included an endemic black and white creature – the Malayan tapir. With its encyclopedic narrative, the artwork intends to deal with the relationship between human and non-human or nature as an equality rather than one being subject to the other, while it further explores how modern people change their way of viewing images. By featuring scenes and images from the National Gallery Singapore, the National History Museum, Singapore Zoo, search engines, and multiple window-browsing, it renders a political relationship connecting the history of menageries in Southeast Asia and the colonial eras. 
 

Although we cannot relive the past again, modern archaeology, especially with the support of advanced technology and interdisciplinary studies, can almost materialize an era or a world we have never been before and offer different levels of imaginations of the scenarios at that time. The artist Hsu Chia-Wei plays with the uncertainty and authenticity of historical representation in archaeology, with which he borrows the concept of “internet of Things” where heterogeneous items, events, and units are interconnected to transform the intangible thoughts and ideas into the tangible materials as finalized in videos, images, sculptures, and installations. The exhibits in The Story of Hoping Island draw on the trends of open and interdisciplinary technologies of todays’ archaeological studies, taking it as a departure to reach beyond history and politics into the field of sonics and contemporary art – a continuous staging made possible from the untraceable scenes