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The Blurry Line of Public and Private in the Life of I-Chen Lai

In partnership with 18th Street Arts Center: 18th Street Arts Center is an artists' residency program that provokes public dialogue through contemporary art-making.

 

The famed actress Helena Bonham Carter once said, "I think everything in life is art. What you do. How you dress. The way you love someone, and how you talk. Your smile and your personality. What you believe in, and all your dreams. The way you drink your tea. How you decorate your home. Or party. Your grocery list. The food you make. How your writing looks. And the way you feel. Life is art." Taiwanese artist I-Chen Lai (or I-Chern or I-Che(r)n, depending on your Chinese translation site) pushes the boundaries of this gray area between the personal and the public in her multi-layered works.

The artist's unconventional methods is most evident with her use of Tinder to acquaint herself to any new city she does a residency in. "To reach out to the local, I use Tinder," says Lai in the video. "Because it's Tinder it gives another layer of this project because it's a dating app. Because of this, everything in my [Facebook] diary is sometimes provocative." In one entry, Lai recalls rock climbing with Tinder date 54, then also accidentally meeting Tinder date 76. Or going to a nude beach on with date 44. She also records these tenuous relationships on Instagram.

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Lai's other works tries to make clear other relationships as well between the Self and the often nebulous Other. Lai baked twenty-four loaves of bread and exchanged them for 100 NTD each. She then used the money for other exchanges. "By 'translating myself' into money, I search for 'me' and find myself within the tension between my aspirations of self-preservation and the limited, fixed opportunities of the medium money. I decided to bake breads as the initiation point, as each particular bread at least could preserve my labour and represent myself as the person who baked the bread. By bringing the notes back into circulation, myself becomes preserved in the society's everyday transactions," she says on her site.

Learn more about Lai in the video below.

Taiwanese Artist I-Chen Lai Talks About Her Work and Forming Relationships
Taiwanese Artist I-Chen Lai Talks About Her Work and Forming Relationships

 

I replaced 386 shells on the beach with the moulds of my thumb's finger print" 2017 The Hague, Netherlands | Yasunori Kawamatsu
In "I replaced 386 shells on the beach with the moulds of my thumb’s fingerprint," artist I-Chen Lai made moulds of her thumbprints during a residency in Hague and replaced them with seashells at the beach. Image by: Yasunori Kawamatsu.
 I replaced 386 shells on the beach with the moulds of my thumb’s fingerprint | Courtesy of I-Chen Lai
I replaced 386 shells on the beach with the moulds of my thumb's finger print" 2017 The Hague, Netherlands
Installation view of "Transaction / Translation" at 16th Taipei Biennial, 2016, Taipei, Taiwan | Courtesy of I-Chen Lai
Installation view of "Transaction / Translation" at 16th Taipei Biennial, 2016, Taipei, Taiwan | Courtesy of I-Chen Lai
The documentation books of "Transaction / Translation", 2016, Taipei, Taiwan | Courtesy of I-Chen Lai
The documentation books of "Transaction / Translation", 2016, Taipei, Taiwan | Courtesy of I-Chen Lai
Arrangements for for the "Paradise Garden" workshop, 2016, Aberdeen, Scotland | Courtesy of I-Chen Lai
During the Paradise Garden workshop, Lai asked attendees to define the qualities of their ideal environment. The process looked back at the history of Eastern and Western landscape and garden making, as well as ideas about environment today. Image courtesy of I-Chen Lai.
The "Paradise Garden" workshop, 2016, Aberdeen, Scotland| Courtesy of I-Chen Lai
The "Paradise Garden" workshop, 2016, Aberdeen, Scotland| Courtesy of I-Chen Lai

 

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