The narrative-imaginary vacuum of the present bears the imprint of the systemic monstrosity of modern history. The re-visioning of modernity and the rewriting of its master narratives constitute a trans-disciplinary project of global proportions. The Taipei Biennial 2012 departs from the crisis of the imagination that plagues global capitalist culture. It explores the need for collective horizons that withstand both the clichés of modernist development and the logic of division that haunts nationalist and identity politics in the long shadow of colonialism and imperialism.
Entitled Modern Monsters / Death and Life of Fiction, the Taipei Biennial 2012 addresses the relationship between historiography and the imaginary. Fiction occupies the blind spot of historiographic and documentary work, as it speaks of the fundamental underside of modernity, its dialectics and paradoxes, as well as the systemic terror that lurks behind modernity’s emancipatory promises. Drawing upon a recent study titled "The Monster That is History" by Taiwanese literature historian David Der Wei Wang, the Biennial engages with the aesthetics of monstrosity. The figure of the monster is treated as a fictional, liminal figure, a symptomatic mirror of actual and imaginary relations. Wang suggests that the ancient Chinese monster Taowu served as an "objective correlative" of the human account of past experience. Taowu is furthermore identified with history as such, particularly through its vicious ability to foresee and undermine human intentions.
Featuring some 40 artistic projects, many of them conceived specifically for the exhibition, the Taipei Biennial 2012 is structured by a series of “mini-museums”—distinct spaces within the exhibition that function as autonomous propositions organized by various co-curators. While the mini-museums are self-contained spaces, they influence the registers and contextual readings of the works in the exhibition surrounding them. In each mini-museum, the relationship between works of art and documents serves as the backdrop for an interrogation of ambiguities of writing history. They are conceived as models of possible histories and narratives hidden in the interstices of official accounts.
Their primary goal is to question the relation between the systemic conditions of the present and our situatedness in a historical imaginary.