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Vincent Cy Chen: to SATELLITE and Beyond

By Lizzy Vartanian Collier

At the upcoming SATELLITE Art Show, Honey Pump has teamed by with Khabar Keslan to present ‘Dove City Motel,’ an installation that features the queer utopian work of Vincent Cy Chen and Arpi Adamyan. The following is an article on Vincent Cy Chen.

In his work, Vincent Cy Chen explores the tension between shame and desire in the exotic. He does this through atmospheric, multimedia displays that borrow iconography from queer culture, children’s media, and Abrahamic religions. Honey Pump spoke to Vincent about his practice, his influences and plans for the future.

Raised in Fengyuan, a provincial area in Taiwan that was both a conservative and myopic environment, Vincent’s work could be read as phallic and sexual. Sunset Love Motel (2019) in particular, with its long plant-like structures, lights and pink background, evokes the colour and atmosphere of something that is both exotic and erotic. “My latest series takes the viewer through the journey of discovering shame in tension with desire”, explains Vincent, “On the outside, we can appear approachable, inviting, and alluring even. But upon closer inspection we are the nervous, intimate and ugly details of our lives – our fetishes, our fears and our abnormalities – which will begin to emerge and eclipse everything else about our identities.”

Untitled (Chains)

Story of the Eye

Madonna Lilies Detail

Vincent’s objects at first seem random, peculiar, and fun, with a tied-up belt, chains, and a lone leg poking out of a wall. “My pieces first present as playful, but upon closer inspection, their more nefarious elements begin to reveal themselves as part of the whole”, says Vincent, “I draw inspiration from organisms that combine the seductive and the exotic: carnivorous plants, psychedelic fungi, venomous reptiles, and sexually transmitted viruses.” This idea of a virus and biology is most present in works like Story of the Eye (2019), which appears like something you might have once looked at under your high school microscope in science class, but which then transformed itself from human to alien form.

The sexual undertones in Vincent’s work are apparent from the outset. He came out to his Taiwanese family two years ago, and explains that the tension between his budding homosexuality and individuality with his surroundings incubated his ideas around humiliation, guilt and authenticity, which since surfaced in his work. In Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me (2019), a phallic pink structure – not too dissimilar from an uncooked sausage – is suspended from the ceiling by chains and leather that one might expect to find in the bondage section of a sex shop. “I imagined it to be the physical embodiment of queer shame portrayed as a lump of flesh or biomorphic organism suspended in the air with a leather harness and chains”, explains Vincent, “The phallic organism remains flaccid rather than erect, while streams of ejaculate leak out from its orifices.” He goes on to tell me that the use of BDSM objects is used to represents objects of power, constraint, submission and shame. “Even though the audience looks up towards the piece, it is not a monument”, he says, “Rather, it is a public display of shame, like a crucifixion.”

In terms of his process, Vincent begins with an introspective examination of shame and desire, moving on to explore physical form through clay, polystyrene and wood. Following this he considers other elements beyond these base materials: colour, texture, illumination and spatial context through the applications of fiberglass, resin, paint and neon. His end result is a multimedia display that investigates “the fusion of allure and disgust.” This is understood in works like Narcissus (2018), which comes in the form of a shiny black-grey belt, or perhaps even a choker, spiraled and attached to the wall. It draws the viewer in with the curling tail of the work’s form and the lacquer gleaming across its surface. But there is also something voyeuristic and disturbing about the work, which reeks heavily of BDSM connotations. We want to look at it, but something niggles at the back of the mind to tell you that you shouldn’t.

Sunset Love Motel (detail)

Sunset Love Motel (detail)

Installation View

Sunset Love Motel

Desiring Production

Vincent’s objects at first seem random, peculiar, and fun, with a tied-up belt, chains, and a lone leg poking out of a wall. “My pieces first present as playful, but upon closer inspection, their more nefarious elements begin to reveal themselves as part of the whole”, says Vincent, “I draw inspiration from organisms that combine the seductive and the exotic: carnivorous plants, psychedelic fungi, venomous reptiles, and sexually transmitted viruses.” This idea of a virus and biology is most present in works like Story of the Eye (2019), which appears like something you might have once looked at under your high school microscope in science class, but which then transformed itself from human to alien form.

The sexual undertones in Vincent’s work are apparent from the outset. He came out to his Taiwanese family two years ago, and explains that the tension between his budding homosexuality and individuality with his surroundings incubated his ideas around humiliation, guilt and authenticity, which since surfaced in his work. In Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me (2019), a phallic pink structure – not too dissimilar from an uncooked sausage – is suspended from the ceiling by chains and leather that one might expect to find in the bondage section of a sex shop. “I imagined it to be the physical embodiment of queer shame portrayed as a lump of flesh or biomorphic organism suspended in the air with a leather harness and chains”, explains Vincent, “The phallic organism remains flaccid rather than erect, while streams of ejaculate leak out from its orifices.” He goes on to tell me that the use of BDSM objects is used to represents objects of power, constraint, submission and shame. “Even though the audience looks up towards the piece, it is not a monument”, he says, “Rather, it is a public display of shame, like a crucifixion.”

In terms of his process, Vincent begins with an introspective examination of shame and desire, moving on to explore physical form through clay, polystyrene and wood. Following this he considers other elements beyond these base materials: colour, texture, illumination and spatial context through the applications of fiberglass, resin, paint and neon. His end result is a multimedia display that investigates “the fusion of allure and disgust.” This is understood in works like Narcissus (2018), which comes in the form of a shiny black-grey belt, or perhaps even a choker, spiraled and attached to the wall. It draws the viewer in with the curling tail of the work’s form and the lacquer gleaming across its surface. But there is also something voyeuristic and disturbing about the work, which reeks heavily of BDSM connotations. We want to look at it, but something niggles at the back of the mind to tell you that you shouldn’t.

Devil’s Anus

Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me

Narcissus

In person, viewing Vincent’s work is an immersive experience of bright lights and artworks hung and displayed from every angle. “I think of my latest exhibition as a Venus flytrap, and the viewer it’s prey”, explains Vincent, “The first encounter beings with a cerebral shot of dopamine: vibrant lights, saturated colours, and objects that play with one’s sense of space and position.” These elements have been designed to inspire a childlike wonder to entice the viewer into the room. Once they have entered, they are lured past this fake innocence into a world that transforms itself into something foul, primal and taboo. “It’s an otherworldly collection of biological oddities, sexual fetishes, and artifacts of power”, he adds, “What looks like blooming lilies are really viruses suspended in ejaculate. Ornate jewellery is affixed and hooked to alien creatures suspended on the walls, like trophies. Glowing arcs of neon lure viewers in like insect zappers to other dangers such as leather restraints, bear traps and diseases.”

Besides creating art himself, Vincent is also a key member of the online artist-led platform De:Formal, which curates exhibitions and conducts monthly interviews. Co-founded with Wednesday Kim in 2015, the platform supports and connects emerging artists through the power of the Internet and social media and is open to submission from artists worldwide working in any medium. “I’m very pleased that De:Formal will be participating in The Wrong Digital Biennale in November”, says Vincent, “We are curating a video group exhibition titled BAD HABITS with many amazing artists.”

At the same time as curating an exhibition this November, Vincent has also moved to a studio in Brooklyn. He is planning to continue his current series of sculpture and to introduce even more sensory elements to my installations like light, sound and smell. He finishes by telling me that he would love to do more studio visits, and makes sure to ask anyone interested in visiting his studio to visit him, you heard it here first.

Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a writer and curator based in London, specializing in contemporary art from the Middle East and North Africa. Her work has been published by Canvas, Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, Hyperallergic, After Nyne, the Guardian, Ibraaz, Jdeed, EVN Report, Tribe and Suitcase along with many other publications. Her recent exhibition ‘Perpetual Movement’, which took place during Arab Women Artists Now (AWAN) Festival 2018, was featured in Vogue Arabia and the Art Newspaper, and later traveled to the debut Armenia Art Fair. Lizzy is also the founder of the Gallery Girl. You can follow her work on www.gallerygirl.co and on Instagram @gallerygirlldn and Twitter @lizzycollier

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