Shu Lea Cheang: 3x3x6

Shu Lea Cheang: 3x3x6

In a previous article, the Sedition Magazine announced that Shu Lea Cheang will represent Taiwan at the 58th Venice Biennale, which runs from 11 May to 24 November 2019. In this follow-up article we will introduce in more detail 3x3x6, the new artwork Cheang has developed for the Biennale.

3x3x6 is an ambitious multimedia artwork and research project which includes installation, images and computer programming. The piece combines real and virtual worlds, and expands on themes and tropes explored in the past three decades of Cheang’s practice, reflecting in particular on freedom and sanction, confinement and liberation. Inspired by past and present cases of imprisonment and punishment due to gender, sexual and racial nonconformity, the work looks at how regimes of power shape societal norms, and at how these norms can be defied and challenged.

The work will be displayed in a prison, The Palazzo delle Prigioni, and has been developed in response to its location. 3x3x6 is a surveillance territory in which technologies for control and confinement have been repurposed and hacked. The title refers to a new architectural model currently being developed and implemented worldwide, in which a 3x3 metre cell is monitored by 6 cameras.

Shu Lea Cheang, 3x3x6. © TFAM

Within this surveillance territory a collection of narratives unfold to form ten fictional sci-fi transpunk videos. Incorporating historical and legal documents, fake news and fantasy, these narratives bring to life ten characters, influenced by contemporary and historical figures. The characters, which include Michel Foucault, Giacomo Casanova and Marquis de Sade, are informed by Cheang’s in-depth study into the relationship between control and sexuality, governance and intimacy. The images projected in the space are controlled by algorithms which hack and mix image sources including (with consent) images of visitors to the exhibition to create transgender, cross-racial, anti-surveillance abstract digital images..

3x3x6 combines algorithms, digital images, data, documents and fiction to produce interactions which radically redefine our relationship to surveillance. The work expresses some of the many strategies for living with dignity alongside surveillance, and some of the many responses to punishment and repression - complex responses which combine politics, sexuality and identity. The work invites the visitor to imagine a world free from prisons - both bricks-and-mortar prisons and the prisons formed by cultural constructs such as race and gender.

“Cheang forces visitors to interrogate the distance between punishment and pleasure, surveillance and lust, between the system that is apparently watching us and us as actively participating and enjoying the act of surveillance. [...] Inverting the watchful eyes of our panoptic society to partake in an empowering collective vision, the exhibition aims to reinvent desire and pleasure beyond hegemonic norms,” - Paul B. Preciado.

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3x3x6 is on display at Palazzo delle Prigioni, Castello 4209, San Marco, 30122 Venice, IT from 11 May to 24 November 2019. It is presented by Shu Lea Cheang and the Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

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