How Should the Story of Inception End?
Jau-lan Guo


Widely known as one of the first-generation contemporary artists of Taiwan's post-Martial Law era, Yang Mao-Lin, a key member of the Hantoo Art Group, serves as an ideal example of how an artist has committed himself to socially-engaged art practice. His body of works brings forth questions as to how individual subjects may respond to or engage in collective consciousness: does one simply insert oneself smoothly into social processes in hopes of driving the society forward? Or does one concentrate on the inner awareness as a means of avoiding or even defying the immediate crisis? Or perhaps, as one seeks to make sense of the external world, the “evil powers-that-be” that the individuals have been fighting are swiftly and quietly evolving from the mighty inflictor of perceivable social-political injustice to the ever-proliferating commodity culture? Under these circumstances, one may begin to think, perhaps digging into one's own consciousness, albeit seemingly passive or even reclusive, may in fact be a more effective way of engaging with the increasingly complex and dynamic social reality.
Yang Mao-Lin first made his name in Taiwan's contemporary art scene in the 1980s with his two pieces – The Truth (Plate 1) and the Made in Taiwan series. This period is marked by an explosion of debates over the island's national identity and “Taiwanese subjectivity”. Whereas the Made in Taiwan series makes a stance against the national collective memory by juxtaposing a number of powerful historical symbols, The Truth, which appears to blow a raised fist at the viewers, may instantly evoke impressions of some left-wing or feminist activist posters, such as the Taller de Grafica Popular of Mexico (Plate 2) and the Stop Draft Week (Fig.) of the anti-Vietnam War protest movement in 1968. All these images strike the audience with the depth of focus and power of the message.

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