‘If I had to be there for over three minutes I would space out’. When dragged to temples by his parents, Lee Lichung, like many young Taiwanese saw them as relics of a world that had no association or relation to his current life. He would go to make offerings to deities on their birthdays and zone out before the paintings of scenes from books like Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Journey to the West that all high school students were forced to read. It took spending years away from Tainan and trying to connect again with his hometown upon his return that brought him to step over the threshold of these temples again.
‘I found these traditional temples have been affected by modernization. While these temples have endured for years, the lights have not.’ Since the production of the original lights had long since stopped, a new kind of light had to be installed. Lee found many of these modern additions resembled another aspect of his childhood – the UFOs hurtling through Hollywood’s science fiction movies. Taking up his camera, he began to record these UFOs that incongruously raced between the lofty mountains of shanshui paintings or hovered over solemn Buddhas which became his series Space Out.
‘As soon as Taiwanese young people hear the world ‘temple’ they think of tradition. But I’m using a new perspective to examine tradition and projecting my childhood memories of Hollywood sci-fi movies on these serious surroundings’. Lee humourously toys with our preconceptions about what constitutes ‘tradition’ and what deserves the name of ‘modernity’. In one work one UFO is beamed up to join unlikely companions of writhing golden dragons, while another illuminates red and yellow painted lanterns.
Lee’s series becomes freeze frames of an unlikely science fiction film but what can be more alien that UFOs mixing with deities haughtily tossing their scarves around, and paying host to the generals of old?
Copyright Lee Lichung, Space Out, 2013
Exhibited at Lianzhou Foto 2016