- The Temperature of Simulacra-Ming-Te Lu Solo Exhibition
The Temperature of Simulacra-Ming-Te Lu Solo Exhibition
- Bona fide, Earnest Messages to Modern Society
- Artist Statement
- Ming-Te Lu
Bona fide, Earnest Messages to Modern Society: On Ming-Te Lu's Solo Exhibition The Temperature of Simulacra
by Nai-Ming Cheng
Up in the Clouds
Ming-Te Lu is the X-ray Man of the artworld.
For him, to observe all sorts of human positions in the context of reality, is more than it seems— likewise, under the facades of life’s phenomena, also underlies another contemplative space. For many years, Lu has been unceasingly attempting to portray this parallel space via his creative endeavors, this space which he constructed and invented to compare and parallel with the existing world.
Lu named it simulation; a simulating position.
Regarding simulation, the intriguing part is, surely it wouldn’t be an affirmation of fact. Yet to those who live in the world of realities, these simulacra continuously provide a space which allows us the capacity to imagine, muse and contemplate.
From Lu’s perspective, Taiwan is an environment in which massively diverse cultures exist and happen simultaneously, and these qualities of Multiculturalism have always been the spirit that he longs to express through art. Hitherto it has not been difficult to pick up some clues from his works. Considered from the perspective of comparison with other artists, Lu’s artistry constantly includes expressions in multimedia, which seem to echo his primary inner concept of multiculturality. Besides his varied multimedia applications, Lu’s works furthermore take in some expressive elements from territories beyond the artworld, merging painting, readymade, biological images, formulas in physics, poetry, industrial materials and tattoo patterns in paintings. We may thus conclude: that by his own artistry, Lu continually demonstrates the absolute quality constructed by diversities. With this basic concept in mind, it may be easier to imagine how Lu has a superior ability to reflect the idea of simulacra from what he has seen and experienced, reaching beyond the facade of visible forms.
Accessibility of Internet Cultivated a New Genre of Social Realism
In this increasingly developed digital world it seems to be no distance between people; we may be concurrently present at happening events; we seem to be able to participate one reality, or several, simultaneously. But how far is the so-called “virtual-reality” from the truth? To people nowadays, the question never seems to rise in their consideration.
Therefore, from that standpoint, how can one argue the “reality” of a digital realm isn’t another simulating position?
With a lamenting posture, Lu said: “Taiwan possesses a multicultural characteristic, as we acknowledge this characteristic which also exists in the digital era demo, we can actually recognize the way in which netizens react to the digital environment via their virtual position.” In other words, the over-convenience of the internet on top of the tolerance to diversity in geographical environment, together incidentally, enhanced the overall development of simulacra in Taiwan. However as we live in such an environment, having grown used to it, now one may naturally find no distinction between illusion and reality.
Hence when modern people are prone to rely on information from the internet, this suggests that humanity has turned away from authentic, humane relationships.
Taking his personal experience as an example, Lu said, “I spontaneously began to observe the changing of 4 seasons closely since retiring from teaching, especially the changes of plants, for there is a yard where I live currently. Then I started taking botany classes again to learn and understand more about plants… nevertheless I discovered, though naturally the illustrations in our textbooks precisely demonstrates plants in a scientific, factual sense, yet these illustrations are more like a series of cold, lifeless index, accompanied by many “formulae” which symbolize data. Plants, in that circumstance, are rather a series of signs.”
The state in which anything from reality can be calculated and presented via analysis formulas—this seems to reflect the moment which made Lu want to speak out through his work on a consistent theme: ways of seeing things per se. It is not about comprehension from any standard modules, but about examining and retrieving the truth of illusion/reality, by displaying parallels between different spaces.
The artistic endeavors described above is absolutely a sheer expression of Socialist realism. Therefore, it may be valid if we consider Lu’s art from the perspective of Post-Social-realism.
The reason why I grasp Lu’s art from that perspective, is mainly because the foundation of his works which he constructs always derives from reality. That is, on this core basis of reality, he projects and visualizes a simulacra state that surpasses time and space.
Yet those elements, images and contents from Lu’s works are nothing like the objects or scenes we encounter in reality—not even the people.
Hence I deem Lu’s social-realistic series actually to be works of Post-Social-Realism.
Above all, he has shown various insights on reality beyond the surface of his works, via the raw material from botanic territory and personal life—readymade objects from the surrounding environment, botanic, and entomological signs which he is personally keen on—interwoven together, become a context of simulacra in Lu’s Style. If one only relies on partial, visual interpretations, one may deem his works and expressions merely viewpoints about Future Studies in a botanic context. However, in reality Lu has always been discussing about the interconnection between seeing with one’s own eyes versus mere psychological effects. It is in this language he speaks about his concerns on modern people who gradually grow comfortable in their distance to reality due to convenience of digital communications.
Thermometer, as the Most Penetrating Measurer in The Temperature of Mimicry Series
To inquire into the issue of cultural simulacra, Lu created series of works including Atlantis, The Landscape of Digital Simulacra, The Pseudo-Nature and The Temperature of Mimicry et cetera. This solo exhibition of Spring 2020 is thus titled The Temperature of Simulacra. While it displays selected works from the three previous series, the first-published works of The Temperature of Mimicry are definitely in the spotlight.
The Temperature of Mimicry series expresses Lu’s concern about illusion/reality in a deeper, more sophisticated visual language, yet with a stronger empathetic appeal. Lu is skilled in creating a kind of background setting similar to those of field guides, as he portrays plants, insects, animals and bones in extremely elaborate details. These pictures do not possess the qualities of traditional painting customs, but display a kind of pop-science coolness and a method of painting in which the blurriness of background and space is one of its major elements. The image of a thermometer subsequently made its debut in The Temperature of Mimicry series. A thermometer, rather than just being an industrial tool, serves as a means to symbolize a standard. As Lu includes it in his paintings, this demonstrates a measuring attitude which he wishes to communicate. If a simulation in the realm of cultural ecology can be represented in as precise a way as scientific formulae—this would actually declare that many things, perhaps, may be retraced and reproduced via calculation and formulae. Nevertheless, do results from those formulae truly possess the same warmth in human relationships? Do they truly have the same genuine, amiable and caring warmness towards the evolution of life? Hence the thermometer, a tool to check one’s temperature in our daily life, now becomes a motif for measurements: the measurements of one’s authentic, human consideration for the universe, for all beings and the evolution of life.
Industrial objects as Apparatuses to Measure Human Ethics
In his recent works, Lu very often includes cold, industrial tools and objects, which has now become key roles in the status of life he created.
Take balance rulers, for example. A balance ruler is not like a rolling ruler which can be applied to measuring a wider area. We frequently use a balance ruler to gauge smaller areas or spaces, and we mark by it: so there does exist a measuring principle in the space we are to create. Put another way, sometimes a balance ruler is like a soothing and calming influence in chaotic contexts. As these objects merge with pictures of field guide illustrations in his paintings, Lu further intends to make an appeal for ecological environment via the image of a balance ruler—appealing for all lifeforms in the ecological world, with the hope that they might grow under a well-balanced state, rather than under a partial, partisan one cultivated by human.
Additionally, other industrial instruments such as condensing tubes and wire-pulling nets also take their place in Lu’s latest works. Since these industrial tools are placed in a new context, their conventional means are thus degraded, even demolished; now, in Lu’s paintings, they serve as coexisting life-forms which become symbionts to the ecological pictures and detailed plants. They are thus set in this dynamic contrast of the artificial and the natural, human beings versus ecological cycles.
There has been a heavy industrial vibe in Lu’s art. That is, Lu has discarded the traditional painting procedure and cast away its customary elements such as texture of strokes, brave applications of paints, and the depths of field, et cetera. On strict terms, his industrial-styled expressions is akin to scientific formulae by their core ideas. His method of portrayal, in particular, seems nearly identical to field guide illustrations, thus implying the flora and fauna in his works basically do not hold any “actual warmth”. The coldness and preciseness of his portrayal in the paintings together create an evident, scientific atmosphere that is formulaic, which could be simulated and represented by big data. And such visual language always coexists with readymade objects, constructing a parallel opposite comparison.
By his unusually lukewarm brushwork and readymade materials, Lu detaches from his initial personal sentiments as he seeks to bring about, through these pseudo-natural pictures, a mentality of critical thinking in their audience, to whom his art may seem like a series of remote drawings in industrial style. Yet, careful observation may reveal that Lu intends to make his works a path which leads to critical thinking. These observers will eventually understand the so-called pseudo-nature is in fact a rendition of reality. As one finds this rendition an allegory, one naturally fathoms the situation of society’s evolution which Lu desires to communicate.
The reoccurring images of measuring instruments in Lu’s recent works, according to my personal interpretation, are anything but abrupt intruders. Instead they are painted intentionally under the artist’s control. Measurements, rulers, and condensing tubes are now tools with the means to define, translate and transfer. By fusing these instruments with painted works, not only did Lu reveal his speculations about flat internet networks in a contemporary context, but also, his reservations about the misplaced illusions/truths that confronts us today.
Concerns about Cultural Simulacra as a Tender, Personal, Inner Expression
In essence, Lu is not the kind of person who discloses emotions or tenderness easily.
And yet, his art often conveys affectionate, inner compassion beneath its decidedly remote, emotionless posture.
His works never give any answers; what they provide is a direction.
While the world of ecological studies continually chases after progress, do we truly achieve valid environmental protection by our small-scale efforts? Likewise, as we are overloaded by massive amount of information, how do we decipher which parts are true?
Lu continually transforms his art into a thermometer of detection, which evaluates our attitude towards society: do we truly possess real warmth? Or is our claimed concern only another illusion?
Although no replies are found, yet within lie an abundance of hints which point to an answer.
Rising from an attitude of social realism, Lu’s concerns regarding cultural simulacra continue to be bona fide, earnest messages to our society.