The sci-fi novel, Thirty Years Later, published in 1918 depicts a future Japan without wars, where people are able to extend their lives with the help of medicine. The author, Hoshi Hajimei, was the president of Hoshi Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., the second largest quinine producer in the world, which started the plantation of cinchona trees in Taiwan since the beginning of the 1920s. The novel conveyed a utopian vision that formed an intense contrast to Japan’s imperial dream in reality.
Taiwan’s geographic location, climate and ecological environment made the island an ideal habitat for Anopheles mosquitoes known for spreading malaria. Throughout their colonial conquest, European colonizers discovered that South American indigenous peoples used cinchona tree barks to treat malaria; and before the technology of producing artificial vaccines, quinine extracted from cinchona trees was the only treatment of and preventive measure against malaria. Quinine provided colonizers a fresh opportunity to venture into primal forests and tropical islands. All of a sudden, the island of dangerous diseases became a treasure vault for the pharmaceutical industry whereas cinchona trees and botany were turned into alternative imperial weaponry that enabled the colonizers to reinforce the empire’s rule, expand its colonization and transform colonies into profit-making territories.
Virgin Land reveals a stage in the form of a half-finished bar. As a “cure,” the meaning of quinine is multifold. In a way, coloniality is like a virus sieving into our veins and bones, permeating through our consciousness. How do we respond to these historical coincidences through exploring the materials?
About the Artist
Ting Chaong-Wen was born in Kaohsiung, Taiwan in 1979. He graduated from the Tainan National University of the Arts in 2006, and currently lives and works in Tainan. Ting specializes in mixed media installation incorporated with images and objects. Drawing inspiration from his personal experience, his works often reveal specific historical narratives created by embedding readymades in specific exhibition contexts. With surprising and innovative attempts, the artist deconstructs, extends and re-interprets the collective history while examining material culture, historic conflicts, collective memory and transnational phenomena and problems. His works have been extensively exhibited in numerous art museums and biennials, among which are High Tide 17—Fremantle Biennale (Artsource, Fremantle; 2017); Nakanojo Biennale 2017 (Former Hirozakari Brewery, Gunma, Japan; 2017); Citation from Craft (The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa; 2017); Taipei Biennial 2016: Gestures and Archives of the Present, Genealogies of the Future (Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei; 2016); Koganecho Bazaar 2016 (Koganecho Area Management Center, Yokohama; 2016); Urban Synesthesia (Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Kaohsiung; 2015); Speculative Dust (Corner Art Space, Seoul; 2015); Image/Sound: Concept and Position (Le Centquatre 104, Paris; 2014); No One River Flows (Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts, Taipei; 2013).