72 Nautical Miles
The series 72 Nautical Miles is based on the unique cultural phenomena of qi-gui from Penghu , revisiting the “place” I came from, the Penghu immigrant settlement in Kaohsiung City. From the cultural appearance of place, one can further examine its classification, a socio-geographical relation that is formed by habits and spatial needs, with physical and spiritual boundaries. In this region, faith is the main source that connects local communities and cultural production, including various ceremonies, customs, and festivals, showcasing local variants. My own local experiences have shaped me into a localized, particular individual.
In my own practice, and experiencing the passage of time in a place, I have found the presence of “prosperity turtles” in the past and future, among residual historic memory and fragments of past spaces. This folk object subsists in the ritual of qi-gui, resurfacing again every year during the Lantern Festival, and through the process, the object transforms into a meaningful event. And so I choose prosperity turtles as the main subject of this series, its design and implication creates a visible and identifiable appearance for local culture, traversing limitations of time and space, becoming a cultural characterization of myself that continues to materialize.
I utilize video and photography to present the relationship between prosperity turtles and “mobility.” Traveling regularly between Kaohsiung and Penghu by boat, I began to consider the state of movement. In the torrents of history, Penghu immigrants carried out paths of “migratory” orientation and “homecoming” between these two places, showcasing a “bidirectional” nature of movement, while extensive travel time produces psychological changes, similarly to the function of ritual, activating inner feelings, an ambiguous, indescribable metamorphosis. It could be said that movement is a vacuum that undergoes the transference of time and space, injecting various possibilities into farewells and passages, a dynamic, oscillating movement that expands the senses.
With the ocean as the main plane of movement, connecting several keywords in this series: Penghu immigrant, prosperity turtles, bidirectional boats, and cultural mobility. Shaped in the form of a sea turtle, prosperity turtles are emblematic cultural products, akin to a ship that travels in two directions in a different time-space, drawing loops across the sea. The ocean is in an eternal regress in time, repeatedly bearing the movement and return of civilization, its own physics a constant circulation, the “revolve” that I recognize, the essence of bidirectionality. I believe the sea’s agency gives connection to all relationships, and inspires the artist, and through summoning experience and memory, produces works that return to the self.
Qi-gui is a devotional practice along the southern coast of Taiwan. Often during the Lantern Festival, temples will commission pastry chefs in making “prosperity turtles” of various sizes, while people pray to the gods for blessings and prosperity by casting bwa-bwei moon blocks (wooden divination tools which are used in pairs to answer a yes or no question), confirmed by the gods through three consecutive shing-bwei “divine answers” (with one block flat and the other round). The person granted prosperity turtle is blessed with prosperity and care for the upcoming year, and will return the next year with an order heavier or with more turtles than the year before, continuing year after year. The area in which this practice is prevalent includes: Penghu, Kaohsiung, and Tainan (which is related to immigration between these three cities).