Hsu Che-Yu: Three Episodes of Mourning Exercises

3 February – 26 May 2024 (Level 3)


ILHAM is pleased to present Three Episodes of Mourning Exercises by Taiwanese video artist Hsu Che-Yu, in collaboration with the Han Nefkens Foundation. The artist whose practice focuses on the research and revisiting of historical moments, as well as the reconstruction of private and collective memories, was the winner of the Han Nefkens Foundation – Loop Barcelona Video Art Award Production in 2020. The Award aims to increase contemporary artistic production in the video art field by supporting artists of Asian origin or nationality.

This exhibition which includes three works, Gray Room, Blank Photograph, and Zoo Hypothesis, are the result of the artist’s collaboration with a forensic team specialized in 3D scanning of crime scenes. The works which deal with the body, space, and memory, are part of an investigation into the “politics of death”.

Gray Room is a tribute to the artist’s deceased grandmother. The latest advances in medical research recognize the “spirit”, that immaterial and eternal aspect of every human being that consists of emotion or consciousness, as mere reactions within the nervous system – an understanding that denies the very existence of the soul. The artist recalls the experience of bodily perception in his grandmother's house and contemplates death and memory from a material perspective.

Blank Photograph is based on the memories of a terrorist bomber. In 2003, Yang Ru-Men placed bombs in the city of Taipei. Yet, none of the bombs were ignited. Yang’s action was later regarded as symbolic of the struggle of farmers in the vein of anti-neoliberalism, and his sentence was mitigated. A few years after he was released from jail, his brother committed suicide at his family home. The terrorist revisits the seashore and re-enacts how he once practised bomb-making,  and how he was inspired by the suicide-prone United Red Army in Japan. He also returns to his family home where the suicide took place. The artist has made a digital scan of the architectural structure of Yang Ru-Men’s house. With these digital models, he reconstructs the bomb maker’s personal memories virtually. By juxtaposing the suicide that affected the terrorist’s family with the sacrificial immolation of terrorist attacks, the artist presents death as a tension between the individual and the collective.

Zoo Hypothesis involves an animal-to-animal mourning ritual created by humans, where zoo trainers train elephants and orangutans to kneel and perform worship gestures to commemorate animals that died as a result of warfare. A scriptwriter and a performer discuss how to re-enact this mourning ritual in an animal taxidermist’s studio as they attempt to conceive a script about the animals. They also refer to the animals that were killed in the Taipei zoo after the US military bombed the city in 1944, which led to the animals being turned into taxidermy. In this conversation, the relationship between “gestures” and “terror” is discussed. In the video, Both the Taipei zoo and the zoo's taxidermy studio are architecturally reconstructed using 3D scanning technology.


Born in 1985, Hsu Che-Yu currently lives and works in Taipei. In 2022, he began his two-year art residency in Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. He primarily creates animations, videos, and installations that feature the relations between media and memories. He has participated in Theater der Welt (Frankfurt, 2023), Bienal de São Paulo (2021), Seoul Mediacity Biennale (2021), Sonsbeek20→24 Quadrennial public program (2021), Techniques of Becoming (Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart, 2021), VIDEONALE.18 (2021), Shanghai Biennale (2018), London Design Biennale (2018), Asian Art Biennial (Taichung, 2017), and film festivals IFFR International Film Festival Rotterdam (2023, 2022, 2020, 2018) and NYFF New York Film Festival (2020). He was awarded the Videonale Award of the Fluentum Collection (Kunstmuseum Bonn, 2021), the Loop Barcelona Video Art Production Award (Han Nefkens Foundation, 2020), the Taishin Annual Grand Prize (Taishin Bank Foundation for Arts and Culture, 2016), and was a finalist for HUGO BOSS ASIA ART (2019).