Installation Shu Lea Cheang: 3x3x6 at Venice Biennale 2019

"We live in a society where (the) surveillance camera is everywhere. We live in a society where data is our biggest prison. We live in a data panopticon today.​"​​​​​"

Words of Shu Lea Cheang, who worked at Waag in 1998-1999 at her installation Brandon (which was restored in 2017), and created the pavilion of Taiwan this year at the Venice Biennale.

Shu Lea Cheang’s multi-media installation for Venice uses its ancient prison setting well to explore the biographies of historical and contemporary sex offences, and ponder the impacts of today’s omnipresent digital surveillance.

This is not the first time Taiwan has staged its Venice Biennale offering in the highly charged setting of the Palazzo delle Prigioni – a medieval prison adjacent to the Palazzo Ducale in Piazza San Marco, which was used as a place of interrogation and incarceration until 1922. But there can be few, if any, previous artists who have used the architecture and heritage of the building to such powerful effect. Shu Lea Cheang’s four room installation, 3x3x6, is an exploration of sexual transgressions over the centuries and the transformation of surveillance technology from the physical architecture of a cell or prison to the digital architecture that now monitors all of us, all the time, thanks to 3D facial recognition, AI and the internet. The title of the work refers to the 3x3 sq metre dimensions of today’s typical prison cell, and its monitoring by six cameras.

In planning this work, Cheang (1954, Taiwan) was struck by the fact that Venice’s most famous sexual adventurer, Giacomo Casanova (1725-98), was imprisoned here (although he escaped before his five-year sentence was up). He became a pivotal character in her narrative, along with other notable historical characters, specifically France’s Marquis de Sade (1740-1814), who spent 32 years of his life in prison, and Michel Foucault (1926-84), the French philosopher, who, while serving in a diplomatic capacity in Poland, was trapped into revealing his homosexuality and forced to leave the country. Another seven contemporary characters were summoned from research that Cheang and her curator and collaborator, Paul B Preciado, unearthed, representing a cross-section of transgressions from all over the world, from Taiwan to South Africa.

Shu Lea Cheang: 3x3x6
Taiwan in Venetië, Palazzo delle Prigioni, Castello 4209, San Marco, 30122 Venetië
11 mei - 24 november 2019