LAI Chih-Sheng

LAI Chih-Sheng

LAI Chih-Sheng's work is not based on artistic technique but conceptual practice that imparts his audience a familiar yet new experience that is both immediate and poetic. Born in 1971 in Taipei, LAI's recent solo exhibitions include "An Exception to Reality—LAI Chih-Sheng" (ESLITE GALLERY, Taipei, 2011), "Instant" (IT Park Gallery, Taipei, 2013). In 2012, his work Life-Size Drawing was invited to participate in "Invisible: Art of the Unseen 1957-2012" (Hayward Gallery, London, 2013). 


LAI Chih-Sheng



Born in Taipei, Taiwan


B.F.A., Department of Fine Arts, Taipei National Institute of the Arts, Taipei,




M.F.A., Institute of Plastic Arts, Tainan National College of the Arts, Tainan,









“Between Dog and Wolf”, ESLITE GALLERY, Taipei, Taiwan


“Scene”, ESLITE GALLERY, Taipei, Taiwan


“Room 1734”, Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris, France


“LAI Chih-Sheng: Instant”, PROJECT ONE, Hong Kong, China


“Instant”, IT PARK, Taipei, Taiwan


“An Exception to Reality: LAI Chih-Sheng”, ESLITE GALLEY, Taipei, Taiwan


“1996 – 2005 Someday, Something and Someone”, IT PARK, Taipei, Taiwan


“Reality in the Sky”, Domicile, Taipei, Taiwan


“Between Art and Life”, Paint House, Tainan, Taiwan







“Kau-Puê, Mutual Companionship in Near Future: 2017 Soulangh International Contemporary Art Festival”, Soulangh Cultural Park, Tainan, Taiwan


“If it be your will That I speak no more”, ESLITE GALLERY, Taipei, Taiwan


Aichi Triennale 2016: “Homo Faber: A Rainbow Caravan", Aichi Arts Center,


Nagoya City Art Museum, Nagoya city, Toyohashi city, Okazaki city, Japan


"Delayed", NHCUE ART SPACE, Hsinchu, Taiwan


"Untitled", ESLITE GALLERY, Taipei, Taiwan




 80 Days Across America


“Utopias and Heterotopias—Wuzhen International Contemporary Art Exhibition”,


Wuzhen Northern Silk Factory, Zhejiang, China




Nanjing, China


"At" Lai Chih-Sheng & Lee Kit, Project Fulfill Art Space, Taipei, Taiwan


The 13th Biennale de Lyon: “La vie Moderne", Lyon Museum of Contemporary


Art, Lyon, France


"Alice's Rabbit Hole–Everyday Life, Comprehensible and Incomprehensible",


Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan


"Abstract on-site", ESLITE GALLERY, Taipei, Taiwan


“A Hundred Years of Shame—Songs of Resistance and Scenarios for Chinese Nations”, Para Site, Hong Kong, China


“The Pioneers of Taiwanese Artists, 1971-1980”, National Taiwan Museum of


Fine Arts, Taichung, Taiwan


“Bloom” ESLITE GALLERY 25th Anniversary Exhibition, ESLITE GALLERY, Taipei, Taiwan


“YES, TAIWAN—2014 Taiwan Biennial”, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taichung, Taiwan


“Art for Oneself”, TKG+, Taipei, Taiwan


The 8th Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale: “We Have Never Participated”,


Shenzhen OCT Contemporary Art Terminal, Shenzhen, China


“Margin Archive & Film Fest”, ESLITE GALLERY, Taipei, Taiwan


“Transcoding: The Grography of Digital Images”, National Taiwan Museum of


Fine Arts, Taichung, Taiwan




“Mind on Forms”, Mobile Museum, Taipei, Taiwan


“Asia Cruise—Evidence”, Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts, Taipei, Taiwan


“Drawing·Expression and Limit”, AMNUA, Nanjing, China


“Invisible: Art of the Unseen 1957-2012”, Hayward Gallery, London, UK


“The 2nd Chongqing Biennale for Young Artists”, Chongqing Art Museum,


Chongqing, China


“The 2011 Material Language—Soil”, Juming Museum, Taipei, Taiwan


“Micro-Image”, Ping Pong Art Space, Taipei; Paint House, Tainan, Taiwan




“Ctrl Z”, inFIDI space, Taipei, Taiwan


“A Realm with No Coordinates”, Hong Kong, China / Taipei, Tainan, Taiwan


“Every Time”, Nanhai Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan


“Taipei Arts Award”, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan


“1st Tainan Biennial”, Tainan Municipal Cultural Center, Tainan, Taiwan


“Cross-cultural Project in Asia”, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia / Taipei, Chiayi,


Taiwan / Hong Kong, Beijing, China


“1st Taiwan Contemporary Sculpture Exhibition”, Huashan Culture Park, Taipei, Taiwan


“Nation Oxygen Group Exhibition Part I”, Bali Abandoned House, Taipei, Taiwan


“Nation Oxygen Group Exhibition Part II”, Shin Leh Yuan Art Space, Taipei, Taiwan


“Island, Penghu, Nation Oxygen”, Penghu Islands, Taiwan


“Interactive Experiment”, Shanchi Abandoned Factory, Taipei, Taiwan







Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris, France

As an Exception to Reality: An Act of Writing Related to "Zuowei yizhong

By Chin Ya-chun

In the product of writing you are currently reading, I hope to offer an observation of an artist's oeuvre. Under the
foreseeable condition that an all-inclusive survey is not possible, I would like to begin with the images that the
works evoked, sometimes time and again, in my mind. In fact, their appearance or recurrence has led to their being
interpreted as the common attributes of the works, but it is not only because they stand out from the elements
of the works, but also because they make every encounter with the works, regarded as either ordinary or artistic,
extraordinary. As a result, the images also become my habitual route to approach and examine these (and even the
other) works.

First of all, most of the works originate from the artist's consciousness with the everyday life / the world, which is
specifically the product of his examination of his daily experiences in a position outside of himself. This persistent
gaze comes primarily from one of his identities coexisting with another identity in the physical reality, and it is this
identity, premised on another identity in the reality and hence scarcely involving any goal in the reality, that calls his
attention to the sparkles in the daily experiences generally considered to be ordinary and mediocre. It is also this
identity that triggers a series of attempts to transform personal perceptions into the content perceivable to others.

Second, these works are mostly executed by the artist's own skills. Despite that certain historical shifts have
rendered almost every skill applicable or adaptable to the practice of art, the skills employed in the works are exactly
those the artist uses for his livelihood. To meet the strict demand of reality (and perhaps a certain moral code), they
are cultivated into bodily capabilities most appropriate for realizing his ideas.

If one's consciousness of the outside world is an outward measurement, executing works through one's body is
close to being an inward measurement, which explores and refines one's talent, and constantly strives to expand its
terrain. In all of these practices, the presumably unique body is taken as both a tool of measurement and the target
of that measurement, and the eventual goal of the practices of unforeseeable consequence is the yet to be affirmed
or established uniqueness.

Finally, the above attributes converge to introduce another attribute. Drawing on the images we personally
witness in daily life, the works adopt a foreign yet inviting posture for communication among the art forms we are
accustomed to and take for granted, and begin to address abstract content devoid of narrative. Any message that
we acquire from them, therefore, seems to be generated by our own consciousness, instead of being built-in results
ready to be disclosed.

This attribute enables the individual practices to embody the ways to confront or escape from the reality (as well
as the art world increasingly resembling it) in perceivable forms, while encouraging similar practices from others,
especially when they do occur in the everyday reality.

As it is foreseeable that an all-inclusive survey of the artist's oeuvre is impossible, and as it will definitely be more
valuable to really encounter, if possible, his past or future practices, I suppose it may be a fine choice to continue my
discussion from only one of the artist's works.

"Reality in the Sky II" and others
As long as they are not "Untitled" or suggest no more than a chronological order, the titles of (art)works are usually
of equal importance to the works themselves. Functioning as the captions of photographs, they supplement or
point towards the intended interpretation of the works with ostensibly open content.

Since the work is titled "Reality in the Sky II," there should be a predecessor strongly related to it. Much more than
that, as one summons its existence in its only possible form of a legend or a story, it also demonstrates how it is
possible for two stridently different expressions to convey virtually identical discourse.

The 2004 "Reality in the Sky," taken place in an apartment rented specifically for this art project, was exhibited in the
artist's bedroom, a space perhaps newly arranged for the public display. Its simple colors and furniture seem to be
deliberately chosen, but the interior looks quite ordinary; the only extraordinary thing is the moving images floating
slightly above our heads. Under scrutiny, the images largely composed of scenes on and around heavily trafficked
streets are just as ordinary as the space they occupy. The nonetheless far-from-ordinary situation immediately
prompts one to seek the source of images -- usually a perfectly concealed projector. And when the effort is
eventually proved futile, the phenomenon advances in unresolved suspense is established as being a spectacle.
However startling the seemingly uncommon phenomenon may be, it is in fact as commonplace as the space or the
endlessly flowing images are. On the side of the bedroom facing the street, the artist built a new wall, and carefully
left a hole at the center of the cement structure blocking out all the light. As a consequence of the principle of the
camera obscura (found and made full use of long ago), whenever the interior lights are switched off, the images of
the exterior world filtered through the hole suffuse the 'sky' of the place instantly.

This fantastic experience to the spectators is produced in an environment of the physical reality, executed by
the skills of the physical reality, and realized in a living space of the physical reality. A comparatively thorough
understanding of the work is achieved through the video record apparently incapable of representing the history
of the experience. After the installation was completed, the artist had lived (as he did in the physical reality) in the
room for three months, during which the two realities coexisted / juxtaposed -- the external reality that most of
the time we can only experience the arbitrariness of its sequential progress, and the internal reality substantiated
as a result of our consciousness with and response to the external reality, in a probably extremely cramped space.
However, it is in light of the latter that we make out our condition in the world from which we can never abstain
ourselves yet in which we may not be helplessly impotent.

If what "Reality in the Sky" intends is to mobilize the spectators' consciousness by imparting experiences in the
physical time and space, "Reality in the Sky II" wrests control of the consciousness by producing readings of images.
Instead of offering a reflexive position in the physical space, the fast-moving swirl of images in their most charming
moments entices us to identify with or succumb to the photographer's perspective entirely. As this happens, the
physical position we adopt in relation to the images is canceled, and we become, as it were, the subjects of the
unknown journey.

The alien yet familiar images are disconcerting since the beginning, but their rapid movement deprives us of all
choices except to pick up the sense of strangeness they instantaneously leave behind. They are alien because
they derive from a nearly impossible horizon of vision -- as the continuation of the artist's body, the (upside-down)
camera bound to the bottom of a car gazes at the artist's daily course of shuttling between his house and studio.

Much as the ground closing in on us is visually threatening, the images present a wonder world unfolding infinitely
before our eyes. The city apparatus suspended grotesquely in the sky incessantly lashes out astonishing images on
us, and their origin is nothing more than the course of a day that most of us experience too unwittingly to recollect
its progress. Either we understand it or are told of the truth, our realization would not lessen the visual impact, for
it stems from our habitual perception which can never be radically adjusted. And it is precisely in the repeated
frustration to re-adjust ourselves that we successfully summon back a body attempting to live and feel every
moment of his life in full.

Either "Reality in the Sky," "Reality in the Sky II," or the works preceding or following them, implies an acting
subject employing his bodily skills as a means to perceive the world containing them and attempting to pinpoint
his perceptions through the practice of art. The (art) production arising from the attempts, therefore, form an
interface capable of enacting a reversal of the production, on which the experiences seemingly exceptional
to yet simultaneously acknowledging of its perpetual attachment to the reality brings to the fore the hitherto
unimaginable possibilities of ourselves and the reality of which we are a part.

Before bringing the act of writing to closure, I must confess my frustration of being incapable of describing or
discussing "Reality in the Sky, "Reality in the Sky II," or even the works preceding or following them. The principal
reason is not that I have never been personally present in where they occurred or were displayed. As a matter of
fact, in terms of listening to or apprehending the disclosure of works, presence is neither absolutely required nor
particularly advantageous.

To use an analogy, it is vaguely like having a dream. You have genuine experiences in the dream, genuine in the
sense both that they are poignantly felt by your body, and that whatever is perceived does not diverge from the
world you live in. However, loaded with a strong dose of strangeness, the familiar scenes greatly panicked you,
as if you are suddenly assaulted in a supposedly safe place. The imprint on your body is so sharp that it has not
evaporated until you finally detach yourself, upon awakening, to resume the vantage point of observation, not
without a desire to recount the peculiar dream. But how do you represent the virtual experiences unfolding
both synchronically with countless details and diachronically in a sequential fashion? To me at least, the urgency
immediately poses question to language as satisfactory tool of representation.

Somewhat absurdly, my subjects of the task destined to proceed with a haunting sense of frustration are precisely
those having fulfilled the task vigorously. On that account, the only support or encouragement to my act of writing
may be that, at all events, the works bound to cling to space, time, or any other vehicles have their unattainable

Spatial Interventions Pushing the Cycle of Self-reflexivity

By Yu Wei

During the 1990s Lai Chih-sheng was a member of the conceptual art group National Oxygen, presenting his early work in disused structures around the periphery of Taipei, which often involved seemingly futile labor, combined with reference to the transformation of site or the reign of absolutism. Examples include an installation in which he stacked a column of 100 bricks up to the ceiling of an empty factory; and another in which he felled a hollow area of an abandoned building with methyl cellulose, forming an artificial water line that met with the surrounding floor. He creates a minimalist, atypical reality within everyday circumstances. His artwork has a site-specic quality, involving concepts of labor and consumption, and raises questions about art and its production, while also drawing on his 13 years of experience as a professional bricklayer.

Extending the tradition of self-reflexivity seen in conceptual art, Lai's recent work responds to the contemporary art world's reliance on display systems of self-reference in an exploration of minute perceptions. Such approaches are to be observed in works such as Artwork, a sculpture that mirrors and forms its own pedestal, and Life-Size Drawing (2012), a painting action that hews close to reality, relying on a high investment of labor to trace the very texture of the exhibition venue. Lai strives to remove all vestiges of self-expression from his work, even going so far as transferring the responsibility for its completion onto his audience or the workers who install the exhibition. Such inversions are also demonstrated in Border (2013), in which visitors edge along a narrow path suspended from the venue's walls, above a centerpiece of discarded materials left behind by exhibition installers, taking to a stage in which one simultaneously observes and is observed.


By Joyce HO

In January 2014, a pianist took up residence in Room 1733 of the Parisian artists' village, Cité Internationale des Arts. In August of that same year, LAI Chih-Sheng arrived to take up residence in the same building, next door, in Room 1734.

Separated as they were by only a thin wall, traces of that pianist's activities occupied every part of LAI Chih-Sheng's life: bathing, practicing piano, cooking dinner, making love, opening the door, closing the door…initially a disruption, the artist soon became accustomed to this intrusive presence in his life. And while he accepted the situation, he also began to carefully avoid any possible contact with the occupant of Room 1733. He studied her habits and staggered his own activities to prevent face to face contact. When she opened the door to leave, it was LAI who closed the door.

Room 1734 ultimately became LAI's only work from his period in the artist's village in Paris. Exhibited in the work is LAI's room: some strips of white paper hanging from a slanting section of wall, a drinking glass that covers the drainage hole in his shower, a plastic-tiled floor polished to a smooth shine, the recorded sounds of his neighbor practicing piano, a blurry photo of the corner where the two rooms intersect, and a letter to the pianist written by LAI. What is on display here are the traces of LAI Chih-Sheng's life in Paris—the snippets, the details of his life in Room 1734 reflect those daily encounters, which, in fact, did not actually exist. From the opening of the exhibition to its close, LAI chose not to be present, so as to fully realize his imagination of Room 1733, and the sense of distance he retained toward it.

If the actual Room 1734 represented something real, then what the artist's creation represents is routine, the routine that constantly hovers at the edges of our reality. The intent behind LAI's work is clear: to show the thin membrane that separates routine and reality, and, at the moment the two are deliberately severed by the artist, how reality is displaced, and how it pulls at routine as the two jostle against each other yet exist independently. Separated from another reality by a thin wall, the artist nevertheless examines the clues it reveals, the work routines, and his collisions with it, to build an imaginative picture of that reality. The distance created by that wall was what allowed the artist to preserve the essential autonomy of his subjective self. The encounters between his two subjects are not presented literally in LAI's work, but by means of the traces, the residual effects of their collision.

As suggested by "Scene," the title of LAI Chih-Sheng's solo show at ESLITE GALLERY, what viewers are invited to confront is not reality itself, but the routine we so often overlook beyond the edges of our self-identified realities.

When the Future Disappears in a Video─About LAI Chih-Sheng's Instant

By CHIN Ya-Chun

At a certain point, in that fluid, ever-changing course that points always toward the future, you realize that the future you were expecting is not going to arrive.

In fact, to discuss LAI Chih-Sheng's work at this point in time seems inappropriate, because strictly speaking, as a work, it has not yet actually occurred. But I take this inappropriate action because of something I couldn't stop imagining, and what sparked my imagination was the plan for a work first divulged on Facebook.

The work in question is something that appears on our computer monitors, something almost all of us are very familiar with. In the very center, against a blank background, there is a small, circular graphic image. The instant I saw it on the monitor, I started waiting. And I waited until some other instant, at which point I could not recall just how long I had waited, and I finally realized that it was not moving at all.

If "time" is something that constantly surrounds us, but which we can never grasp, then can the "moving image" of video become an effective route for finding it? After all, it is the only thing that promises to recreate faithfully the experience of some particular period of time, and at the same time, it never fails to deliver on the experience of that particular time that it promised. Yet in its depiction it also precisely demonstrates video's total inability to ever actually come close to time—because no matter how "faithful" it is, it still can only present some "particular" segment of time from some 'particular' point of view. This implies that, just as you begin to invest yourself in perceiving that segment of time, which, anyway, is only a fragment, and belongs to someone else, you yourself pass through a segment of time which likewise is transparent and untouchable. If the above already seems obvious with respect to the experience we have with most videos, then that blank moment, when we cannot recall just how much time has passed, has already begun to make it seem much less "obvious."

Everything begins when you're on the verge of automatically entering that state of waiting. Preparing to enter into some particular segment of time and experience, you may be concentrating totally, or your attention may be divided. But that stretch of time in which you are unable enter into any other potential reality, regardless of whether you are concentrating fully or your attention is divided, that becomes your only experience of time. And perhaps more important, that experience of time is totally subordinate to you.

This is a work that, as arranged by its creator, is to be completed by you. As the experience of a segment of video or a segment of time, its configuration, as an endless cycle that can never be completed, means that your experience provides the only means by which it can become real. Put another way, its potential to become a segment of video or time that can be experienced begins from the time you first focus on it and ends at the moment you leave.

This experience of this work derives purely from the visual sense, yet its visible content is so simple that you absolutely won't miss anything in it. Your unique relationship with it does not derive from the fact that you may see something different than what others see. Instead, it rests upon the exact same discovery, made in different instants; on the fact that, from the exact same subject of perception, new experiences are constantly proliferating; and on the possibilities inherent in the notion of different "selves."

And, if one of these same discoveries has taken place, what is the content that you recall afterwards from that segment of video? The answer may depend on whether you are still face to face with it. If you are, it is that it continually confronts you with the present moment, a moment that is continually emerging and at the same time continually disappearing. If not, it is that same moment, continually emerging and continually disappearing, as it happened sometime in the past. It has no other content that can be conveyed to you. This experience of the video, which in your past always delivered on its promise of the future, is now perpetually frozen in an unending cycle of promising the future, and for that reason, utterly betrays that promise.

If true creativity must necessarily be equated with a complete rupture with what is represented, then in this work I see a complete departure from the possibility of any representation taking place within video. If we take that content which is not typically deemed the actual content of a video to be in fact its entire content, then it forms a video that has never made reference to anything else, a video that forever explains only itself, and the result is that something occurs during your experience of it, a moment in which you ultimately find yourself confronting yourself.

If each idea expressed above represents a different recollection as we repeatedly return to this video, then at this point, I can only conclude that what I've said, and each of the terms I've used in referring to this work, may be less than accurate. That is because the experience of this video can never be repeated and remain exactly the same—and the same can be said of our experience of time, as we, in its midst, are experiencing it.

At a certain point, in that fluid, ever-changing course that points always toward the future, you realize that the future you were expecting is not going to arrive. But that future that you were expecting, will it truly not arrive? As the video continues to be projected, all that you can be sure of is those unchangeable moments of the past, and you can also be sure of the present moment, which, like those past moments, is also unchangeable. But what you can never know for sure is what may occur in the following instant....

Present, Not Present: Room 1734

By Ying-lung Linus SU

Nearby Scenery

By Sean C.S. HU

Nearby Scenery is a site-specific work created by LAI Chih-Sheng for the Mobile Museum, Taipei. In continuation of his concept in the 2013 show at Art Museum of Nanjing University of the Art in China, here LAI creates a large-scale mural that highlights, transforms and represents small and negligible spaces in an everyday setting with exceptional sensitivity and attentive observations. By leaving seemingly unintentional rough edges and paint stains in his work, LAI hints at the imperfection and disorder that are usually unacceptable under the rigorous regime of art creation. With precise arrangement and deliberation, these mistakes that look so casually made are accentuated and unavoidable to the eye of the audience. A sense of bewilderment is engendered while the work co-exists with its neighboring spaces in stark and indescribable contrast. Walking along and under the space that LAI creates, the audience gains a profound and impalpable experience that alludes to physical labor, spatiality and progression of time. The work also becomes a moving and significant visual landscape with its distinctive and contrasting layers of color.

Lai Chih-Sheng

Author / LAI Chih-Sheng
  • Language
  • PriceNT$280
  • PublisherThe Eslite
  • Size15x21 cm
  • Publication Date2012/07
  • ISBN9789868786066
Lai Chih-Sheng

LAI Chih-Sheng SCENE

Author / LAI Chih-Sheng
  • Language
  • PriceNT$ 800
  • Publisherthe eslite corp.
  • Size22.5(H) x 17(W) cm
  • Publication Date2015/06
  • ISBN978-986-90581-7-9
LAI Chih-Sheng SCENE

LAI Chih-Sheng: Scene is an introduction to LAI Chih-Sheng's poetic, philosophical, metaphysical undertakings as well as his longstanding investigation of "how the world is a poem." Published alongside of the artist's 2015 solo exhibition "Scene" at ESLITE GALLERY, the book comprises four essays by curators/critics Sean C.S. HU, CHIN Ya-Chun, Ying-lung Linus SU, and artist Joyce HO. Selected works from 2012 to 2015 are presented along with the artist's statements and installation views, including a complete overview of "Scene" and other famous pieces such as Border, Instant, Island, and Room 1734.

Most prominently, the book features a hand-painted cover by LAI: each book jacket carries an ink stroke on the bottom. Like the brushworks in LAI's work One, also included in this book, each unique stroke is a quiet, simple, and spiritual hint that brings to light the daily routines and objects that are otherwise often neglected by us. With the stroke as well as the artist's hand-written serial number, this book becomes something likes an artwork, a proud existence in its own right.

Available in 200 copies.


2017        "Between Dog and Wolf", ESLITE GALLERY, Taipei, Taiwan

2015        "Scene", ESLITE GALLERY, Taipei, Taiwan

2013        "LAI Chih-Sheng: Instant", PROJECT ONE, Hong Kong, China
2011        "An Exception to Reality: LAI Chih-Sheng", ESLITE GALLERY, Taipei, Taiwan



2014        "Bloom: ESLITE GALLERY 25th Anniversary", ESLITE GALLERY, Taipei, Taiwan
               "Margin Archive & Film Fest", ESLITE GALLERY, Taipei, Taiwan

2009        "LOOKING UP! LOOKING DOWN!", ESLITE GALLERY, Taipei, Taiwan

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