It sounds like the start of a fairy tale. Ten curators from nine different countries are given a task to perform: Each must choose one artist with whom to create a major show. The resulting Kuandu Biennale in Taipei, Slaying Monsters, is made up of separate “solo exhibitions” from Australia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, and Taiwan, an interesting spin on the usual biennale format and a challenge to its conventional predictability. The Kuandu Biennale puts curatorial practice front and center, a potentially risky strategy, but in so doing, close collaborations between the curators and their chosen artists result in a theatrically engaging, conceptually rigorous, and provocative exhibition, with moments of real excitement. Taking its title from the world of video games, the biennale challenges the “gamification” of the artworld—the contemporary emphasis on spectacle, gossip, art stars, and international uber-curators—with its interesting and unexpected inclusions.
Tsubaki Noboru’s 2014 Daisy Bell (curator Kenichiro Mogi) dominates the entrance to the gallery. An artist who has continually reinvented himself since his involvement in the Japanese “mono-ha” painting movement, Noboru’s work references popular culture, myth, and Japanese tradition. Daisy Bell is a giant inflatable creature that looms over the spectator, at once cute and monstrous. This ambiguous, almost entirely featureless hybrid love-child of Jeff Koons’ Puppy and a creature from the imaginary world of a medieval bestiary insists, as soon as the visitor enters the exhibition, that monsters are already among us.