© photo: Chen You-Wei
Music While We Work
Multichannel sound and double-channel video installation
The Heard and the Unheard- Soundscape Taiwan, Taiwan Pavilion, 54th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy; Interactions, Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Université Concordia, Montréal, 2012; Sky Over My Head, Contemporary Art Museum Kumamoto, Kumamoto, Japan
Hong-Kai Wang is one of Taiwan’s few artists concerned with the politics of sound. She views “sound and listening” as a kind of structure and a text for exhibiting relationships in society. She believes that “listening is political”. In her works, sound is a tool for conceptualization that, through the “organization of listening”, affords the listener new access to life and history, and an experience of the political spaces that exist therein. Her work is not merely concerned with sound, words, collecting, and listening, but also with “how to articulate, how to document, and how to listen”.

In her project Music While We Work, Wang transcends the simple soundscape production method of subjective documentation, by using recording as both a subject and an application tool for discussing the political nature of sound. In the first stage, she returned to her hometown of Huwei in Yunlin County, where she joined forces with a century-old sugar factory. She invited retired workers in the town back to the factory, where they collectively participated in several sound workshops learning to use recording equipment step-by-step. Gradually, Wang handed over the equipment to the retired workers and their families, allowing them to work on their own, identifying and recording the sounds of their former work environment – their aural universe. Wang believes that whoever holds the microphone and what she or he records delineates, from different viewpoints, the right to speak, the right to interpret, and the power relationships between sound-maker and recipient. During the second post-production stage, she and her collaborators altered these sounds by means of “artistic manipulation”, reconstructing them at a new level of meaning as an artwork. Regarding this, Wang says, “Most of my early works were only subjective expressions of life experiences. In the past year, I’ve turned to exploring collective experiences. When doing this, it isn’t enough to explore my relationship with the larger environment or to use this as a metaphor. And it’s not enough for the artist to serve as a mediator. Through the intervention of art, I hope to trigger certain things, to help certain things materialize, and to explore what influences this can bring about”.

Text by Amy Cheng


Fei-Lung Chen, Pei-Fu Chen, Hsi-Yin Hsu, Jui-Ming Huang, David Y.L. Lin, Hsin-Ping Lin, Jung-Hui Lin, Pei-Yu Lin, Hsien-Fu Liu, Jo-Yi Pan, Chris Mann, Philippe Meaille, Hugues Mignot, Octavie Modert,  Chung-Chun Shen, Christiane Tonnar, Rudy Tseng, Tzu-Chang Wang, Hsu-Hu Yuan & everybody at Taiwan Sugar Huwei Factory who kindly assisted with this project