Chang Chao-Tang, the Ironic Absurdity
Chang Chao-Tang began with photography in 1959, while still in high school, which was during Taiwan’s long period of martial law, known as the White Terror that ended in 1987. Until recently, Chang executed his work in stark, shadowy black-and-white, fashioning a transformation of reality; his interest was in depth and strangeness rather than surface appearances. Eerie landscapes, strange rock formations and groups of people, obliquely lit, enhance the surrealist quality of many of the photographs.
Primarily a street photographer, Chang Chao-Tang’s work has been described as prophetic, and a modernist reflection of an absurd reality. His approach is a synthesis of western surrealism and existentialism with Chinese ideology. Chang’s work reveals the irony of life and death. His photography represents more of a status concerning life and human beings.
Many of Chang’s subjects lack a visible head or face. Headlessness is a common trope in surrealist photographic portraiture – a way for artists to reject a focus on the individual personality, as it became trendy, in opposite of the “selfies” world. Austerely critical of society’s absurdities, they show no trace of longing or desire. In three works from 1962, a figure is photographed in extremely shallow depth of field, his head bent so that the body seems to end at the neck. One image shows him standing on a ledge with a horizontal orientation that parallels the pavement in front of him and the clouds behind him, into which he seems to merge. In the second image, the man – in the same pose – is enlarged and cropped, leaving only the trunk of his body, looking like a violin à la Man Ray. In the third, a near-negative, he is reduced to a white outline, vaguely suggestive of the chalk contour around a dead body, although he is standing.
Looking at the Headlessness tradition, I wonder if the selfies came as a need of impose one’s personality, maybe from people who are in existential doubts. But that’s another story, and not so interesting as the headlessness one, that you can see more at “Anonymous: defaced, unfaced, 2faced and overfaced“.
But here you have the Ironic Absurdity of Chang Chao-Tang, inspired in the non-sense world we live in.
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The Experts and the Creative World on 2HeadS;
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