“No matter how technical an artwork seems to be, it’s still the mere extension of humanity.” This was the comment made by director Huang Ming-Chuan, who has been documenting contemporary artists for a long time, on his documentary Shyu Ruey-Hsuann. As Taiwan’s pioneer in kinetic art installation, Shyu considered the interaction between people wonderful, and his works were always reflective to the surroundings. He commented: “There are so many wasteful events in the world, and it’s probably because none of us has enough comprehension of the value of human’s existence.”
“‘Never give up.’ This is how people describe me when it comes to art creation. But to be honest, once you make your choice to use this medium, you have to face it this way. Or I should probably say, you don’t have to engage with kinetic devices because you will have to spend lots of time and effort to work with them.”
“I don’t think of it as a persistent decision because, just like many other things, once the conditions are set, you must finish it under those conditions. Not to mention it’s your own choice.”
The work “Pregnancy” is in the form of a clear hemisphere that protrudes from the wall and contains a complex structure of metal, motor, and pulley. When the button is pressed, the device transforms into another shape. Its appearance suggests the maternal body. With unknown lives growing up from inside, the mechanical system is like the blood and bones of human beings which beget lives. It’s conflicting but also expressive as the metals are used to portray the ambiguous object which seems to be an infant in a mother’s belly and the components are used to depict the structure of a human’s body.
“Your question was if I consider myself a practitioner of meditation. Actually, I realise that this medium is giving me trial, but meanwhile it’s the one and only way out for me. “
“The value of life is to make yourself a better person; new spirits can only be found after torture and trial.”
Shyu Ruey-Hsuann’s practice of art requires trivial, exquisite effort with high precision as he always begins with draft, finer quality of draft, and then employs precise cutting with extremely-low margin of error, production of tiny components, assembling, adjustment, wielding of diverse methods, and etc. “I was trying to make an axis, but I failed for more than 30 times. To produce a precise component by the lathe, the margin of error should be lower than 0.002, which was like dividing the length of 1cm to 1000 parts. This is the precision one needs to achieve to be considered successful,” Shyu said.
“No matter how technical an artwork seems to be, it’s still the mere extension of humanity.” This is the comment made by director Huang Ming-Chuan, who has been documenting contemporary artists for a long time, on his documentary Shyu Ruey-Hsuann. At the first sight, the works of Shyu Ruey-Hsuann, Taiwan’s pioneer in kinetic art installation, are made of ice-cold machines like some heavy, cold-blooded sculptures, but they are actually rich in gentleness, brilliance, and warmth when one comes closer to them in biennials or art museums.
There are more people who picture Shyu Ruey-Hsuann as the artist who grants wastes new lives, who creates moving objects in public view and stops the passers-by, or whose kinetic devices are featured in public art projects. No matter how people learn of him, the best inspiration of Shyu’s works are his mother, sister, brother, and family members.
“My mother raised us up by collecting and selling wastes. I always tell people the luckiest thing I have ever encountered in my life is having a mother like her. ”
“My father hurt me instead. Domestic violence, overdrunk, … his behaviours are not lawful in modern society, but they were prevalent in the past. You’ve got to understand it’s not the case that everyone has the chance of being loved. Many children are abused and harmed. It’s upset to figure something like this, and that makes you wonder why people act like this. You don’t want to curse the villains, but you know that no one deserves the abuse, and no one has the privilege to hurt other people even though they are the parents of the victims.”
“What I always tell people is that growth belongs to yourself. Each fall of yours plays only a tiny part in your life. You should always remember: The most important thing is that everything continues to accumulate in your life.”
Despite of the bad fortune in his childhood – lack of resources, father’s domestic violence, loss of his beloved family member – Shyu never feels desperate in his life and always greets people with beam. “The older I grow, the more I consider lives and time precious. For every single day I remain in this world, I should make the most of it,” said Shyu.
“My beloved older sister passed away before I was fully grown up. I was younger than her for only one year, so we had been pretty close. After her death, I grew to be more mature. My sister committed suicide for romantic issues. Many people considered it unworthy, but I believed in the values behind the story. I believe that things are like seeds, which will grow to find out their values gradually. Therefore, you can’t judge a thing abruptly.”
“I didn’t grow to be mature because of any speeches or religions as both of which would instead make our minds less open. If you grow mature due to perpetual self-reflection, that would bring deeper meanings to your growth and make it more real.”
Shyu continues to transform his life experiences into artworks during his study in France, the establishment of his studio in New York, and the exhibitions of his works in New York’s art museums. People are always impressed by the representation of life in his works. The Wings of Travellers was inspired by the train tickets of his study in France, which were reincarnated in metal form and folded in the shape of migratory birds. Another work of his, One Kind of Behaviour, has lids on the sands fling open and cover up right away like hermit crabs lifting their heavy shells hard on the sands.
“I think I am the richest guy in the world because I can make art; richness is in my mind. But I usually tell my students that choosing a career as an artist is difficult and tough. If you want to be an independent creator, you will have to go through many difficulties.” It seemed like all the difficulties in the world are not comparable to a career as a professional artist from Shyu’s perspective.
“I tell my students quite often that I am a good example. I can be what I am now thanks to so many people behind the scenes. You cannot imagine why you deserve the unconditional assistance offered by so many people, but that reminds you to keep working hard as well.”
“There are so many people helping you without getting into your knowledge. You may not be able to figure out who they are, or you simply miss them, or you have no knowledge about their existence at all, nut they are all behind the scenes of your success. This is how the world runs. People waste things because they know nothing about or forget others’ contribution. When you are being helped by so many people unconditionally, you should try harder not to waste what you have.”
“I don’t ask for a longer life, but I will never leave my life wasted.”
“There are so many wasteful events in the world, and it’s probably because none of us has enough comprehension of the value of human’s existence. There are much more things and lives coexist in this world rather than the mere existence of oneself. There are so many things and people that are giving you trial to accomplish you. The reason we are so ego is because we deem things as materials and we view others as consumerists. The reason people fight with others is to accomplish themselves, be they smaller or greater wars, or the wars between nations.” What Shyu described in his words or artworks were the purest bond between people and his respect for the precious lives.