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Sakuliu Pavavaljung to Represent Taiwan at 2021 Venice Biennale

For over 30 years Sakuliu has used his art to retrace and revitalize his traditional Paiwan culture, even infusing it with a contemporary spirit.

Sakuliu Pavavaljung, “Carrying Ritual” (2014), from the Paiwan Wedding Ceremony series (image courtesy the artist)

Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM) is pleased to announce Sakuliu Pavavaljung as the sole artist representing Taiwan at the 59th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale 2021.

“This is a special time,” says Taipei Fine Arts Museum Director Ping Lin. “The global pandemic has given us cause to deeply reflect, and it forces us to reexamine the relationship between people and other species and objects. Sakuliu is a gifted storyteller. His diverse forms of art tell us lost tales, span contemporary culture, politics, and economics, and loosen the pre-established mainstream knowledge structure, making us rethink how to thrive harmoniously together with the environment we depend on.”

Regarding his participation in the exhibition, Sakuliu remarks, “I have always believed that the art I have done for so many years was born out of my connection with the destiny of my people. It is spread out through life, so it’s hard to separate from life at any given moment. Whenever I have the chance to do an exhibition, it always makes my heart race. I imagine I’m entering a hunting ground I’ve never set foot in before. It tests my mind, courage, and skill. How can I win the favor of my prey? This is a big challenge. I will try to share my own life experience in this grand event.”

Sakuliu Pavavaljung (1960–) has been highly acclaimed for his practice as a socially engaged all-around artist. Growing up in a family of artisans of the Paiwan people in the village of Tavadran, Pingtung County, his art is not limited to any one form. He excels at painting, sculpture, architecture, and installation. In the Paiwan language, his name means “arrow,” and by extension, “stepping forward.” Carrying out the mission entrusted in him by his name, Sakuliu is dedicated to developing new ideas and preserving his heritage. At 24 Sakuliu founded a studio to preserve and revive Paiwan arts through teaching. Before the age of 30, he established the “Tavadran Tribal Classroom,” initiating education reform among his people to uplift the younger generation. For over 30 years he has used his art to retrace and revitalize his traditional culture, even infusing it with a contemporary spirit.

Patrick Flores, who has long been active in Asian contemporary art and inspired by Austronesian cultural studies, will curate the exhibition for Taiwan. Flores is Professor of Art Studies at the University of the Philippines and a curator at the Vargas Museum in Manila. He served as curator of the Philippine Pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale and artistic director of the Singapore Biennale in 2019. 

Regarding this collaboration, Professor Flores remarks, “The work of Sakuliu Pavavalijung comes from a distinct place in the vast creative world of Taiwan. As it is rooted and reared in the indigenous lifeworld of the Paiwan people, so is it, in the same breath, in dynamic interaction with the quickly changing social context around it. Sakuliu stands in this intersection and endeavors to transform spaces across and within it. Coming from the Philippines and Southeast Asia, I am keen to plot out coordinates between these two points of the south in the larger context of Austronesian culture and reflect on the current discussion on what it means to be either contemporary or local, or both at once.”