“My work is like some anonymous person hiding in a corner who sneakily picks up a rock and throws it at you.”

Born Taipei, Taiwan, 1974

Like most of us, Tsui Kuan-Yu has problems. One of the most intractable is finding a way to live in, and with, the everyday world—a world where the laws of physics rule, and no amount of wishing can change stubborn facts. “Every day when we wake up,” he says, “the first thing we think about is not art, it’s the issues of daily life, the things we come in contact with.” We all escape from time to time to a parallel world of fantasy, in which impossible things happen all the time. But every sane adult knows the two worlds are separate. In his videos, Tsui Kuan-Yu goes “insane”: he interacts with the everyday world as if it were a fantasy world, and keeps doing so—with no change in his deadpan expression—even when reality literally hits him on the head. In 18 Copper Guardians of Shaolin Temple and Penetration (2001), he approaches the intractably ordinary with the mien of an urban dweeb but the attitude of one of the legendary warrior heroes of his title, who can penetrate any object, see through any barrier, and react to threats in an instant. The three parts of the video, The Penetrative, The Perceptive, and The Spontaneous, present him walking into walls, guessing (wrongly) what objects are being thrown at him from behind, and vomiting at random. “I am not really a very humorous person,” the artist insists. In fact, “When viewers say, ‘I like your art, it’s funny,’ I am a bit disappointed.” His real aim is to make people think: “What are the possibilities in everyday life? How do I deal with it? How can I transform it?”

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