film, 70:12 min.
Taiwanese artist Chen Chieh-jen
’s films examine the history of his native country extending from Japanese colonial domination into the Cold War period following 1949 when the political party Kuomintang fled to Taiwan after battles with the Chinese Communists during the Chinese Civil War. Due to these conflicts, Taiwan has had a problematic position across the eras of the Cold War, the Martial Law period, and in the present day as it has become a locus for neoliberal global infrastructure. Haunting the current moment is the all-pervasive collective amnesia, which Chen’s works challenge by disclosing the hidden layers of social and historical contexts. Characteristically, the figures in Chen’s film enact the imaginary scenarios of the past, in which they encounter the ghosts of history as they move through the vacuous spaces of struggle, absence, and erasure. Empire’s Borders II— Western Enterprises Inc. unveils the little-known establishment of an American CIA stronghold in Taiwan between 1951 and 1955—operating under the facade of the trading company “Western Enterprises Inc.”—in support of the Taiwanese Anti-Communist National Salvation Army’s (NSA) takeover of Communist China. The work relates to Chen’s deceased father, himself an NSA member, who left behind an autobiography and a list of NSA soldiers killed during the China offensive. Chen’s fictive visit to the company’s ruined premises is a proposition for imagining and creating a transformative space where these suppressed histories might come to the fore and thus open a possibility for both a reconciliation with the past and new prospects for the future.