Archives of the Stained

This project began towards the end of 2018 as a research project led by the Taiwan Contemporary Culture Lab (C-LAB), a project that continues to collect and connect historical documents to Taiwan's cultural fields, which emanate from the tension between the stained and the ordered. How does stain become a social and cultural construct under the watchful eye of social order? And how, through the specks and blemishes left by such construction, that stains become recurring points of reference and identification for the masses?

This series of files attempt to capture the complex meaning of the “stained”: from public health policy’s tendency to address physical uncleanliness, to colonial medical views on the “uncivilized” symptoms of illness and pandemic, or folklore religion’s relating of disorder into the purview of moral decadence, karma, and tribulation. Our understanding of the stained is further reinforced by the methods of stigmatization, using the same language and rhetoric to address the underprivileged ones at the outer fringes of societal systems.

The polarizing concepts of cleanliness, civility, and morality, are themselves a set of symbols, like specks and blemishes, helping us discern and attach to points of “difference”. On the basis of systematic knowledge, we can name things and tell them apart. Just as in any archival system, objects are collected, labelled, sorted, and filed. All knowledge spaces are political spaces established on differences, and all acts of labeling are political actions dividing one from another.

Thinking about the connections between labels, traces, and archival connections, the naming of the archive room as “stained” has a double meaning. It not only describes the series of stained historical documents contained within, but also expresses the archival room as a product of operating under such staining_ within it, there are always objects which become marked, labeled, and left with traces.

Nevertheless, the implications of staining are not always discouraging. From the other side of the label, we see that staining can at times constitute a weapon against the mainstream cultural establishment, deliberately wielding the stained and brandishing it, converting it into an active cultural strategy, opening new imaginings for the existing order. This imagination is the Archives’ ultimate goal _ not only as a loose reference to the exhibition area, but a starting point for thinking about the meaning of “differences”. Undoubtedly, the sectional titles in this pamphlet is a compromise, just one of the many possible ways of addressing the question of difference.

Last but not least, the project owes special thanks to the National Museum of Taiwan History (NMTH) for their herculean effort in collecting and organizing commonplace artifacts of significance, allowing us to grapple with the complexity of digging through the vast pool of the “stained” artifacts. We also wish to thank the Museum for kindly providing the use of the items on loan, which makes up a significant portion of this exhibition. It is the efforts and hearts put in by all the partners that this Archives can therefore stand before you.

Other artworks


Taiwan Contemporary Culture Lab

No. 177, Sec. 1, Jianguo S. Rd., Da’an Dist., Taipei City 106, Taiwan (R.O.C.)