Paul Chan’s work is as fluid and dynamic as any community ought to be: Historical documents coexist with animated gifs, philosophical essays have symbiotic relationships with personal records, and literature classics and computer codes copulate and procreate entire families of digital fonts. While in some cases he creates his own files, very often he also makes use of existing ones.
In fact, Chan’s aesthetic and intellectual work has been largely informed not only by his “reckless reading,” but most importantly, by mis-reading. For some of his pieces, he has mis-read and appropriated classics such as Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, Plato’s Phaedrus, The 120 Days of Sodom by Marquis de Sade, as well as the thinking of infamous and iconic figures such as Duchamp, Saddam Hussein, and Nietzsche.
His new series of essays is no exception. He’s currently mis-reading Homer’s Odyssey, thinking of Odysseus as an artist. Keywords in his essays include: that moment, elation, “echo reconciles,” Adorno, form, “fatefulness,” Calypso, cave, contemporary art, homesickness, zones of engagement, Ithaca, luxury, alienation, the Iliad, force, gravity, cunning, polutropos, Athena, sophia, honor, themis, aristoi, Hesiod, aidos, glory, demos, bow and arrow, harbinger, reason, Athenian democracy, Sperber and Mercier, confirmation bias, credit card fraud, and art as cunning.
Paul Chan (b. 1973, Hong Kong) lives in New York. A survey entitled Selected Works was mounted by Schaulager in Basel, Switzerland (April 11–October 19, 2014). His work has been exhibited widely in many international shows including: Documenta 13, Kassel, 2012; Before The Law, Ludwig Museum, Cologne, 2011–12; Making Worlds, 53rd Venice Biennale, Venice, 2009; Medium Religion, ZKM, Karlsruhe, 2008; Traces du sacrê, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2008; 16th Biennale of Sydney, Sydney, 2008; 10th International Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul, 2007; and the Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of Art, New York, 2006. Solo exhibitions include: My Laws are My Whores, The Renaissance Society and the University of Chicago, Chicago, 2009; Paul Chan: Three Easy Pieces, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge, 2008; Paul Chan: The 7 Lights, Serpentine Gallery, London and New Museum, New 2007–2008; Paul Chan, Para/Site art space, Hong Kong, 2006.
In 2002, Chan was a part of Voices in the Wilderness, an American aid group that broke U.S. sanctions and federal law by working in Baghdad before the U.S. invasion and occupation. In 2007, he produced a site-specific outdoor presentation of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in New Orleans. Chan’s essays and interviews have appeared in Artforum, Frieze, Flash Art, October, Tate etc, Parkett, Texte Zur Kunst, Bomb, and other magazines and journals.
In 2010, Chan founded the publishing house Badlands Unlimited, which publishes ebooks, paper books, and artist works in digital and print forms.