Artist Paul Chan sustains his activism, philosophical ideals, geo-political views, and his vocation as an artist by producing art that is both politically minded and cognizant of the peripheries of philosophical thought.
Sade for Sade’s Sake (2009), Chan’s piece for the 53st Venice Biennale (2009), a play on the phrase “art for art’s sake”, is a three-channel animation in which softly focused shadow-like imagery depicts human bodies in physical movement. These figures talk animatedly, argue, and plea with one another, walk and crawl, are beaten and whipped, and engage in sexual activities and religious rituals. Interspersed among them are shadows of rectangles, squares, and other shapes that can be interpreted as artwork hung on walls, windows in a room, or even devotional objects. The piece has an intuitive rhythmic structure; each forty-five-second scene relates to the next like stanzas in a poem. Sade for Sade’s Sake offers Chan’s interpretation of the sentiments evoked by the late-eighteenth-century French author Marquis de Sade. Here are the experiences we have yet to fully understand through conscious thought: sex enmeshed with freedom, violence wrapped up with reason, art entangled in it all.