Chang Chung-Jen and Chang Chung-I became the first conjoined twins to be surgically separated in Taiwan. They were joined together from the stomach downwards: »Two heads, four hands, and three legs,« says Chang Chung-I in Che-Yu Hsu's video 副本人. This led to the twins only having one leg each after surgery. The 12 hour long operation at the National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei in September 1979 was broadcast live on television. Ever since, the brothers, who were three years old at the time, have lived in the spotlight. In 2019, the year to mark the 40th anniversary of their separation, Chang Chung-Jen suddenly died of a brain hemorrhage.
副本人 contemplates the relationship between body and memory from the perspective of the surviving brother. The autobiographical narration is combined with scenes that play with copy and repetition: Chang Chung-I folding and unfolding a napkin, completing infinite loops in a three-wheeled scooter, or pacing back and forth between vintage buses. When he was 21, he and his brother played two bus cafe owners in a movie. Having an abandoned bus recurs in his dreams. The staggering effect of these cyclical scenes without sound is further enhanced by the unexpected and surreal appearance of his two children, in the form of motionless digital renderings.
Che-Yu Hsu's artistic exploration of physical and virtual reproduction has been inspired by the fact that back in 1979, in order to prepare for the separation surgery, the hospital invited an artist to make a cast of the conjoined twins. The attempt to produce the cast failed, however, because the babies didn't hold still during the molding process. Nowadays, medical technology has advanced to 3D digital scanning to support the separation of conjoined twins. 副本人 eventually shows the archiving of the body of the 43-year old Chang Chung-I by re-casting it with the help of a silicone mold as well as through a 3D scan of him and his family using a hundred and more cameras. Putting into question the age-old human desire to create perfect models fuses with Chang's storytelling between reality and fantasy that keeps touching upon the metaphor of the missing limb he once shared with his twin brother. (Florian Wüst)
Images: Che-Yu Hsu, 副本人, 2019 © Che-Yu Hsu