I’m fascinated by the moral ambiguity of humanity. For example, why do we condemn some men as “deviant” and others as “heroes” for taking the same immoral action? In both cases, torturing another human has to be enjoyable for the torturer – otherwise, they wouldn’t have the ability to carry it out. And where does the morality of a viewer fall when we look at images that are meant to shock and disgust and excite us? Using archival images of lingchi, a torture method also known as “death by a thousand cuts,” and other historically state-sanctioned torture methods, Taiwanese artist Chen Chieh-jen created his digital artwork series Revolt in the Soul and Body, 1990–1999. The photos from this series are jarring, especially when you realize the reality behind the events they capture. By digitally manipulating these photos, Chen Chieh-jen is aiming to create a sense of disconnection from the events themselves and invoke a sense of trauma porn. The gallery I’ve put together below shows his work from this series and others, but all of them show how grotesque we allow ourselves to be in the name of law.
I deliberately chose these images, for which the dates they are taken, the photographers and the subjects photographed are all indeﬁnite. Since I am not interested in national history, but a history of an image in which the event is unclear, the photographed subject is unknown. In such conditions, uncertainty generates a sense of trance and unspeakable disconnection.