“Paths to Utopia”, as the result of the online artist-in-residency supported by Jim Thompson Art Center  
and Hong Gah Museum, includes a large world map, a single-channeled video and an interactive video
game, all of which explore the connection between the concepts of island and utopia while applying
“utopia” as a verb.
The large world map here might look like the Google Map that we are familiar with, but after a closer look,
you would notice that California is an island instead of a peninsula; a piece of continent named Atlantis
is located between North America and Europe; Tibet and Scotland are both independent countries; and
many more unfamiliar descriptions. Cheng visualized the phantom islands that existed throughout history
on top of her own subjective utopian interpretation of the world. She believes that each phantom island
represents a version of utopia in different eras. During the exhibition, Cheng invites the audience to fill in
a form to create its own utopian islands reflecting the ideal society that we would like to live in.
The single-channeled video is composed of the footage of the island Koh Phi Phi Leh found on Youtube,
accompanied by the audio extracted from the movie “The Beach” by Danny Boyle. Islands, due to their
secluded nature, are constantly being applied as the contexts where utopias are born. With its exotic,
almost orientalist, perspective, the Hollywood movie used Koh Phi Phi Leh as the filming location to
create the fictional utopian island, where the arrival of humans ruined its status of being a utopia. Utopia,
as the origin of the word implies, means the perfect world that we can never reach. In the video, Cheng
arranged the footage found in an order based on the distance between the camera and the island,
creating a feeling of approaching without arriving. Through the narrative, Cheng tried to discuss the
possibility of applying “utopia” as a verb instead of a result, and its connection with social movements. If
utopia is an island where we can never reach, then we are constantly swimming towards it.
The interactive video game can be played here.
Details of the Map and the Exhibition view at 182 Art Space, Tainan. (Right)
Installation shot at Hong-gah Museum, Taipei (Below)