Aki Pao-Chen Chiu

Translating Erasure: Proposing Auto-theory as a Practice for Artistic Enquiry and Analysis while Comprehending Personal Grief

PhD Viva completed 2020-2021


This research project comprises an interwoven, overlapping body of artistic interventions and multiple forms of writing. Drawing on Virno and others, it addresses and theorises the ‘technosphere’: a would-be totalising, statically reproducing structure of perpetuating inequality, through which contemporary existence occurs. (1) Pivotal within the technosphere are textualised processes of proprietorial individuation and de-humanising abstraction. 

Erasure as an artistic technique has developed in my moving image work after my father’s passing. I export videos into sequences of thousands of images and erase outlines of the targeted objects in each frame. The repetitive and low conscious labour is a way to ease the agony and to grieve my father. Hours compressed into thousands of frames, turning into a glimpse of illusion and leaving a ghostly emptiness on the images. Both its visual presentation and making reflect the life events and encounters I’ve experienced in the UK and Taiwan in the past years.

I consider an artwork embodies interconnected relationships between one’s personal impulses and artistic training. As an art student, I have found it challenging to describe such a creative process with conventional academic writing. Within a construct that inclines to present thoughts as reasonable and rational arguments, my personal experiences and the intensity of feeling seem out of place. Within an academic framework, how can I make an argument out of how I have developed the erasure in my artwork to articulate grief, fading memories of a loved one, and the feeling of being removed from language and from the sense of belonging?

Through auto-theoretical approaches to writing and making of moving image work, this research aims to build a structure that can express both the intimate and intellectual aspects of an art practice. This writing up process interweaves my personal stories that motivate my artistic expression into art theories. The memories about my late father, my relationship with languages, and my lives between the UK and Taiwan meet with different artists’ uses of erasure.

As the conversations between the introspections and theoretical analysis accumulate, my writing and moving image work unravel an art journey that encompasses the nuances and struggles I’ve experienced as an international student. Within the search for an ideal model to illustrate an art practice, this research further generates profound understandings of memory, grief, loss, language, conflicted identities and cultural belonging.

Website: www.akipaochenchiu.com