Exhibition challenges definition of home

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An art exhibit being shown over two sites in Sydney is challenging the way people define the word 'home'.

Home is the theme of a collection of photographs and videos created by two Taiwanese artists. They feature stories of people faced with extraordinary situations.

Master photographer Chien-Chi Chang is poring over a collection of photographs on a table inside Sydney art gallery.

He's using them as a template to arrange a life-sized display of the same photos shot more than 15 years ago.

The Taiwanese artist says it feels like they were taken yesterday.

"They're still vivid to me, close, so close. That some of them actually come to my dreams some."

The photographs are of Taiwanese psychiatric patients living inside a kind of last chance facility.

Each black and white photo features two men standing together - most with a vacant look on their faces. Each pair is chained together at the waist, which is how they spend much of their days.

Chien-Chi Chang says he first visited the men while working as a newspaper photographer in 1993.

"We always have this desire, need, obsession to see things ourselves so I went. The very first time I was in disbelief, I couldn't believe that," he said.

He spent the next six years building enough trust to gain the access needed to take the haunting black and white pictures.

The photographs convey a sense of repetition. While the faces may change, the composition remains the same - two men and a chain. The repetition is not accidental, and emphasises the impact.

They are now being displayed inside the National Art School Gallery as part of a larger exhibit called "home". The other half of that exhibit is housed inside another gallery about 10 minutes away. It features stark gray boxes that resemble phone booths.

In one of them - Danielle - who didn't want to reveal her last name - is sitting on a cramped bench with headphones on listening to a recorded story.

"I have slept in a few rough places. I have lived in hotel rooms, motel rooms," she said.

The voice she's listening to for the first time today is her own. Danielle is one of four homeless women featured in an exhibit by another Taiwanese artist Chen Chieh-jen.

Each share their stories and offer a glimpse into a life that few can imagine. The death of Danielle's partner 10 years ago started a downward spiral - that she says left her struggling - and homeless.

"I just wanted to show people that homelessness isn't what their first perception of it would be. It's really an anxiety-ridden kind of feeling - it's a hopeless situation."

The entire exhibit challenges the way most of us think of the word "home" - through video stories and photographs of people faced with unimaginable situations.

Some of the most confronting images are of the men chained together. Some look unaware of their surroundings. Others, Chien-Chi Chang says, seem painfully resigned to a life they can't escape.

"This is their home. They are disowned by their own family members and I suppose they have to come to the conclusion that the notion of home for them is different once they are in this institution - not by choice."

Source: World News Australia

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