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Sticky Rice Turtle, 2017, two-channel video installation, 16 min 9 sec. Courtesy of the artist.

Sticky Rice Turtle, 2017, mixed media, 310 × 180 × 190 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

Sticky Rice Turtle, 2017, mixed media, 310 × 180 × 190 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

CHI Kai-Yuan

The First Genre: Sacrifice and Salvation

For me, the Sticky Rice Turtle series marks the beginning of a relationship and is also the first step of artistic self-reflection. This work connects me with my grandmother and reminds me of my childhood memory of watching pastry chefs make sticky rice turtles. This unique connection has become the inspiration for the first work of the Qi-gui series in 2017, which shows the “routine labor” I have established with two pastry chefs that takes place every year in the run-up to the Lantern Festival. By making these sticky rice turtles, the craftsmanship is memorized by the body. The process is filmed in a quasi-documentary style so that the pastry chefs’ making of sticky rice turtles is captured in a way that is close to how the act is experienced physically. The two-channel video and the dream-like independent soundtrack are presented as the three lines of narration, implying the intimacy between myself and this cultural practice. Deep inside the work is a display shelf in the shape of a turtle tail, displaying Qi-gui videos that have been collected since I was seven. When the Lantern Festival and the days of making sticky rice turtles are over, dreams become compensation to yearning, while the video becomes a method of retracing time.

Qi-gui is a devotional practice along the southern coast of Taiwan. Often during the Lantern Festival, temples will commission pastry chefs in making “Sticky Rice turtles” of various sizes, while people pray to the gods for blessings and prosperity by casting bwa-bwei moon blocks (wooden divination tools which are used in pairs to answer a yes or no question), confirmed by the gods through three consecutive shing-bwei “divine answers” (with one block flat and the other round). The person granted prosperity turtle is blessed with prosperity and care for the upcoming year, and will return the next year with an order heavier or with more turtles than the year before, continuing year after year.


Born in Kaohsiung, Taiwan in 1983, Chi is a PhD student in the Graduate School of Contemporary Visual Culture and Practice at National Taiwan University of Arts. With participation of artist residencies in recent years, he continues to explore the relationship between “space/place” and “people/culture,” utilizing quotidian objects as the main medium in his work. He was selected in the residency program in New York by Asian Cultural Council, and has completed residencies at Gyeonggi Creation Center (Korea, 2018), Schaumbad (Austria, 2017), International Studio & Curatorial Program (New York, 2016), 18th Street Arts Center (Los Angeles, 2015), Pier-2 Art Center (Kaohsiung, 2014) and Treasure Hill Artist Village (Taipei, 2013). In 2014, he was awarded the Grand Prize of Taipei Arts Awards, and held his solo exhibition at Taipei Fine Arts Museum in 2017.