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Hung-Chih Peng: Canine Monk

Opening : May 24th.
Location : 526 West 26th Street – 4th Floor – Room 416
Gallery Hours : Tuesday to Saturday 11 am – 6 pm and by appointment

Virgil de Vold?re Gallery is pleased to present Canine monk, our first solo show with the Taiwanese artist Hung-Chih Peng.


A white dog appears mid-screen and begins to lick a white wall. With each lick, words emerge and a sentence becomes clear: And God said. Once the sentence is completed with pacing and rapid tongue movement, the dog bows his head and recoils backwards out of the frame only to reappear a moment later and write: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…


In the ‘Canine Monk’ series, Peng writes words from religious texts in oil and covers each letter with ground dog food. After the dog licks the wall clean, the process is repeated. The act of writing is non-linear, sometimes fervent, but the methodical repetition fosters an almost pensive tranquility. These works are intimately bound to the technology of video; when the common feature of rewind is used, the role of the dog changes from instinctive creature to creative agent. The videos also thematize another 'rewind'; god is dog in reverse.


Peng began the series with Buddhist, Taoist and Hindi religious scriptures. Several of these pieces address the unity of human kind and nature. Since these texts are inscribed in their language of origin, the Western viewer is left to first contemplate them on formal terms alone. Only when the sentence is completed do the English subtitles appear. In this way, the videos often nimbly shift from the exasperation of incomprehension to the great satisfaction that occurs when understanding is finally achieved.


Upon living temporarily in New York, Peng became interested in exploring the foundational texts of Western religions. He was especially struck by the many linguistic and thematic commonalities between Islam and Christianity. ‘Ten Commandments and Islamic Exegesis’ is a dual-screen projection. On the left, the dog marks the Ten Commandments in Hebrew, while, on the right, almost identical quotes are excerpted from the Koran - only here, they are written out in English. The English writing makes the Islamic text seem the most familiar and readable of the two for the average American audience. Using the most unbiased of arbitrators, Peng continually aspires to create a medium for cultural translation.

同時是無辜的、低等的生物及令人信任的伴侶,這隻傳遞神聖經文的狗佔據了一種正反兩極的位置。當美國藝術家William Wegman常將他的狗穿上衣服,然後安置成一種擬人化的劇情人物時,彭那四隻腿的夥伴被提升至一個表演的主體,從而取代他的對立角色﹣人類。這隻狗介入了讀者及文字之間,並提供了在內文中的一種疏離感,然後激起通常被認為難懂的議題:誰才是這些經文背後的書寫主題?及訴求的對象是?當從狗的嘴中傳遞出來時,奇怪的是這些文字變成了更人性化。

At once innocent creature, inferior species as well as trusted companion, the dog holds an ambivalent position as conveyer of sacred texts. While the artist William Wegman often dresses up his dogs and positions them in anthropomorphic scenarios, Peng's four-legged companion is elevated to performing subject, thereby displacing its human counterpart. The dog intervenes between reader and text, thereby defamiliarizing its content and raising issues that often otherwise remain opaque: Who is the writing subject behind these scriptures and to whom are they addressed? When delivered via the mouth of the dog, these words, strangely, seem all the more human.

文:Sara Lookofsky

By Sara Lookofsky
Chinese Translation by: Hung-Chih Peng