TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Following recent comments criticizing and calling for the cancelation of the Tainan Art Museum’s upcoming “Ghosts and Hells: The Underworld in Asian Art” exhibition, netizens condemned the critics as “illogical” and “uncultured.”
Starting around Saturday (June 18), a group of Facebook users began posting criticism under the Tainan Art Museum’s post about the exhibition. Some wrote that the exhibition “will frighten children,” others wrote that the exhibition “pollutes” and “causes disorder” in society, while some wrote that art museums should “hold exhibitions that beautify people’s hearts.”
Facebook User Chen En-yuan (陳恩遠) commented, “I call for the art museum to stick to aesthetics and values of enthusiasm and positivity and correct social values rather than exhibit horrifying, frightening second-class cultures that are corrupt, dark, superstitious, and filled with sorcery. This not only diminishes the art museum’s style (to view hellish exhibitions, go to Baguashan) but also ruins social traditions. Please cancel the exhibition as early as possible.”
However, netizens were quick to post counterarguments, replying that as the exhibition has an entrance fee, parents who wish not to frighten or expose their children to the subject matter can choose not to bring their children to the event and simply not purchase tickets.
Supporters of the exhibition also wrote that the true source of pollution and disorder in society is narrowmindedness and double standards; many commented that “people are worse than ghosts.” They emphasized that since art is subjective, the definition of beauty varies from person to person, arguing that in a free country such as Taiwan, an art museum has the freedom to curate exhibitions, and anyone who dislikes the events has the freedom to choose not to go.
Netizens also quickly discovered that many users opposing the exhibition had a Christian background. The Humanistic Pastafarianism in Taiwan Facebook page posted an analysis on Wednesday evening (June 22), in which it found that out of the 31 people whose comments were collected, only five did not have Christian backgrounds.
Additionally, out of 70 comments left by the 31 people, 13 opposed “spirits and demons” or being superstitious; 13 deemed the exhibition “not positive”; 13 believed it goes against social traditions and is “crude”; 12 reflected the commentator’s own unhappiness or unease about the event. Other common comments included the belief that the exhibition would bring about curses or ghost possession, should not be held during a time of national crisis, is unsuitable for children, that the government should be responsible for showcasing subject matter that does not fit with local culture, and citations of Bible verses or prayers for God’s forgiveness.
In response to the controversy, the Tainan Art Museum wrote in a post on Wednesday, “Since ancient times, myths about ghosts and monsters have been a source of creativity. Many important works of literature, music, and visual art are related to them… The special ‘Ghosts and Hells: The Underworld in Asian Art’ exhibition presented by France’s Musee du quai Branly — Jacques Chirac in 2018 introduces Asia’s fear and imagination of the unknown world in the past several centuries in an in-depth but easily understandable way.”
The museum added a note in the post, as it had in every promotional post of the exhibition, “The ‘Ghosts and Hells: The Underworld in Asian Art’ exhibition includes content relating to ghosts and monsters. Those who are sensitive to the subject matter should exercise caution in deciding whether to visit; we recommend children under the age of 12 to be accompanied by adults when visiting.”