Mark - A rhinoceros in the city

by Araceli Mangione

In the middle of one of the oldest metro stations in the world, the London Bank Station, a rhinoceros is underway. The animated white rhinoceros is named Mark, just like the Canadian Bank Manager Mark Carney, who is now Gouverneur of the Bank of England. The glorious, steady, and sure-footed creature is a recurring theme of the art world, dating back to ancient Chinese vessels to more recent works such as in German painter Albrecht Dürer's (1471-1528) woodcut prints and South African artist William Kentridge's (b. 1955) lithography.

Szu-Ying Hsu's (born 1983 in Taipei, Taiwan) idea to release a rhinoceros into the city originated from meeting a certain rhinoceros, a prior stage prop for the play, Rhinocéros, from the Romanian French playwright Eugéne Ionesco (1909-1994). The rhinoceros is viewable at the Victoria and Albert Museum where it is considered a key feature of the Theater and Performance collection. Written in 1959, the story depicts human beings being transformed into rhinos which is displayed as a humorous yet uncomfortable phenomenon that the people eventually begin to admire and follow. „Mark“ also alludes to this particular collective need but is instead reflected into a contemporary context. Thanks to social media, individuals may no longer have this sense of lonliness, however, an assurance through constant recognition is still at play. The irrationality of the act shakes up those who are trapped in their automatism by pushing for a reaction, which reversely places the observer into a position of self-awareness. How shall he decide his next step? Does he intuitively reach for his smart phone or does he simply choose not to engage?

From Taiwan to Germany to England and back to Germany, not only has Hsu's home expanded but her approach towards art. At the Taipei National University of Arts (TNUA), Hsu specialised in contemporary Chinese tint and oil painting and sculpture. During her studies in Germany, Hsu has focused on experimental film and performance art. Since Europe stands for a specific concept of human existence involving various cultures and social systems, Hsu searches for a co-existence. Trapped between worlds, Hsu often returns back to a nostalgia for childhood joy, liberation and fantasy. Though playful and curious, the work also demonstrates individual insecurities and anxieties.