About Fortune-Telling Sticks 100 Project

Independent curator and art critic

Swordance Shih

Who is the Fortune Teller?

Independent curator and art critic

Swordance Shih


I am a fatalist, and I make this declaration under a deliberate consideration. For the one who is not a fatalist would say: there are always choices. However, how would those choices come to you? When you have to choose from A or B, do you ever think, where is C and where is the other options? I think this is the best explanation for fatalism: there is always a free will to choose, however we can not control the options. The options are controlled by a pair of invisible hands – fate.


“And time for all the works and days of hands

That lift and drop a question on your plate;”

        ~ quote from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Stanza 29th and 30th


     I considered the “hands” as a higher beings than human. Who can life and drop a question on your plate? I think it is god, or gods in any religion, or the nature force. The works and days of the god, gods, or nature forces are lifting your past questions, answered or not answered, and drop new questions on your plate. The works and days of human are keeping choosing among the questions.


     The annual exhibition of Show Your Island Artist Group in 2017 is named “A Later from Future”. Each artist will receive a latter which is written in future tense, and he or she has to follow the “instructions” in the letter to finish his or her works. Art is free, it can not be forced to do something or not to do something, however, the artists still have to follow the letters. It’s like that you have choices, but you don’t have other options. This letter is like the hands of god that drop a question on your plate. The only thing you do is to swallow it, and the choices is how you do it.


     Hence, the fate creates a series humor chemical reactions to Hou Chung Ying.


     His project for “A Letter from Future” is named “100 Lottery Poetries”. The lottery poetry is a traditional way of fortune telling in the temples around Taiwan. You can take out a bamboo sticks or an iron bar which engraved with poetry. And a fortune teller will interpret that poetry for you to unveil the mask of future. In “A Letter from Future”. Hou Chung Ying is asked to leave traditional field of art such as museums and galleries. At the meantime, he is also required to get outside of his painting studio and face the crowd with performance art.


     It seems like an impossible mission. His solution is to act like a real fortune teller. He wooden-printed the 100 lottery poetry from the famous temple – Lung Shan Temple. He carried those printings in a bike and performed like a fortune teller around the city. He is forced to complete an artistic project by the hand of fate. Intriguingly, he performed as hands of fate in front of the crowd to resonate the topic of this annual exhibition.


    Hou Chung Ying’s works have been focused on hands, such as the series of “Allegories of Hands”, and “Landscapes of Hands”. He has been discussing the metaphors and meanings of hands in different cultures. At the same time he elaborate the phases, shapes and meanings of hands by painting hands from micro to macro points of views. He is pursuing the “God Hand” (in Taiwan that means an expert), and challenging the “hands of fate”. In this project, the motion of drawing a lottery poetry is responding to the ultimate spirit of his previous works – draw (means the challenge to the fortune). Through the motion of drawing, and the combination of hand of fate, he shall finish this project delicately.


     For the crowds, they will be in a storm of fate. They know the draw their own fortune, however, who set those 100 lottery poetries for them?