Graduated from the Taipei National University of the Arts with a degree in art theory, he has exhibited internationally. In 1997, he represented Taiwan in “Facing Faces-Taiwan” at the Venice Biennale. After that, he took part in the International Triennale of Contemporary Art Yokohama (2005), APT6 (2009), Taipei Biennial (2010), Shanghai Biennale (2012), Beijing Photo Biennale (2013), Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale, Venice Architecture Biennale, Media City Seoul Biennale, Asia Triennial Manchester (2014), Asia Biennale (2015), Sydney Biennale (2016), and Shanghai Biennale (2018). Yao is the winner of the Multitude Art Prize (Hong Kong) in 2013 and 2014 Asia pacific Art Prize (Singapore). He received the Taishin Arts Award (Taiwan) in 2018. He is also widely involved in the fields of theater and films.
Yao specializes in photography, installation, and painting. The themes of his works are varied, but they all examine the absurdity of the human condition. Representative works include the “Action Series,” where he explores Taiwan’s identity in Military Takeover (1994), subverts modern Chinese political myths in Recovering Mainland China (1997), and examines post-colonialism in The World is for All (1997–2000), as well as Long March — Shifting the Universe (2002).
In recent years, he has created photo installations combining the style of “gold and green landscape” with the superstitions that permeate Taiwanese folklore, expressing a false and alienated “cold reality” that is specific to Taiwan. Representative works include the series “Celestial Barbarians” (2000), “Savage Paradise” (2000), and “Heaven” (2001). Another photo installation series “Libido of Death” (2002) and “Hill” (2003) probe the eternal issue of body and soul.
Recently, Yao Jui-Chung has assembled all the black-and-white photos of ruins he took in the past 15 years, grouped under the themes of industry, religious idols, architecture, and military bases. They reveal the enormous ideological black hole in Taiwan hidden behind the trends of globalization and Taiwan’s specific historical background as a continuation of the main theme of his work: the absurdity of the historical destiny of humanity.
Since 2007, Yao has started a series of works, including Wonderful (2007), Dust in the Wind (2008–2010), Dreamy (2008–2010), Romance (2009) and Honeymoon (2010–2011). He appropriates masterpieces from Chinese art history and reinterprets them in his own way, transforming them into his personal history or real stories in an attempt to turn grand narratives into the trivial affairs of his personal life. Yao intends to usurp the so-called orthodoxy with his recreated landscapes.
In 2010, Yao grouped his students into a team of photography workshop called the “Lost Society Document” (LSD). He encouraged them to photograph and survey in their hometowns. Through the way of field survey, they attempt to portray “mosquito houses,” which have been widely criticized. Titled Mirage: Disused Public Property in Taiwan, seven volumes of the photographs taken by the LSD have been published, encapsulating art’s potential as a tool for social observation.
Apart from art making, Yao Jui-Chung has also curated exhibitions, including The Realm of Illusion — The New Wave of Taiwan Photography (2002), King-Kong Never Dies — The Contemporary Performance & Video Art in Taiwan (2003), and Spellbound Aura — The New Vision of Chinese Photography (2004). His essays have been published in numerous art journals. He is a prolific author, publications including Installation Art in Taiwan Since 1991–2001 (2002), The New Wave of Contemporary Taiwan Photography Since 1999 (2003), Roam the Ruins of Taiwan (2004), Performance Art in Taiwan 1978–2004 (2005), A Walk in Contemporary Art: Roaming the Rebellious Streets (2005), Ruined Islands (2007), Yao Jui-Chung (2008), Beyond Humanity (2008), Nebulous Light (2009), and Biennial-Hop (2010), Mirage: Disused Public Property in Taiwan Ⅰ, Ⅱ, Ⅲ, Ⅳ, V, Ⅵ, Ⅶ (2010–2018), Incarnation (2017), and Photo-logues Ⅰ&Ⅱ (2018, 2019).
His work is housed in renowned institutions and private collections, including the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan; Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Kaohsiung, Taiwan; National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taichung, Taiwan; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia; Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art Collection, Cornell University, U.S.; Bibliothèque National de France, Paris, France; Art Museum of Seoul, Seoul, South Korea. Yao Jui-Chung currently works as an artist and associate professor at the Department of Fine Arts of the National Taiwan Normal University. He is also on the board of directors of the National Culture and Arts Foundation.