Photographer and journalist Hubert Kilian shares his experiences documenting the side of Taipei behind the glitz and the glamour in black and white, a side of Taipei that is often forgotten.

---- A photo exhibition in Taipei

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On August 1st 2013, Radio Taiwan International celebrated its 85th anniversary. For the occasion, Aurélie Kernaleguen and Xavier Mehl, the hosts of the French language programming, presented a series of portraits in black and white, featuring their colleagues from different departments of the organization. In the following video they introduce their two year project.


Betty Apple 鄭宜蘋  ///  Photo by Damien Owen Trainor (via White Fungus)

July 6, 2013 was a special day for Taiwan's noise music scene. Merzbow playing in Taipei! The excitement was viral, Introductory articles and audio links started to flood Facebook walls weeks before the event. The event was a collaboration between Kandala Records, a noise music label based in Taiwan and White Fungus, an art magazine that is founded by two New Zealand expats in Taiwan.

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片名∣午夜巴黎 Midnight in Paris
導演伍迪‧艾倫 Woody Allen


An interview with Max Savage

max screenshot

Max Savage is a young French musician living in Taipei. He received us in his little studio, nested at the top of one of those 70s buildings, surrounded by plants and flowers, closer to the sky and the god Ra. He has just finished recording his first EP named "heliogram" and soon to be released free for download. In the meanwhile, discover a radiant artist who will take you far from the roaring city. 

The success of the Art Taipei 2012 confirmed Taiwan’s growing influence as a contemporary art hub. It also highlighted Taiwans background as the cultural cross-road of Asia, connecting as different realities as China, the South-Pacific area, and the Middle  East.

The Gateway to Asia

When considering Taiwanese culture and society, one cannot fail to notice how Taiwan’s place on the World’s map has determined  its fate in history.

A Crossroad, a Gateway, a Meeting Place: all definitions that apply to this “Kingdom of High Mountains”, emerging from the clash between gigantic  continental plaques to stand as bridge connecting the powerful northern empires of  China, Japan, Korea, and the kaleidoscopic world of South Pacific.[1]

In time, people from the West reached Taiwan to trade, preach, or invade: the island’s destiny being manifested in the many names given to it: Liuqiu, Takasago, Formosa, and finally Taiwan.[2]

Like all crossroads, Taiwan was a theatre for wars, conflict and invasions. At the same time, on its shores peoples and ideas met, blended, and evolved creating a unique environment. It is remarkable that none of actors involved in Taiwanese history was ever passive: cultural evolution went side by side with industry, creativity, and exchange, be it of goods or ideas.[3]

Today, Taiwan’s fate is reflected in its multicultural society, and its thriving cultural industry.

The rise of Asia as the World’s first art market is prompting  Taiwan to invest into initiatives exploiting its position as the cultural crossroad of Asia-Pacific.

Many factors favour  the Taiwanese endeavour: while the country shares a strong bound with China, the different political climate permits to artists and scholars to engage into aesthetic and social critique.

Taiwan’s vivacious and innovative environment  attracts collectors and investors,  who see this island in the hearth of East Asia as a cultural laboratory where ideas and artists coming from China and the emerging countries of South Pacific can be appraised and promoted.

With the 50% of the population under 30, in Taiwan Cultural industry goes hand in hand with education.

Cities like Taipei, Tainan or Kaohsiung hosts prestigious universities and world famous museums like the Taiwan National Palace Museum or the MOCA.

Taipei is also the venue of various cultural events with an international resonance as the Digital Art Festival and the Taipei Arts Festival.[4]

Public participation is seen as necessary to develop  a specific Taiwanese discourse on art, focusing on humanizing high art, bringing it closer to the public, transforming it into a channel to convey and share personal histories and emotions. [5]

Explaining and sharing, a necessity springing out from the multicultural background of Taiwan, is now turning into an advantage as the rise of the Asian art market requires artists, dealers, and collectors to engage into dialogue and education.

2012ATF Market-Report rSpeakers SO Jin Su, Kerimcan GÜLERYÜZ and KEONG Ruoh Ling having their open dicussion
with the moderator, Jimmy LU,after the "Market Report" session. (Courtesy 2012ATF)

The Ups and Downs of Asia’s ascent

The success of Art Taipei 2012 (9 – 12 November 2012), providing a showcase for World famous artists as well as young Taiwanese and Aboriginal artists,[6]confirms the soundness of the Taiwanese approach to cultural promotion.[7]

The fair also offered to art market researchers, representatives of Asia’ top art galleries, and scholars the opportunity to meet and discuss the rise of an Asian market for contemporary art, and the consequent possibility to found a common Asian discourse on contemporary art.[8]

The Art Taipei Forum 2012 was organized by the Taiwan Art Economy Research Centre, a research body under Taiwan Art Gallery Association. The 2012 edition saw the participation of art experts and dealers from China, Korea, Hong Kong, and Germany. The presence of speakers from Turkey, Dubai, and Iran confirmed the cultural link between Taiwan and the Middle East Art market.

The forum opened with a discussion on the current Asian attitude toward art and the art market.

The debate was conducted by two renowned scholars: Ms. Hsieh Su-Chen, director of Today Art Museum , Beijing [9] and Professor Victoria Lu, one of Asia’s most prominent art critiques and curators, serving as curator at Shanghai MOCA as well as teacher  at Shih Chien University in Taipei.[10]

Ms. Hsieh explained how the growth of contemporary art market in Asia is offering to artists and academics the possibility to get free from Western cultural canons.

However, the lack of a well defined sociology of the arts is slowing down the emancipation process.

Moreover, the recent economic  boom has lead to a subversion of the “art pyramid”, whereas an artist’s success on the art market is now employed as a meter to assess artistic value.

According to Ms. Hsieh, history of art has been replaced by history of market.

The consequence it that even governments tend to look at art market trends when it comes to allocate funds.

Such a “market-subservient” attitude is preventing  the development of effective cultural policies nurturing Asian talents and cultural values.

For example, China has not yet developed a consistent donation policy: collectors do not obtain taxation benefits when they donate artworks to public institutions.

Moreover, while Chinese museums and art-centres are endowed with generous portions of land, they must repay the loan with huge financial profits.

As a consequence, cultural industry (art museums side-products and services) tends to replace cultural production, design and creativity are give prominence over fine arts.

03 professor-SO-Jin-Su2012ATF Market-ReportWhile the tumultuous economic growth is bringing China to become the world biggest producer and consumer of art, young artists and innovative art dealers must struggle for visibility.

Rather than leaving patronage once again to Western collectors and organizations, Asian countries should work together to apply a common strategy for the protection and promotion of art.[11]

Ms. Hsieh’ stance was corroborated by Professor Victoria Lu, who  stressed the value of Asian collectors’ criteria, seen as complementary and opposed to Western culture:  the appreciation of fine craftsmanship opposed to “Damien Hirst phenomena”,  and the love for traditional themes and motifs counterbalancing the Western myth of innovation.[12]

The mission of Taiwan as cultural mediator and  model for Asian partners was examined during the discussion.  Both speakers defined Taiwan as the ideal partner of China in the effort of forming a new generation of cultural professionals. The Taiwanese’s educated mind-set could prove beneficial  to the Chinese art market, helping  young artists as well as collectors to develop a responsible approach to art.[13]

In particular, the role of the Art Taipei as a showcase  for the whole Asia-Pacific region was examined by Professor So Jinsu,[14] President of the Art Market Research Institute of Korea. (See photo above)

While analyzing the trends of Asian Cultural Economy, Professor So confirmed the status of Taiwan as the most popular art fair venue in Asia. 

The reason of such a success is Taiwan’s traditional role as a bridge connecting the two “sides” of Asia: the affluent art markets of China, Japan and Hong Kong  and the emerging realities of India, South Pacific, and South East Asia.

Taiwan’s art market and cultural scene have been also benefiting from  the growing presence of artists and art galleries from the Middle-East and the Arabic Peninsula.[15]

As to confirm this, the Art Taipei Forum 2012 was chosen to present the Empire Project, an Istanbul-based initiative promoting contemporary art in those countries that were once part of the Ottoman Empire. [16]

At the Cross-Road of Future

The second day of the Art Taipei Forum, the discussion focus shifted on the newest developments in art, bestowing an active role on collectors, and the necessity to employ galleries as new learning spaces.

Mr. Escher Tsai, Director of Dimension+, Mr. Wolf Lieser, Director of the Digital Art Museum in Berlin, and Mr. Nicholas Chang, General Manager of D2C Taiwan, discussed the rise of digital art and its impact on the collecting and the art market.[17]

The speakers agreed the digital media is going to transform the very essence of the creative process, permitting to express all forms of art (music, literature, visual art) through a common carrier: a digital code and a computer device.

Art is becoming “soft”: the smart-phone replaces the workshop and the gallery, communication replaces creation.

While this opens a new world of possibilities for artists and promoters, art dealers and collectors will be forced to re-invent their role. In the specific, it will be necessary to revise marketing policies concerning copyright and sales, as a generated digital code loses its uniqueness (and its market value) once is copied.

Again, Taiwan has the opportunity to be at the forefront of art marketing innovation.

With a thriving computer industry and an established community of digital artists[18], Taiwan offers the ideal environment  to art professionals, educators and policy-makers  working to set common guidelines for the new media art market.

Taiwanese institutions could also take advantage of their close ties with art galleries in the Middle East, that have already  adopted a new marketing strategy, focused on education and the collectors’ direct engagement in the promotion and protection of art.

Mr. Arash Amir Azodi, former Art Director of RIRA Gallery in Dubai[19], identified the capacity to combine marketing with education as the key quality determining the success of contemporary art dealers. In the same way, Mr. Haro Cumbusyan, Director of Istanbul Collector-space[20], presented  the future model for contemporary art galleries. Rather than being just showcases for big names,  art galleries will serve also as exhibition spaces for private collections. Art dealers will be called to expand their role, becoming cultural promoters encouraging the public to learn more about art before buying. The ultimate goal is to form a new generation of collectors, more discerning and educated, who will  provide patronage to young artists.

The soundness of the new Asian Line Asian Main Line discussed in the Forum seemed to be confirmed while walking through the Fair stands: huge crowds of Taiwanese as well as foreign visitors, collectors, students, and young families. All different, all enjoying art and wishing to see and learn more.

The very fact that contemporary art could attract a vast, popular audience speaks volumes about the potential and energy of the Asian cultural milieu.

Even more, the success of the Art Taipei 2012 underlines Taiwan’s potential to attract culture and business alike, turning into a truly international creative hub.

Asia and South-Pacific are entering the 21st century with a new awareness of their cultural potential, Taiwan is called, once again, to stand at the centre, connecting and supporting all actors coming into the scene: as a stage, a bridge, a meeting  point where thoughts, feelings, and stories converge to be told, shared, and sent forth into the future.

(All photos courtesy of 2012ATF)


[1] Li-Cheng Lu, Hsueh-Yi Chien, and Chen Ming-Ta, (eds.) Our Land, Our People: The Story of Taiwan (Taipei, 2012) p.33

[2] Li-Cheng Lu, Hsueh-Yi Chien, and Chen Ming-Ta, (eds.) Our Land, Our People: The Story of Taiwan (Taipei, 2012) p.33

[3] Li-Cheng Lu, Hsueh-Yi Chien, and Chen Ming-Ta, (eds.) Our Land, Our People: The Story of Taiwan (Taipei, 2012) p.54



Chinese ink, color pencils, a schoolboy's quill and some paper were the only materials used by the French artist Gaston-Louis Marchal to perform a 78,4 square meter drawing.
This gives place to 84 paper panels that are used as squares for a tapestry.
With graphic computing techniques, this tapestry has been transformed into vast and noticeable frescoes visible in the church of Our Lady of Hope in Castres.

 1.-Hannah-Hurtzig The-Waiting-Hall.-Scenes-of-Modernity

The Waiting Hall. Scenes of Modernity is a discursive event taking place on the opening night of the Taipei Biennial 2012 in the vast entrance lobby of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, where subsequently it will remain as an installation and archive. About seventeen people—artists, theorists, activists—are invited to engage in dialogues, which take place in secluded, small office-boxes installed in the lobby. Five dialogues take place in parallel, and audience members listen to their dialogue of choice on headphones, but they can also register themselves to become a partner in one of the dialogues. The installation is conceived as a backstage area and a waiting hall in the image of a Kafkaesque narration of bureauc­racy, inspection, and the pact between the one who waits and the one who keeps someone waiting. Scenes of Modernity creates a space for undecided modernities and their multiple "primal scenes." Each conversation will last thirty minutes and revolve around an image or description of this chosen scene.

What is modernity? One of the characteristics of this notorious term is that among different people and different disciplines, there is strikingly little agreement about its meaning and definition, dates and origins. Is this an epoch, a condition, a mental state, an idea, a method or a technique? There is a modernity of science, of art, of modern nation states, a technological modernity, a social modernity, a colonial moder­nity, a capitalist modernity, the modernities of the colonized, and the hyper-modernities of the contemporary capitalist cities and worlds. And yet, if there are multiple modernities, what do they have in common? There are modern mythologies, among them the myth of the one modernity with only one trajectory of "development," one model of progress, the myth of the anti-traditionalist ultimate break with an archaic, non-modern or corrupted past—a once powerful picture in the imaginary of modernity that in the present has been deeply destabilized and has become uncertain, as no presentis safe from the "returns" of the past.

In all cases, the question of just what constitutes "the modern" in modernity remains undecided and perhaps undecidable. But there is no scarcity, on the other hand, of "primal scenes" and myths of origin. The installation takes as its point of departure a primal scene of modern Chinese litera­ture: in 1906, Lu Xun, then a student of Western medicine in Japan, saw a slide show in which a Chinese crowd idly watched as one of their compatriots was beheaded for spying on the Japanese army in the Russo-Japanese war. Dumbfounded by this scene of decapitation, and in particular by the apparent passivity of the Chinese onlookers enjoying the spectacle, Lu Xun realized that before saving Chinese people's bodies, he first had to save their souls. He abandoned his medical studies and pursued literature. His short stories, poems, and essays are taken to mark the beginning of modern Chinese literature. Whether this event actually took place or is a myth retrospectively created by Lu Xun, "the case of the decapitation suggests that fiction and (private and public) history might have become inextricably confused, at the (textual) beginning of modern Chinese (literary) history." (David Der-Wei Wang)

What qualifies as a "primal scene"? All scenes of modern origins appear to be scenes of "division"—whether this is the cut­­ting off of a head from a body or an ultimate break from a tradition or a past. A "scene" or "scenography" also entails a relational diagram—a constellation between conscious actors, passive onlookers, and anonymous structural or systemic agency creating a complex moment in time, staging the paradox of modernity. All defi­nitions of "modernity" have such "primal scenes," events of rupture and myths of origin against which the very definition of just what counts as "modern" is measured.

The installation work of Hannah Hurtzig / Mobile Academy deals with the notion of knowledge and non-knowledge and how they are used and transferred in the act of communication in public space. Hannah Hurtzig's Mobile Academy projects explore the rhetorics and gestures of conversation, of one-to-one dia­­­logues, and new and old modes of assemblies. Each project is first a live event and later becomes an installation and an archive. In addi­tion, each project is dedicated to a specific theme/subject and explores it in an encyclopedic manner.


Please listen to the talks in The Waiting Hall recorded during the opening of Taipei Biennial 2012 on the 28th of September. The dialogue partners of the speakers are members of the public who could book the talks at a Check-in in the The Waiting Hall.



Dakis Pawan (ch)

The reservation of Taiwanese indigenous culture is mediated by modern methods, machines, and certification procedures. For instance, we learned there were nine tribes of Taiwanese indigenous people decades ago, but the Council of Indigenous People now approve there are fourteen, and perhaps more tribes would be approved in the future. It demonstrates how we employ modern techniques to reserve traditions nowadays. There are more examples, such as employing Roman spelling system to transcript oral languages for writing, education and documenting dictionaries. We use different machines to make audio and video recordings, and even make movies to preserve traditions. Nevertheless, we cannot only emphasize on how to preserve the old traditions. It is time to re-think the modern meaning of traditions in the new context. For example, it is impossible for us to kill people for the qualification of having a facial tattoo, which is considered to be a crucial testimony for our belief. So, the question is: what is the modern qualification of having a facial tattoo?

Dakis Pawan (Guo Mingzheng in chinese) comes from the tribe of the Seediq Tgdaya. He has published several aboriginal language textbooks and dictionaries, as well as and a behind-the-scenes book on the movie: Sediq Bale. He lives in Jîn-ài-hiong in Nantou. (Scene 6; Cabin No.1005; 8.00 pm)



Tseng Haunn-Tarng (ch)

The traditions of Taiwanese funeral services inherited from the Minnan culture that came with Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga) from the mainland China, and may even be further traced back to the mourning tradition of wearing hemp cloth as described in the Book of Rites in the Zhou dynasty. These traditions were still well reserved even during the Japanese occupation period. Tseng Haunn-Tarng, professor of life and death studies, points out that due to the urbanization process, the funeral industry stepped into the modernization in the past 30 to 40 years, along with the changes of the living environment, family structure and metropolitan lifestyles. The funeral industry started providing a great variety of accompanying services, and recently adapted the implementation of licensing and evaluation around 10 years ago.

Tseng Haunn-Tarng, Professor at the "Institute of Life and Death Education and Guidance" in National Taipei University of Nursing and Health Sciences. He is specialized in the fields of life and death disquisition, medical sociology, grief support, funeral service education, and training for nursing. (Scene 3; Cabin No.1002; 8.00 pm)




Wu Chia-Ling (ch)

Taiwanese views on childbirth began to change during the Japanese colonial era with training for a new style of midwifery, and have evolved into the present-day medical system. Most Taiwanese consider giving birth at a large hospital with the assistance of a physician to be the most hygienic, safest method of childbirth. The percentage of caesarian in childbirth is more than 30% in Taiwan, and ranks the top in the world. Yet now more and more modern women are seeking a more autonomous, intimate and beautiful childbirth experience, with diverse options of birth places, delivery methods, service personnel, pain relief techniques and technological resources, and seeking out modern midwives to assist in the birthing process. Sociologist Wu Chia-Ling shares observations of modern midwives in Taiwan and other countries to explore new definitions of modern technology.

Wu Chia-Ling is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at National Taiwan University. Her areas of research include medical sociology; gender studies; and science, technology and society. She received a research grant from Taiwan National Science Council, to pursue a project entitled: Marginalized Reproduction: Gender/Sexuality, Class and Assisted Reproductive Technologies. (Scene 12; Cabin No. 1002; 9.00 pm & 9.30 pm)




Huang Hui-Yu (ch)

In the name of enhancing public interests as well as raising the GDP, in 1998 the Taiwanese government introduced the Urban Renewal Act. However, this act is a forced joint construction undertaking initiated be developers and thus allows the private sector to control the main components of urban renewal projects.The Urban Renewal Act is widely thought to be unconstitutional. As a result, the controversy have sparked civil movements against forced evicitions and the commodification of land.

Swapping an old apartment for a new one, square foot for square foot – what's wrong with that? Don't urban progress and modernization rely on construction to move forward? Recently, a series of controversies have arisen over urban renewal, gaining the attention of the entire Taiwanese society. Engaging in a dialogue with Peng Lung-San, graduate student Huang Hui-Yu explores the ideologies lying in the background behind Taiwan's urban renewal laws, and the economic, cultural and social changes urban renewal brings about. By sharing case studies, she focuses her vision on a more precise position: analyzing whether urban renewal is able to truly improve the quality of habitation for the original residents, and how economic development and the human environment can limp forward in the march of modernization.

Huang Hui-Yu studies at the Graduate Institute of Trans-Disciplinary Arts in Taipei National University of Arts. She became active in anti-eviction movements in 2009. Huang is a member of the Taiwan Association for Justice of Urban Renewal, and has joined hands with residents and activists from various backgrounds in helping urban renewal communities around Taipei to fight excessive developments and unjust policies. (Scene 14; Cabin No.1005; 9.00 pm & 9.30 pm)




Cheng Lu-Lin (ch)

The Freudian concept of the primal scene is a very intriguing departure point to reflect the violence, carnality, passion and fluidity on the birth of modernity. The photo, taken in November 30, 1986, documented the live conflict between the military, policemen and the crowd who welcomed the exiled political activist Hsu Hsin-liang to come back to Taiwan is considered as a turning point in the Taiwanese democratization by sociologist Cheng Lu-Lin. Cheng thinks, by the modern definition of politic, democracy refers to the equality and sameness of the mass, as well as the rational and objective pursuit of the truth agreed by the majority of the mass. However, from history, we often see democracy began with a passionate violent process, which was mobilized by the barbarian minority but not the rational majority.

Cheng Lu-Lin is a sociologist, and Associate Research Fellow at the Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica, Taipei. His areas of research include economic sociology, developmental and organizational sociology. (Scene 16; Cabin No.1004; 9.30 pm)




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