Friday, 13 January 2012 12:23

University Life: Freedom or Responsibility?

University students Lisa Lo and Yu-Tang Hou (侯昱堂) tell us about their feelings and impressions on university life in the following two videos. They represent the youth of Taiwan, and have both had very different university experiences, but both agree that university is a place where one can simultaneously feel more mature but still enjoy the carefree hapiness of youth.

Lisa is a student of Graphic Communication at National Taiwan Normal University. She comes from Taipei and has found in university a sense of freedom and emancipation, in addition to an opportunity to meet lots of new people from all walks of lfe, which had previously been difficult due to her all-girls school upbringing.


Thursday, 29 December 2011 10:45

Deflower

This is the trailer of the film I realized last summer.

"Clasping your consciousness
your back turned to the beast, 
you hide in a dark, dank hole.

Wake before the rotting of the flesh,
Deflowered."


Thursday, 22 December 2011 00:00

San Wang Ye: A god goes back home!

Last month,  a very special event happened in my street: my neighbor, the god San Wang Ye (三王爺), decided to travel back home for his birthday!

The god San Wang Ye is originally from Tainan, a city around 300km south of Taipei, and he had arrived in Taipei a long time ago, so long ago that I don't remember!

I had been wondering for a long time what the temple in my street was all about: this small, unassuming, but well taken care of temple, that you can hardly see by day, but is always shining and often holds events at night. Some lanterns are usually hanging, a vague reminder that a god lives there. Day after day, I had made up stories of mafia and gangsters, of witches and weird spirits, stories of everything that could happen in this mysterious temple.

But I was wrong. When I met the people who take care of 三王爺 (San Wang Ye), I could immediately see that this god is a good god as he protects people around in exchange of some attention, and doesn’t ask much, only to go back and see his family once a year. I was also told by the disciples that he likes to be talked to. I could see that he smokes cigarettes, not only incense; he also likes to drink milk tea, and dresses rather conservative. He has a good relationship to its neighbors, too: in front of his temple, a very old japanese house, dimly lit, is shelter to an old man who lives in peace with the God. When there is a ceremony, it is probably the only time a year he opens his house, in a mark of recognition.

The ceremony for departure of the god lasts 2 days. On Saturday everyone travels to Tainan, spends there the evening celebrating, eating, and they all go back on Sunday. 三王爺 (San Wang Ye) has about 10.000 followers: among them, around 400 made the trip to Tainan, this is already quite impressive. More people were to join in Tainan, where he is popular.

Having heard about the event the night before, and together with a friend, we decided to go and attend the departure ceremony. From 4.30am to 7.00am, the main followers prepare the Gods, and double check the organization. The gods are brought out; it seems like the main God has invited some fellows from his family to join. Dancers and fighters repeat their moves, the encense is burning, the drums start to play. Waking up at night, entering this somehow different world, is a strange feeling. At this time, people start to leave a nearby disco, adding to the feeling; they watch incredulously the world of Gods as alcohol seems to make all things look plausible to them. They seem to be satisfied and they resume their path in the wide night.

Then, suddenly, at dusk, the ceremony starts. The ceremony master is a strong robust lady who directs the participants. She sets a fire on the road, then waits for the long queue of dignitaries to come and bend before it, then jump above the fire, and turn back normal again. During the procession most people seem possessed, it is an impressive demonstration. The lady-ceremony master also beats herself with some kind of axe. The drums are playing heavily, there are firecrackers and smoke everywhere. After everyone has come, it is the God’s turn to cross the fire, and I could almost see him smile, delighted to leave soon for the South, and to have so many friends.

There is a market nearby, a typical old place that will probably be destroyed soon, God knows why. It has been deemed too old by the municipality, and this is only one step in the fight that opposes the day forces such as business and money, to the Gods of the night and the ancient culture of Taipei. Alas, I think I know who’s gonna win this one…

First published on Litanies.net.

Click here to see the complete set of photos.

All photos by B. Girardot


Tuesday, 26 April 2011 14:03

Returning Humans to Nature and Reality

Since attending drinks and bbq session at the Ruin Academy, Urban Core, Taipei City in fall of last year, I gradually became more and more familiar with Marco Casagrande’s C-lab and the offshoots (ruin academy, third generation city, local knowledge, urban acupuncture, anarchist gardener). I also became convinced that Taipei has great need for these ideas and the very soul of the city may well rest in these decaying ruins.

Rolling at the Ruin Academy

"There is no other discipline than nature. There is our pub."

It was a Friday night, in light winter rain when I was told to come along to the Taiwan Contemporary Art Centre, Taipei for free drinks and barbeque, and the opening of the ‘Ruin Academy’. I knew little of what to expect – except for free alcohol, Ruan Ching-yue (one of Taiwan’s top 3 authors) and rumours of a Sauna on the 3rd floor. It sounded like a lethal combination…

Entering the 4-storey building I felt a strange aura, something distinctly un-Taipei, at least as I knew it, a vomit stain on the clean, white bed sheet of the Taiwan urban development dream. A tree growing off the side of the building, its roots implanted only in drainpipes, large and potentially hazardous holes drilled into the cement floor, allowing you to see from the top to the bottom of the building.

As the whisky flowed, my thoughts were disturbed as Ruan demanded I read his story with him. After playing the role of mother in the story twice over, I took advantage of a brief moment of distraction to make my great escape to the sauna.

While housemate and figure model, Showzoo, raced to strip and leap into the sauna the minute the steam rolled of the imported Finnish stones, I strolled in rather conservatively five minutes later with my undersized towel slightly revealing my buttocks. I had inadvertently placed myself in the gaze of Showzoo’s glaring nakedness on one side and two fully clothed, shy Taiwanese youths on the other, a contrast perhaps comparable to the awkwardness of much architecture in Taiwan. I looked up from this amusing but unnerving position, searching the room for the validation required before I could throw in the towel; and there, beyond Showzoo, was a man with Viking features calmly being, breathing and occasionally stoking the coals. An essence of rapprochement with nature shone through and overcame the tendencies of a somewhat Victorian prudence and shyness that I had seemingly developed during my time in Taiwan. I flung away the towel, and sunk into the steam. This was the man had built the sauna – Finnish architect and anarchist gardener Marco Casagrande.

"We focus on local knowledge and stories. The Academy is more like a pub than a university – or like a public sauna in Finland, where everyone is stripped naked from the President to the police."

Pot-naked in a sauna perhaps isn’t how most of you envision your first meeting. However, fully revealing your body, as the day you were born, is certainly a load off your mind and shoulders. Pretensions are dropped, nothing is hidden, and all the while nothing is intentionally revealed. It wasn’t until several months later that I discovered the sauna was also a gathering place, a school and a forum for the natural revolution of human impulsion that is brewing here.

Third Generation City

Marco and associates have been working on a whole new architectural philosophy in Taiwan and a multitude of projects to put into action the Third Generation City - the organic ruin of the industrial city. Third Generation City follows the first generation where humans' peacefully coexisted with nature and the second generation built walls and stone structures everywhere in an attempt to shut out nature. In the third generation however, nature, which can never be truly shut out, grows back through the ruins, through the cracks in the wall, sucking human nature back into the wider nature. Third Generation City concentrates on local knowledge and urban acupuncture. Gardens should be built in all the corners of the city. The walls shutting off the city from its river and life source should torn down.

"The Ruin Academy sends an open call to think on the urban environment - the city, the people and the nature. We want to understand the ruining processes in Taipei."

Architecture and human structures are something I had never profoundly contemplated. To get a clearer idea about what they were doing, I attended a lecture given by Marco Casagrande at the NTU Department of Sociology. The lecture was partly an admittance of the limitations of architects, who he says "only chill with other architects". It was a call for sociologists to take part in a multitude of projects – like Taipei Organic Acupuncture and Taipei River Urbanism - to combine their humanist expertise in peoples' interactions with society & nature with the design skills of the egotistical architecture trade. For example, since the city only exists because of the river, the river is thus the indicator of how healthy the city is. So in order to have a complete and humanistic interaction with the river, the sociologists would need do the local research - with drawings, photographs and interviews. They would ask: How was the river before? When did the fish start dying out? Who will live there in the future? What will there attitude to the river and the city be?

One question raised by the sociologists, was whether or not this ideal for a Third Generation City was feasible. Marco replied "If it works in my family, then in their community, in their society, in the whole city - then that's enough". Marco feels that the government actually needs this impulsiveness, they are unable to enact under the stringent controls of bureaucracy. In fact Marco and Ruin Academy is just saying what the government wants to say. When questioned about the rebuilding of post-tsunami East Coast of Japan, Marco reflected: "Will they just rebuild what was there before? They have capacity for so much more."

Frank Chen was another architect with C-lab that I first met at the Ruin Academy. In April he took me too visit some physical manifestations of the Third Generation City. Frank also made a beautiful film of his own, documenting a full day for the Chen House, from sunrise, amongst the constant calls of the insects and birds:

Living in the ruins

Finally Frank took me to see where the Ruin Academy's own principal, Marco, had lived 4 years earlier. The guru himself, seemed to live by the principles that are found throughout his work. Indeed, when I arrived at the site in Sanzhi nature was growing through the gaps in the walls, the doors, and the windows of this former tea factory; there existed no clearly defined inside and ouside, instead merging into one seamless flow of nature; rather than trying to keep the trees and shrubbery out, he instead built his trademark sauna amongst the trees. There were still the traces of Marco's previous inhabitance there: a pile of clothes, a wooden mattress, a small stove and a couple of pans which acted as his makeshift kitchen overlooking a stream with an ants nest sitting comfortably in a tree above.

{rokbox album=|myalbum|}images/stories/focus_architecture_may2011/marcohouse/*{/rokbox}

As the academy makes organic ruin of our industrial city, perhaps these ideas can infiltrate our minds, permeate through our ears, eyes and noses and vibrate our flesh down to our toes, degenerating and making ruins of defunct structures of thought.


For a fuller look at the whole range of projects C-lab has previously worked on please browse the Anarchist Gardener Magazine (mainly Chinese) for the main thrust of Anarchist Gardener philosophy as when it was originally presented at the Puerto Rico Biennale in 2002. The Ruin Academy building can be found in the Urban Core Artsblock near Ximending in Taipei.

 


Wednesday, 23 November 2011 00:00

CEFC Files: Neighbour of China, Taiwan's Liminality

Stéphane Corcuff is a political scientist trained in Sinology and Geopolitics. When he is not on sabbatical research in Taipei, he is also a professor at Lyon Institute of Political Studies and lecturer at Paris’ National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations. When we visited the CEFC, Taipei branch, Stéphane explained some conclusions from his past research leading up to his current program of study based around identity politics in Taiwan and the geopolitics of Taiwan since the 17th century. He draws a parralel between Zheng Keshuang (鄭克塽) - the grandson of Koxinga (鄭成功) - who was briefly the leader of Taiwan (1681-83), and the incumbent President of the ROC, Ma Ying-jeou. He then uses this historical context to analyse the policies and consequences of the current Kuomintang regime.

Furthermore, for the past 15 years, Stéphane has been conducting research focused on the Mainlander population in Taiwan. His research leads him to consider the Mainlanders not as an ethnic group but a population of distinct collective identifications. Here Stéphane rounds up a tumultuous 20 years for Mainlanders  in Taiwan, since Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) split from the Kuomintang and so called process of 'desinicisation' began, before showing the identity consequences this has had for the 'Mainlanders'.

Stéphane Corcuff's latest book has been published this month "Zhonghua linguo / Neighbor of China. Taiwan's liminality" Taipei, Yunchen, 2011, 250 p. (Chi: Zhonghua linguo. Taiwan yujingxing / Fr: Zhonghua linguo / Pays riverain de la Chine. La liminalité de Taiwan). If you were interested in this content, Stéphane's latest book provides his most comprehensive compiling yet of his research on Taiwan's 'liminality'. Stéphane's publications can be found and downloaded at "Web de la doc" de Sciences-po Lyon or Association Francophone d'Etudes Taiwanaises. Stéphane is committed to bringing a higher level of sensory interactivity into his academia. Below is an interactive multimedia image of his current research program.


Tuesday, 02 August 2011 14:53

Listen to The Moment: Minkoku Hyakunen

You-sheng Zhang and Da-wang Huang met each other in 2010. Both of them had their own noise sound works circulating among their friends and on the internet. They got tired of most political news, especially those about so-called “100-year-old ROC”, so they decided to organize a duo and to disband it after this year (2011 is the hundred year of ROC). 百年, pronounced in Japanese “Minkoku Hyakunen”, doesn’t talk about politics but performs with some ideas of politics. No stable tempo and pleasant melody, only fools playing fool noise.


Monday, 01 August 2011 15:04

A Moving Sound: A Different Approach to The Tradition

In A Moving Sound’s music traditional Taiwanese, Chinese and neighboring Asian music forms are fused in new original song compositions. Instruments such as the Chinese erhu , the zhong ruan (Chinese guitar), an assortment of western instruments, and the transcendent vocals and dance of lead singer Mia Hsieh, transport listeners on a journey. The group is intensely passionate about how it presents the use of traditional instruments in its contemporary sound. Their approach is to be holistic – combining art, spirituality, social awareness, and a universal love of humanity play key roles in the creative process.


Friday, 26 August 2011 00:00

Viba Brings 80's Sound to World Music

Photo courtesy of Craig Ferguson

Viba hails from London but is a long-term resident of Taipei. Original inspiration stemmed from the Human League, Depeche Mode and other synth bands of the 80s, which led to the formation of several bands based around an array of Roland synthersizers.

Viba left the UK in 93 to become a resident DJ in Taipei and was at least partly responsible for bringing many of the house techno tunes of the London underground at the time to these shores. Viba started writing material again in the early naughties and has had numerous commercial releases since 2006; most notably, the solo album, East-West Relations, which clearly showed influences of more than a decade in Taiwan.

The most recent two years has seen the formation of ElectroFunk band Space Funk and work on several projects for film and video. However, 2011 has seen the return of much more solo material from one of the most prominent electronica artists on the island.

Interview by C. Phiv, edited and subtitled by Lisa Lo.

Viba's Music

 


Viba participates in the in the 2011 Renlai World Music Compilation, he'll perform in Taipei on September 16th, more info here.

 

 

 

 


Thursday, 07 July 2011 16:47

A review of the play 'Take Care'

Directed by HSU YEN LING
Taipei Blooming production
Length: 1 hour and 30 minutes

‘Take Care’ is the first production of TAIPEI BLOOMING, a theatre group founded by Hsu Yen Ling last year. The show will be performed at Guling Avant Garde Theatre from July 1 to July 10 2011. The main question raised in this new production deals with abandoned and injured animals through the story of a lesbian couple; one is a veterinary surgeon, the other a teacher. Italso raises the question of the complexity of the relationships between human beings, between human beings and animals, and between animals.

Hsu Yen Ling, well known as an extra gifted performer, presents her fifth show as art director: “I tried to find a new way to write a script. Before, I was used to writing it first and then ask my actors to perform it. For this production, we started from improvisation and wrote the script together; talking about the issues we wanted to focus on, and cutting or rewriting some parts.” This collective work is based on the main characters’ lives: the vet, the teacher, the businessmanand the student. She aims to show their relation to their particular jobs and to one another, usingvery ordinary dialogue, classical stage design and everyday life costumes to stick to the reality she wants to portray.

“How can we take care of the other?” This is the underlying question in the story told by Hsu Yen ling. “I wanted to talk about the animal issue too. In the big cities, many abandoned cats and dogs can’t take care of themselves alone. We have to pay attention to them and take care of them.” This issue leads her to think about animal relationships more based on touch. “I also ask the actors to play the animals in order to focus more on the touching; work on the emotion, the movement and gesture. We often pay too much attention to the sight or the talk. But there are other senses we can use to have contact with the other and in Taiwan, few people touch each other; Taiwanese are not used to physical contact.“ For example, when we say "goodbye" in Taiwan, we never kiss the other on the cheek. In this show, the animals talk and could be seen as examples that the main characters could follow in their own life, they even advise their masters when they face difficult situations in everyday life and relationships.

To embody one of the animals, she asks Fa Tsai to join her production: Fa Tsai, a famous talented artist had already played with the most famous art directors in Taiwan and we can assure you that his performance in this show is excellent and very detailed. Hsu Yen ling, in her role as art director, works on every detail with her actors, even with the non-professional ones such as Liu Nien Yun. She used to be Hsu Yen ling’s producer in ‘Sister Trio’ and ‘A date’, two successful shows she presented a few years ago in Taiwan.

“When Yenling asked me to be her actress in ‘Take care’, I could not refuse it: I was reallyinterested in the topic and wanted to support her production. I’ve known her since I was in senior high school, before I began to study women’s working conditions at university: she was the teacher in our theatre club. I also wanted to try to be an actress even though I sometimes feel alittle scared. For me, it is difficult to act a relationship, but I really want to work more on theatre projects, because since I began working for the labor organization* I have not had much time for theatre.” Her role is to be the vet and take care of the injured animals and the people who bringthem to her office.

“When Yen Ling told me the story she wanted to write, I found a connection between my actual job and the character of the veterinary. In my job, I have to take care ofinjured laborers – women who used to work for RCA (Radio Corporation of America), an American electric company sold to Thompson, more than 20 years ago and who later got cancer.They have been fighting for 10 years to get compensation. Many questions come to my mindwhen I am tired: why do I want to be an organizer? My character has the same questioning andfeeling.” One may have seen Liu Nien Yun on TV, the morning the Legislative Yuan passed thebudget for Taiwan’s fourth nuclear power plant; she was one the persons thrown out by thethstpolicemen in front the Legislative Yuan. As an activist, she is involved in the anti-nuclear andlabor movements, yet, all the while she is deeply implicated in her work, listening to the harmedpersons and helping them as best she can.

So, if you want to know what lies behind ‘Take Care’, we recommend you have a look at the show, partly presented as a comedy...an ordinary life comedy we should say.

* Taiwan Association for Victims of Occupational Injuries, based in Taipei City. www.hurt.org.tw
(Photo courtesy of  D. Vandermolina)


Tuesday, 28 June 2011 17:58

Flâneur Daguerre: An Alternative to Modern Jazz

Formed in June 2009, the group brings together some of the island's finest improvisers from diverse musical backgrounds, both foreign and Taiwanese. Flâneur Daguerre was founded on the belief that modern music, especially that which is so-called "avant-garde," can be enjoyed and accessed by the same audiences that find comfort in today's mainstream pop. The band explores free jazz, Eastern European and Balkan music, but they often subject pop and rock + roll forms to the improvising methods of jazz and Indian musicians.

Friday, 24 June 2011 11:04

Sombreros, Sandals and Smiles

A Summer of music with Renlai

Accompanying the release of Renlai's World Music CD compilation, we bring you a summer of live music in Taipei, holding three concerts on July 9th, August 19th and September 16th. Each concert brings you authentic flavours and fusions from around the World, and all completely FREE GRATIS!! So bring your sombreros, sandals and a smile as you dance with us to the rhythm of Renlai.

Published in
Renlai Music

Tuesday, 17 May 2011 19:46

Movement Spaces: Brewing the perfect cup of activism

Activism isn't all about movement. Individuals need a constant flow of information, group debate and thus reflection on their actions and ideas. A culture can be born of the fusion of the ideas from a dynamic group of people and a 'space' for constant interactions they can remain dynamic, constantly regenerating themselves to meet with oscillating circumstances.

Here eRenlai introduces you two bases of innovation, discussion and reflection. An activist factory and a platform for Socratean debate. Both serve coffee...

Go Straight Café (直走咖啡)

Go Straight Café was borne of the legacy of the Wild Strawberries student movement. After the movement was unsuccessful in its demands, they realized they needed a permanent space which would create the right environment to give birth to new ideas, relationships and energy. Two years later, Go Straight is not only the home of No Nuke Cultural Activism Group at the centre of the anti-nuclear movement, but has become a base and indeed the birthplace for many smaller social movements who may not have had the funds or the human resources to set up their own places.

As Yang Zixuan told me, "activists can't spend all their time on the streets protesting". There has to be something in between that. In between days of  protest, whether successful or not, there are constantly new laws, new injustices, new attempts to circumvent the regulations of democracy, the public must thus always remain vigilant. While this vigilance has become easier with the internet and the spread of social media it has also encountered new problems - for example it is easy to be extremely active on the internet, all the while being extremely inactive in the real physical world. This is somewhere Go Straight Café can help to translate vocal or blogger support into a more real activism. Here, hardened cafe activists, Yang Zixuan and Stef Pei discuss how Go Straight has facilitated activism since it was established in 2009 and how they personally have developed along with the cafe.

Go Straight Café can be found a five minute walk away from Taipower Building MRT at the following address: No.18, Alley 27, Section 3, Tingzhou Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City

Café Philo (慕哲咖啡館)

Although French philosophers, like Sartre spent hours a day frequenting a selection of café’s, turning and perfecting their ideas, it wasn't until 1992 that Marc Sautet set up the first of the cafés-philos in Paris. Although Taiwan's Cafe Philo is a space of debate above all, it has also become a gathering point for activists and NGO's, especially the Philosophy Friday held by the Youth Synergy Taiwan foundation (青平台 Qingpingtai). While other social enterprises directly manage social movements, Youth Synergy takes a more strategic role, providing a space (the Chinese translation is platform) and support to other movements. eRenlai interviewed Youth Synergy's Sean Hsieh, to find out more about what they were doing.

Cafe Philo's Philosophy Friday is a platform that touches on vary facets of society, a public think tank of sorts, where they provide the space and with it access to the information and involvement in debate to promote open data, open government and transparency in Taiwan. While they sometimes take on abstract philosophical questions, they also often take on issues of current affairs, inviting NGO's, social movement organisations and various legal and political experts. One of the main aims is to be able to communicate with the masses, so during these talks one of the organisers is always on site to rephrase any overcomplicated talk. Two Friday sessions that I attended were full of lively debate. Sean, told me that one of the things he was most pleased with was the participation of many older people in the debates, enjoying the chance to interact and share opinions with Taiwan's youth. To push for real societal change one cannot rely solely on one age group, nor can you rely simply on the more radical activists, that may be more present at places like Go Straight, who are directly involved in managing social movements. Thus opinions that are more radical than the society they are in, need a less radical platform in which they can communicate ideas. This is the challeange that Sean and the Cafe Philo team are trying to balance.

Café Philo can be found at No 20, Alley 60, Taishun Street (off Shida Road), Da an, Taipei

Both of these two 'spaces' have a different role to play in civil society in Taiwan. Over the last year they have both showed development into forces for social change. One thing for sure is that sometimes it's OK to sit back and have a sip of coffee with your social enlightenment.

(Photo: N.C.)


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