Strolling down crumbling alleys of all shapes and sizes, all the woes of the busybodies are forgotten, in between colourful temples and Japanese-era colonial buildings, under the moonlight, an exercise in escapism.
People often come to
I begin my journey at Tainan’s Lutai (台南小露台), in itself a ‘ruin’ of sorts. The 3-storey building overlooking the train-tracks has been renovated into a vintage store and art space and gathering point for the nostalgic. On the first floor, it’s filled with old collections of miniature Vespa bikes, as well as several obsolete full-sized vehicles, and a selection of bike horns to accompany (I left with the yellow rubber ducky – nothing says ‘get out the way’ with more authority). Meanwhile, on the second floor they have continuously evolving photography exhibitions, this time I visited it was all about cats – hungry + diseased kittens, patrolling cat gangs, sleepers, blindcats, Persian – even through this cat exhibition you're given snapshots of Tainan mentality. Finally, after getting past the three resident cats, all rescued (Yes, Lutai is also a part-time cat rescue and home finding centre). I make my way to base camp; a room on the third floor with my host Gao Pu-chi.
It’s fitting, that this hub of nostalgia for the class of the past is the base of explorations for
The walls were stained with the screams of bleeding patients. The stone slabs were carved with doctors legacies, the deserted medical cabinets stunk of junky, and every shard from the shattered windows was a testament to the will to survive.
The first ruin I am taken too – is a long abandoned Hospital. The Xinglin Hospital Complex (xinglin zonghe yiyuan 杏林綜合醫院). It’s a fitting first destination since Gao Pu-chi started out studying hospital management at university in
When Xinglin Hospital ceased to run, it was the days before Taiwan had National Health Insurance. At the time it was split into workers insurance, farmer's insurance etc. The worker's insurance meant that the worker would pay an annual sum, guaranteeing an allowance for medical costs; however, if you had not spent these costs by the end of the year, the credit was lost and the money dissapeared, never to come back. At that time the hospital started having some deals with the triads in order to profit from this system, cooperating with them to falsely recieve the insurance money. Eventually the boss of the hospital was caught for his dealings and sent to prison. This meant he was no longer able to give a salary to his employees, so everyone left the hospital, it became derelict, and has remained this way all the way until today. Nonetheless all of the drugs, beds and other equipment remained. Eventually anything that could be sold or used has been taken - including the metal and wood holding together windows.
Photo by Chen Po-I from his collection 'Remain'
When I arrived there in broad daylight, at the centre of
This stone slab above a doorway gives praise to the ingenuity and skills of the doctor who occupied the room. Traditionally a grateful patient may contribute one of these slabs, this one details the remarkable recovery from a horrific car accident in which the author had fractured his skull.
Reliving the Blitzkrieg
“I dreamt that you had come down south”
Love letter dated 1981 (民國70年)
The ‘Today’s Showings’ board at the Prince Theater (王子大戲院) is empty today. I feels like its been empty a long time too, a couple of slightly ripped and faded posters remain outside – on one of them you can make out a western film perhaps from the 80’s that I never knew. At some point in the 1980's this complex suffered from a great fire leaving much of the building destroyed and pushing the variety of entertainment businesses out of the building. After the fire it suffered another form of destruction, torn apart for its wood, nails and ladders – anything that could be sold or reused. This however doesn’t bother Bibi (B-Boy), people don't loot the things that he is interested in - the pictures, the posters, the marks left on the wall from the posters, and loveletters - everything that tells a story.
The building used to be at the heart of Tainan's more controversial entertainment scene. The second floor used to be a karaoke joint and had hundreds of old VHS videotapes. The 4th floor - a strip club. While Bibi explained to us that all the seats had bins underneath to throw away your issues, we found an abandoned G-string, used perhaps 25 years ago and the posters that they used to use to promote the club. There were three theatres in the building in which all the seats had been ripped from the floor, at the back of the theatre were a set of couches, these were the more expensive seats where you could take a partner and engage in more questionable business. Perhaps the most beautiful moment, however, was when Bibi found a 30-year old love letter and its reply. The story was of a girl from Tainan in the south of the country and a boy form Taipei in the north. Reading the handwritten letter we could almost feel the emotions from the two lovers, their dreams and their life pressures and their chances for a future together. We were only able to speculate on how the relationship concluded.
After the dust settles...
During my few days exploring these ruins in Taiwan, I gained a great affinity for these independent spaces. I was left wandering, what memories would I leave for someone exploring my ruins 50 years into the future. This touches on our very permanence, and sustained being. After the dust settles, what mark would you leave on this world?
|< Prev||Next >|
|Written by : Nick Coulson
Send a message to Nick Coulson
Other articles by this author
- A Global Lens on Indigenous Health (21 November 2011)
- Standing on the Shoulders of our Culture (21 November 2011)
- Practice: The Art of Making Something from Nothing (21 November 2011)
- Urban Archaeologist (22 April 2011)
- On the frontlines: The SIDS cases (24 November 2010)
- Leading the long road to abolition (TAEDP) (26 July 2010)
- To harm is human, to forgive is divine (06 July 2010)
- The passing of the New Year Beast (26 January 2010)
- The Purpose of Performance (30 November 2009)
- Rachel's Performance (30 November 2009)
- Performance Klub (30 November 2009)
- Socially Engaged Artists in Yogyakarta and Taipei (30 November 2009)
- The Earth's Kidneys (05 November 2009)
- Poetry on Progo (28 October 2009)
- Gleaning in Taipei (02 September 2009)
- Lumah! (02 July 2009)
This month's Renlai
Help us keep the content of eRenlai free: take five minutes to make a donation
- A Centre for the Middle Country
- No Nukes = No Future?
- Remembering the 309 Anti-nuclear Protest
- Alternative Protest in Japan: Two Years After Fukushima
- History of the Taiwanese Anti-nuclear Movement
- Recapturing Memories: Social Protests as a Way for Taiwanese Youth to Reconnect with the Past
- The Demonstrative Power of the Carnival: Fun as a Form of Protest
- Art and Social Activism: Mutually Beneficial?
- The Taiwanese Experience: Adjusting to life on the other side of the world
- The extraordinary challenge of living an ordinary life
eRenlai provides a monthly newsletter that introduces you to the Focus and other articles.