I found this sad elephant while tromping around the commercial building that was once home to Jīnbǎo Grand Theater 金寶大戲院 in Zhúběi 竹北. I was not able to evade detection and sneak into the old theater but this discarded playground slide I found in a basement stairwell made the attempt worthwhile.
Road safety dummies are a distinctive feature of the streets of Taiwan 台灣. In Chinese they are generally known as engineering dummies 工程用假人 (pinyin: gōngchéngyòng jiǎrén), warning dummies 警示假人 (jǐngshì jiǎrén), or, more formally, electric flag-bearers 電動旗手 (diàndòng qíshǒu). According to law these robotic figures must be setup at all roadside construction sites to provide some measure of protection for workers as well as warn passing motorists and pedestrians of potential hazards. When hooked up to a car battery their stubby arms pump up and down, waving flags and other objects to direct traffic. Construction companies typically decorate these dummies with safety vests and hardhats, though it is not common for workers to express some creativity and personalize their dummies. Some of them even have individual names and histories! The rest of this post features photographs of some of the many road safety dummies I have encountered over the years.
This bizarre installation is one of the more iconic and well-known works of public art in Taipei 台北. Created by artists Hé Cǎiróu 何采柔 and Guō Wéntài 郭文泰 in 2009, it is entitled The World in Aves’ Eyes 愛維思看世界 (alternately Birdman 鳥人 or Daydreams 夢遊) and can be found somewhere in the labyrinthine passageways beneath Taipei Railway Station 臺北火車站. Apart from the obvious, the immature, androgynous figure holds a pencil in its right hand (never to write a word), water continuously seeps from its neck, and its feet show the signs of a mild case of pigeon toe, a condition that should be familiar to anyone who has seen young Taiwanese posing for photographs. Here is the original creative statement that accompanies the piece:
My ability to translate Chinese remains limited, particularly when it comes to the sort of conceptual language employed above, but I’ll do my best to provide the gist. From what I can tell this piece is about the confusion and innocence of youth, of an entity in no hurry to grow up and face the challenges of the adult world. The grotesque bird’s head, disproportionate to the slender, prepubescent body, is meant to represent an exaggerated sense of alienation. There’s more—but I’ll leave it at that for now. You can find out more about this work on Facebook. Stay weird, Taiwan!
I spied this scooter in a public park on the edge of Sānchóng 三重 on the first day of 2016. It isn’t unusual to see people personalize their scooters in Taiwan 台灣 in crude, folksy ways—but this one stands out for the extent and nature of its customizations. Perhaps someone was sprucing up an elder’s ride to make it more visible on the road? Whatever the reason, the end result is rather amusing.
This afternoon I snapped this photograph of the seemingly crazy plumbing job beneath a sink in the bathroom of a breakfast shop in Keelung. It was a hit on Facebook with many people sharing the photo to their own feeds. Some compared it to the work of M.C. Escher, others suggested this shop is stealing water, and one friend weighed in to say it’s an unsightly yet sensible design. Many foreigners in Taiwan 台灣 have a sardonic catch phrase for this kind of half-assed job: chàbùduō 差不多, which translates to “almost” or “nearly”. (Apparently Taiwanese people don’t use this phrase in a negative context. Perhaps it is only laowai slang?) Maybe this crazy system of pumps and pipes serves its purpose—but it certainly looks like madness to the inexpert eye!
It is hard not to notice the giant freaking eyeball and neon orange head hanging out at the side of the road leading up Hōnglúsāi Mountain 烘爐塞山 at the southern edge of Zhōnghé 中和, Taiwan 台灣. After taking in the scene I jokingly came up with a new slogan for the tourist bureau; “Taiwan: don’t ask why!” But of course that’s not really my style—I always like getting to the bottom of the seemingly inexplicable things I encounter in my travels here.