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 Zhubei 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.
Taichung Shark Cemetery 台中鯊魚墳場 (pinyin: Shāyú Fénchǎng) is an unlikely roadside attraction near Donghai University 東海大學 in Xitun 西屯, Taichung 台中. There is no great mystery here—a nearby restaurant and banquet hall by the name of Tong Hai Fish Village 東海漁村 dumped a bunch of junk in this farmer’s field sometime prior to 2009 and since then it has become a popular place for young Taiwanese to visit and take photos. Just have a look at the unofficial Facebook page or the relevant Instagram hashtag and location feeds for plenty of examples.
It was hot as hell this afternoon so I smartly cut through National Taiwan University 國立臺灣大學 in search of some shade while on my way to one of my favourite working cafes in Taipei 台北. NTU, better known as Táidà 台大, has a beautiful main campus in the heart of Da'an District 大安區 that offers some respite from the busy city streets that surround it. While riding along one of many tree-lined laneways I noticed this absurd sign by the roadside. The text reads dòngwù chuānyuè 動物穿越 (“animal crossing”), jiǎnsù mànxíng 減速慢行 (“slow down”), with nary a word about giant birds, much to my disappointment. I’m not sure if this is a student project or something official but either way—it’s awesome! I wonder now, is this meant to depict the herons commonly seen in parkland around the city?
Living in Taiwan 台灣 affords ample opportunities to encounter elements of western culture filtered through an eastern lens. Here we find the distinctive artistic style of Piet Mondrian decorating the entrance to an underground parking garage in Taichung 台中. High-brow art on a carport? Well, whatever. There aren’t any rules or conventions to be followed around here!
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.
Yùqú Temple 玉渠宮 is a colourful temple in the back alleys of Lukang 鹿港, one of the oldest and most traditional cities in Taiwan 台灣. Tracing its origins back to a simple shrine built in 1765, this small temple venerates Marshal Tiandu 田都元帥 (pinyin: Tiándōu Yuánshuài), the god of drama—and by extension traditional opera, theater, music, and other forms of performance art. Local gentry funded the construction of the first temple on this particular site in the twilight of Lukang’s commercial importance in 1902, during the Japanese colonial era. The temple underwent major renovations in 1967 and, in typical Taiwanese style, has been regularly improved and updated 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!