I snapped this photo in haste while wandering around Datong District 大同區 a few hours ago. It is, in some sense, an utterly ordinary scene: a street light illuminating an emptiness in the otherwise cluttered urban landscape of downtown Taipei 台北. There is no story to this photograph, only a feeling to convey—a cinematic quality, a silent scream in the concrete matrix.
Recently my work on this blog was featured in an article by Nien Ping Yu 于念平 for the Chinese language web magazine BIOS Monthly. The article, loosely translated as Canadian Cultural Blogger: Even Unremarkable Places Have History (加拿大文化部落客: 再平凡的地方都有歷史), was based on a sprawling conversation we had in person rather than an email questionnaire. Mostly we spoke about themes and practices commonly seen on this blog: discovering history through the exploration of lost and neglected places, revealing intriguing connections through observations of synchronicity, and using photography as a documentarian medium rather than focusing solely on aesthetic appeal.
Several of my original photographs are featured in the article, some of which have already appeared on this blog (for example Fugang Old Street 富岡老街 and Changhua Roundhouse 彰化扇形車庫) along with others yet to be published (mostly from the infamous Fuhe Grand Theater 福和大戲院 in Yonghe 永和). Other adventures referenced in the text include forthcoming material about Dadong Theater 大東戲院 in Zhongli 中壢 and the Liuzhangli Muslim Cemetery 六張犁的回教公墓 here in Taipei 台北.
Last year one of my photos from Nakagusuku Kogen Hotel 中城高原ホテル was picked up by LIFE Books for the publication of The World’s Most Haunted Places. I have yet to complete my own write-up of this fantastical and awe-inspiring ruin in Okinawa 沖縄 but I will certainly get around to it sooner or later. Appearing in a LIFE publication of any kind is also pretty cool even if it isn’t the original magazine, which my mother used to collect and keep around the house while I was growing up. She proudly bought a couple copies when she heard the news and the special hit the supermarket stands back home in Canada.
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 found an old video game machine discarded in the back alleys of Hsinchu City 新竹市 the other day. I was walking by a street-side fruit stand when I noticed the stark outlines of an older building in a small laneway to one side. Stopping to explore, I found a storeroom for the fruit stand—and behind that, another abandonment, this time dating back to Qing dynasty times by the look of the distinctive bricks on the wall. I wonder what possessed anyone to dump this lone machine in such a place? Now just imagine plugging it in and seeing all the lights switch on again—it’s almost like the plot of some strange, fantastical film where the protagonist is then sucked into a secret world of the imagination.
I moved into my new place in Xinyi District 信義區, Taipei 台北, at the end of February 2016. It rained almost continuously for the following month. Not until the very end of March did the skies clear long enough for me to look around and appreciate where I had landed. This tree-lined boulevard is Zhuāngjìng Road 莊敬路, one of the main arteries running through the neighbourhood, and the mountains on the horizon are immediately behind where I’m staying nowadays. It feels a bit like I am back in Vancouver, especially with property values being what they are around here. Even so, I’m not paying much more than I would be in other parts of the capital, perhaps due to the minor inconvenience of being situated at the margins on the city, something I don’t mind putting up with for a while.