Taipei Biennial at Taipei Fine Arts Museum

What better way to spend a day after a rambunctious and exciting family trip than some time contemplating art at TFAM?

The museum is just a few minutes away from YuanShan MRT station. 2/1 is the last day before class/work resumes for most people, so there were lots of people making the most of the semi-cloudy day. There are also nearby buildings built for Flower Expo that are now converted into boutique retail and small food stands, hence the buzz of activity. FullSizeRender 11.jpg

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The museum itself is expansive, with black and white as its primary colors. There are 3 floors: the 1st floor has the most windows, while the upper two floors tend to be dimly lit. Tickets are cheap–with a student ID it’s only 15 NTD per person. You can easily spend a whole day here if you really go through every single room. Should you get hungry, go down to the cafe in B1 for a snack, then come back up. FullSizeRender 14.jpg

The main exhibit is Taipei Biennial 2016, and this year the theme is Gestures and Archives of the Present, Genealogies of the Future.

There was one gallery documenting the works of Cambodian architects for the Van Molyvann Project with intricate wooden models. I loved this one in particular, for how the roof allows in square, symmetrical chunks of light.

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Look at the tiny stairs inside the house! The lighting in this exhibit was very well done, it showed off all the sharp angles but still kept the insides bright enough to see. FullSizeRender 4.jpg

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Tiffany Chung had a project mapping her search for what happened to her father, a pilot who was captured during the Vietnam war. The gallery had a long multimedia timeline, filled with hand-drawn maps and various snapshots of her journey. This made me appreciate all the timeline projects we used to do in history class a lot more; because it didn’t have to just be linear. Chung interspersed her father’s experiences with her personal travels to the site, and it was fascinating.

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“How would I/we ever know about the life of people like my father? The young men growing up in the war, who also had dreams, hopes and fears.” -Tiffany Chung

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There’s also a dark room with a dingy metal chair and headphones that lets you listen to the recordings from the war. It’s quite somber, even though the radio static made the words difficult to make out. Chung’s father was locked in an isolation cell for years, and he kept himself healthy by planning blueprints and taking walks.FullSizeRender 6.jpg

This one by Angela Ferreira was a critique on the work of anthropologists, but the viewing room held only limited people, so I ended up not going up. FullSizeRender-33.jpg

I loved this postcard.

No art of war.

No art in war.  -Ad Reindhart

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Peter Friedl created two complementary works: The wall of flags is called Failed States, a critique on the failed states index (now renamed Fragile States Index) and what it means to have failed, or be about to fail. Does someone saying you’re about to fail make you more likely to fail?

The houses in Rehousing project considers how modernity has affected homes.

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I didn’t take a picture, but artist I-Chern Lai was there in person to explain her piece, Transaction/Translation. She documented how she baked 24 loaves of bread, sold them for 100 NTD, then exchanged the bills for other pieces of artwork and the binding for her booklets. It was cute because she had post-its next to her description plaque that said “I’m the artist. Not dead. Talk to me, if you want.” People asked her questions about what she did, and I read through her log, which was written on baking sheets. It was unique.

The first floor exhibits were honestly quite gloomy, with the exception of bread. I paused to gaze down at the basement bookstores and cafes.

Then I headed  upstairs, where there was a meta-exhibit on the 10 year history of Taipei Biennial. Here, things were a lot more fun.

Taipei Biennial started in 1996 to consider the identity of Taiwan, and the role its art played on the international stage.Earlier shows always had 2 curators, one Taiwanese and the other international. For each of the 5 times it’s been held in the past, there’s an illuminated timeline with key events leading up to its opening. Each section also has artwork and pamphlets from that time. Who knew that museum exhibits would have so much drama and political scandal? One time the museum director had to resign because the public were upset with the exhibit ideals.

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The pamphlets from 1996, the first time the show was held. Pamphlets had a lot more pictures back then. This time, the pamphlet only had 2 bare floorplans, and you need to get the guidebook from an app.FullSizeRender-35.jpg

One time, they did an exhibit called Everything is 20NTD. This is exactly the sort of knick knacks you’d see at your local grocery story. Actually we call it a za huo dian, it literally means “store with assorted goods”.FullSizeRender-34.jpg

Also in this area they had every single complete guidebook out, so you could flip through and learn about even the pieces that are not physically here anymore. This one was my favorite, it was a project called Coming Home. Each day the artist would go to the lobby near closing time and wait for someone (a visitor at the museum) who’s willing to take him home, and he took photographs along the entire way. The audience becomes the artwork, and the artist becomes the audience. Each night was different and fun, full of food and local sights, in whatever part of Taiwan the visitor lives.FullSizeRender-36.jpg

Also upstairs is a photography exhibit, with portraits and landscapes by Wang Hsin. Here again the mood was solemn, with the black and white images urging reflection on what it means to be civilized, and what we’ve lost in our process of urbanization.

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Overall, I learned a lot in my 3 hours here. But I prefer museums that are a little brighter and more fun to run around in, even though the aforementioned topics are important and deserve thought. I enjoyed the clean facilities and bathrooms (dirty bathrooms are the worst), and the paper cups they give you to drink water from the water fountain. Also, if I sit here long enough will I meet Q?

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