Sat, Jan 31, 2004 - Page 16 News List

Love is in the air of MOCA

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Taipei is due to reopen on Valentine's Day with a 'Love, Action!'matchmaking event, after a lengthy renovation


Photos from Chinese photographer Cang Xin's Identity Exchange series. Cang is coming to Taipei next month for the Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei's Spellbound Aura -- The New Vision of Chinese Photography, the museum's first exhibition after it closed down for two months of renovations


Behind its exotic colonial-era wood and red brick structure, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei's (台北當代藝術館) staff have always been plagued by something that makes the museum appealing to visitors but also damages its exhibits -- the 85-year-old building's natural ventilation.

Since December, the museum has finally started to do something about the situation with a major renovation of the temperature and humidity control system. On Feb. 14, when MOCA reopens to the public, it will have all the requirements for all kinds of exhibits.

MOCA has long prided itself on its building, the former Taipei City Hall, which was designated a municipal heritage site in 1998. Like many other re-used former abandoned spaces, such as Taichung's Stock 20 and Taipei's Huashan Arts District, its space -- with large windows on the walls and visible pipelines on the ceiling -- has provided inspiration for an the increasing number of artists making site-specific installations. Its historic heritage value was put under the spotlight in its Street as Plant, Art as Animal: A Story of Residents +Architecture + Image exhibition in 2002.

But the peculiar surroundings have also given the museum an equal share of headaches. The building was built in 1919 as an elementary school by the then-occupying Japanese, resulting in many windows for natural ventilation.

According to Cheng Ya-en (鄭雅恩), a promoter at MOCA, although most video works fare alright, some fragile materials can hardly bear the environment. Further damaging the materials is Taiwan's notorious humidity. "The ventilation has been a huge problem ever since the opening of the museum in 2001. We had to make special arrangements to adjust the works to conditions at almost every exhibition. We were even forced to pass on some foreign exhibitions which includes paper works, textiles or historical documents. If the problem continues, we will never be able to bring in rare shows, such as Andy Warhol's sketches on paper," Cheng said.

This summer, the museum will organize an international comics and animation exhibition, which will include sketches on paper by popular Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara. The show was made possible by the renovation.

"For an international museum, stable temperature and humidity are basic requirements," Cheng said. Since early 2002, the museum has planned its renovation and before last year's The Native Born: Contemporary Aboriginal Art From Australia exhibit, it quickly renovated one gallery to accumulate paintings on bark. Complicated by the government regulations regarding heritage sites, plans to renovate the entire premises took two years.

MOCA will celebrate its reopening with two interactive events. The Spellbound Aura -- The New Vision of Chinese Photography (出神入畫?華人攝影新視界 ) exhibition features China's Ju Chi (朱其) and Taiwan's Yao Ruei-Chung (姚瑞中), who are both versed in contemporary art as curators. The "New Vision" in the title refers to the widened definition of photography to include works not usually considered photography, as such Chinese artist Wu Xiao-jun's sculptures made from snapshot prints. Beijing-based photographer Cang Xin (蒼鑫) will come to Taipei to continue his Identity Exchange (身份互換) series, which he started in China in 2000. In the series, the conceptual photographer had a policeman, a chef, a scavenger and various other people take off their clothes and put them on himself, and then pose with these people in a joint portrait. For The Taiwan part of Identity Exchange, Cang will have 10 Taiwanese similarly exchange their work outfits with his.

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