The politically turbulent decade of the 1980s, with the close of the KMT's authoritarian regime, released an immense energy into Taiwan's art world. No sooner had martial law been lifted in July 1987 and Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) died in January 1988, and the accumulated "social forces" of the past two decades swept through almost every area of Taiwanese society.
Visitors to the recent exhibit of "The Transitional Eighties -- Taiwan's Art Breaks New Ground" held by the Taipei Fine Arts Museum witness a sizzling decade of artwork full of experimental spirit and forceful social and political critique. In fact, some of the prominent artists, such as Yang Mao-lin (
As curator Chen Yen-ing (
PHOTO COURTESY OF TFAM
These artists would found their own artistic circles, such as the 101 Painting Society (101藝術群) and the Taipei Painting Society (台北畫派), for intellectual discussions and social support. They tended to focus on exploring conceptual art and experimenting with various media. They were asking the basic question of "What is art?" and were determined to achieve their goal of "art for art's sake" through rational simplification of art expressions and paying close attention to color effects.
The latter group of artists were inclined to deal with meaningful international and domestic topics, such as the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in the US, the arrival of fast-food giant McDonald's in Taiwan, the appearance of the Sogo Department Store in Taipei and even the construction of long bridges and elevated highways in many cities in the 1980s.
From there, these artists would attempt to reflect on the humanities and would subsequently raise the issues of proper interaction between people and the environment, the alienation of modern urban living and the impact of consuming cultures on society, etc, in their artwork.
Shifting away from traditional Chinese art and culture, these young and avant-garde artists experimented boldly with subject matter and possible artistic forms, even including body art. For instance, body art advocate Chang Jian-fu (
The exhibition features about 100 works, including two-dimensional works, mixed media works, spatial installations and sculptures by some 50 Taiwanese artists working in the 1980s. Another curator Liao Tsun-ling (廖春鈴) concludes her observation by saying that the innovative expressions of art in the 1980s had a very strong impact on contemporary artistic development in Taiwan.
In particular, the sudden outburst of energetic creativity right after the end of authoritarian rule helped local artists gain confidence to go on experimenting with each their unique artwork. Out of this confidence, they prepared and were eventually ready to participate in large-scale international art exhibits in the late 1990s, showcasing Taiwan's newfound artistic identity around the world.
"The Transitional Eighties" runs through Sept. 5. Taipei Fine Arts Museum is located at 181 Zhongshan N Rd, Sec 3, Taipei (
Scott Saulters wasn’t sure if his film had just taken one of the two top prizes at a recent film competition. Although Saulters has been in Taiwan for 15 years and is proficient in Mandarin, the award ceremony for the inaugural “Bi Tian Iann” (眯電影) short film contest was conducted entirely in Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese), a language he can’t speak. “I thought I heard it, but I didn’t want to look too excited,” he says. Despite his limited command of the tongue, Saulter’s entry, Wu Yu Tzu (烏魚子, mullet roe), took first place in the amateur category of the
The Taiwan of yesteryear was dominated in whole or in part by the Dutch, Spanish, Qing Empire and Japanese. But is the Taiwanese name for a popular edible fish derived from the Portuguese language? Cheng Wei-chung (鄭維中), an associate research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Taiwan History, says yes. The fish in question is the narrow-barred Spanish mackerel, which was listed in early 18th century Qing local gazetteers as Taiwanese specialities alongside milk fish and mullet, according to Cheng’s paper, “Mullet, narrow-barred Spanish mackerel and milkfish: Multiple contextual developments of three certified seafood specilaities in Taiwan, from the
Since its launch in 2014, the Taiwan Season has increasingly become a “must-see” at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. So, when this year’s three-week Fringe became an early casualty of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Chen Pin-chuan (陳斌全) was determined that the Taiwan Season must continue in some form. Chen, director of the Cultural Division of the Taipei Representative Office in the UK, says that he and Taiwan Season curator and producer Yeh Jih-wen (葉紀紋) had been thinking of ways of growing and adding value to the season anyway. The crisis and the cancellation of the live performances brought those ideas forward as
I didn’t expect to spend more than three minutes out of my car, yet the sun was so brutal I put on my hat before approaching the seawall. Beimen (北門) is the flattest and most sun-baked part of Tainan. It lacks trees and people. In wintertime, the weather is often delightful. It wasn’t yet mid-morning in the hot season, however, and I felt like a leaf shriveling in the desert. Atop the seawall but facing inland, I could see dozens of the rectangular ponds which account for a significant percentage of Beimen’s “land” area. Some, no doubt, were dug to produce