When you stroll the streets of Taipei's East District (東區) this month and encounter a giant orange spider robot hidden down an alley or an inflatable doggy floating inside a deserted house, don't panic. These peculiar creatures are part of the Very Fun Park (粉樂町), a city-wide art festival organized by Fubon Art Foundation (富邦藝術基金會) with a lineup of 70 art works made by 50 artists from Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, Argentina, the UK and US. Their artistic backgrounds range from visual art, commercial design to architect and literature.
Six years after the first edition of the event, the festival has made a welcome return to the city's commercial spaces. Very Fun Park aims to bring the arts into everyday life and create a "wall-less museum" where city inhabitants can create their own artistic experience as they wander through the winding lanes and alleyways finding installations, photography, soundscapes, art toys, sculptures, computer graphics, video and performance art pieces on display in 50 restaurants, hair salons, design, clothes and toy stores, police stations and churches in the East District and extending out to Ximending (西門町), Dazhi (大直) and Xinyi (信義) districts.
Turning the commercial domain into a cultural venue, one of the exhibition's main objectives is to facilitate an active dialogue between the arts, audiences and the environment. An example of this ethos is the performance video display at the store OISHI! (好吃音樂社) where the artist, wearing a luminescent wig, false eyelashes and fishnet stockings, appears to be a puppet controlled by electronic music, which poses the question of who is in charge of the performance scenario.
What: Very Fun Park II (粉樂町II - 台北東區當代藝術展)
Where: 50 spots scattered across the East District. Festival maps are available at 7-Eleven stores
On the Net: www.fubonart.org.tw/veryfunpark2/index.htm
From three giant smiling faces that mutter the word "o-i shi" (meaning tasty in Japanese) on the facade of the high-rise Fubon Banking Center (富邦金融大樓) to a flower maze made up of colorful acrylic fibers that creates an organic oasis on the traffic island at the crossroads of Renai and Dunhua South roads, the exhibition proposes different ways of seeing the familiar and the old and helps to transform our perception of the city into something aesthetic and spiritual.
To the organizer and participating artists, the event has also proved to be a surprisingly pleasant experience. "We had quite a hard time promoting the project when it started in 2001. There was lots of begging and soliciting involved in getting businesses to agree to host the art pieces. But this year, we were amazed at how positively all the stores responded to what we wanted to do. Some of them even helped to set up the exhibits. It's encouraging to see how the acceptance of art has increased over the years," said Maggie Tsai (翁美慧), Fubon Art Foundation CEO.
A new feature of this year's exhibition is the extension of art from the physical to the virtual world. On large outdoor LED billboards to be found across the city, mind-numbing ads give way to video art works made by artists such as Su Hue-yu (蘇匯宇) and Tsui Kuang-yu (崔廣宇). The works invite urbanites to challenge their existing perceptions of urban space or pause to reexamine the relationship between pop culture and the individual. For those who appreciate absurdity and comedy, at Taipei Main Train Station hilariously reedited 1970s soap operas play out the dramas of real life.