Taipei has arts festivals aplenty these days and for the arts savvy, you can put your money down for a big-ticket imported act or an off-the-wall experimental production pretty much any time of the year. But for those less familiar with the ins-and-outs of the arts scene, finding something to watch can be a bewildering exercise.
The Performing Arts Alliance (表演藝術聯盟), which is the organizer for this year’s Huashan Living Arts Festival (2012 華山藝術生活節), has fixed on this the disjunction between art and ordinary life as the concept for this year’s festival, and through the design of the month-long festival, it aims to sweep aside boundaries between the artistic and the recreational.
“People queue up for May Day concert tickets,” said to Lin Pei-rung (林佩蓉), a staffer with the alliance said. “The audiences are definitely out there.” The challenge is to bring them in, and to this end the talents of two well-known designers have been sought to create the best possible environment to encourage engagement with the artistic life.
Boundaries swept aside
The logo for the festival this year is a huge windmill, which designer Akibo (李明道) told the Taipei Times represents the churning together not just of all kinds of arts, but also of all kinds of people. Akibo, who has created the visual design for the festival since its inception in 2010 said: “As this is the third year of the festival, and people are familiar with the festival, I felt we could focus on the conceptual element. A fan represents a drawing together of arts and people.”
The main festival street in Huashan was designed by architect Kung Shu-chang (龔書章), who has created a central avenue of kiosks that look outward to the warehouse buildings on either side. As a result, the information and ticketing booth are both turned away from the main entrance, a result that, according to Lin, is fundamental to the desire of the festival organizers not to reinforce artificial boundaries.
“In most theaters and the like, the box office faces the main entrance. It can be quite intimidating,” Lin said, suggesting that this kind of set up almost seemed to demand to know what your business before letting you through. “With this design, you are inside the environment already,” she said.
The box office does not bar your entrance, and in fact is as much an information kiosk as a sales counter, with videos of upcoming performances on the wall, folders with information about shows and artists, as well as a list of discounts for people buying tickets directly at the Huashan venue. Offering discounts at the venue, as opposed to online, goes directly against the current trend, but again is aimed at drawing people into the Huashan environment and its many other artistic temptations.
Take a punt on a show
“Being in this environment, with so much information available, people might be a bit more willing to take a punt on a show,” Lin said.
In addition to a wide range of shows for which tickets must be purchased in the conventional manner, there is also a huge range of free activities at Huashan to warm people up to the joys of art.
Walking on past the box office, there is a theatrical souvenir shop that contains books, videos, CDs and memorabilia from over 200 of Taiwan’s theatrical groups. It is also the venue for a variety of games that PAA is experimenting with. Public participation in these activities is encouraged through the offer of various free gifts.