Polymer Art Space (空場藝術聚落) is funded, operated and managed by a group of artists, filmmakers, musicians and other creative types. Opened to the public last weekend, the factory in Beitou (北投) featured a group exhibition of photography, installation and video art.
Curious visitors exchanged ideas with painter Hsu Pei-cheng (許旆誠), while new-media artist Chu Chun-teng (朱駿騰) showed his video installation piece to a group of friends. There are also things not commonly found at an artist’ studio: items of antique furniture clogged one room, and a tea appreciation event was held inside another. The space seemed rather homey.
“In Taiwan, we lack ways to connect and integrate, whether it is in the field of art, design, fashion, theater or film. We don’t know each other. And this place is intended as a barrier-breaker, where we can work together and share resources,” says Chu, who co-founded the space.
When Chu and his friends found the space over a year ago, it was a textile factory that had been vacant for years. A dozen or so artists chipped in, invested time and effort to build everything from scratch, transforming a vast, run-down space into an artists’ village composed of 20 studios, a nearly 200 ping (approximately 660 square meters) exhibition space, a communal kitchen and lounge area as well as a 600 ping rooftop patio for all kinds of activities and uses. The majority of the tenants are 30-something young artists and administrative decisions are mostly made by a team of six core members.
Officially opened one week ago, Polymer is the latest addition to the city’s several artist-run spaces. Open-Contemporary Art Center (打開—當代藝術工作站), for example, was founded in Banciao (板橋) in 2001 and, after a few changes of location, now takes up a residency at a public property in Shilin (士林) made available by Taipei’s Bureau of Cultural Affairs. Similarly, the 435 Art Studio (435藝術家工作室), housed inside a military dormitory, woos artists and designers with its cheap rent.
The Taipei Contemporary Art Center (台北當代藝術中心) was set up by a group of artists, curators and scholars in 2010 as a platform for exhibitions, international exchanges and academic discussions.
While each establishment varies in its make-up, structure and goals, Polymer is different in that it is established and run by artists without corporate and governmental sponsorship, as well as its emphasis on collaboration among people from different fields. Residents at the artists’ village include musician Wang Yu-jun (王榆鈞), Butterfly Effect Theatre (蝴蝶效應劇團), photographer Juan I-jong (阮義忠), new-media artist Wu Chi-Tsung (吳季璁) and visual and graffiti artist CYH Jayson (大腸王).
The desire to know and work with each other is the main reason to have a large communal area for tenants to dine, frolic and relax, Chu says.
“We [artists] are like handicraft makers, working hard and alone at home. It didn’t occur to us that we can try different modes of production with others,” the 32-year-old artist says. “When we work in a particular trade for too long, we become accustomed to how we work and live.”
Artist Kuo I-chen (郭奕臣) feels the same way. Working primarily in video and sound art, Kuo says he has led the lifestyle of a “zhainan” (宅男) in his small, crowded home-cum-studio in Ximending (西門町). But the experience of taking up artist-in-residence programs in New York City in recent years made a great impact on the internationally exhibited artist.