Wed, Dec 03, 2014 - Page 12 News List

Greater Kaohsiung: 48 - hour art run

Taiwan’s southern port city has an untapped futuristic art scene obsessed with its seafaring, industrial roots

By Dana Ter  /  Staff Reporter

Tourists take selfies by the graffiti-covered walls at Pier-2 Art Center.

Photo: Dana Ter, Taipei Times

Wandering around the outdoor art sculpture maze that is Pier-2 Art Center (駁二藝術特區) along Greater Kaohsiung’s Love River (愛河) after sunset, it becomes apparent that there’s an alluring sort of grittiness to the city being a harbor town. The light emanates from the colossal sculptures, but it’s enough to notice how there are still shanties and dilapidated residential buildings shrouded by the facade of found objects — car mirrors, metal scraps, ropes used to moor ships — all re-assembled to form what we now call modern art.

This feeling of a disappearing past mixed with a promising future makes Greater Kaohsiung’s art scene reminiscent of Taipei’s 10 years ago. The atmosphere is not sad per se. It’s more like being caught in a state of limbo, knowing that change will come but nevertheless finding ways to preserve pieces of the past — and for artists, this means encapsulating antiquated objects and ideas in various forms of artwork, then re-labeling it.

SCRAPPY CITY

The cluster of abandoned warehouses and railway tracks just off Yanchengpu MRT Station (鹽埕埔) was converted into Pier-2 in 2001, yet it didn’t receive much recognition in Taiwan or internationally until recently. Nowadays, tourists in couple t-shirts and hipsters in skinny jeans taking pictures with selfie sticks are just as big of a spectacle as the exhibitions themselves — which is why I recommend a nighttime stroll.

Needless to say, Pier-2 really brings out your creative, playful side during the day. The rusty railway tracks interspersed with graffiti-covered warehouses lead you to a grassy field behind the visitor center. Suddenly surrounded by a giant swing set, suitcase, broom and other monster-sized objects, you feel like you have been transported to the land of giants in Gulliver’s Travels. These are all works of art submitted for the Kaohsiung International Steel and Iron Sculpture Festival from 2012. A witty nod to the city’s seafaring roots, they also show how the city’s artists are recycling materials to memorialize the city’s bygone industrial era.

GETTING THERE

Take the south-bound high speed rail (HSR) from Taipei Main Station to the last stop, Zuoying HSR and transfer to the Kaohsiung MRT; ride takes approximately two hours. If saving money, take a train or bus but frankly, the HSR was invented for convenience

ACCOMMODATION

Harbourviews 39 B&B: Cute sailor-themed hostel/bed and breakfast

Hotel That (那旅):Small, snazzy mid-range boutique hotel with a mystery novel-esque decor

Grand Hi-Lai Hotel (漢來大飯店): High-rise mid-range hotel with Hello Kitty-themed guest rooms

Hotel Dua: High-end sleek boutique hotel with rooftop dining overlooking the Greater Kaohsiung skyline

PLACES TO VISIT

Pier-2 Art Center (駁二藝術特區)

Film Archive (高雄市電影館)

Museum of Fine Arts (高雄市立美術館)

Cultural Center (高雄市文化中心)

Mars Cafe (睦工場)

WHAT TO BRING

Bulky camera, selfie stick, t-shirts, skinny jeans


In addition, the 15th International Comic Artist Conference showcasing international talent from Angry Birds to anime was being held in another warehouse by the river. Also on display during my visit was Reverse Niche: Dialogue and Rebuilding at the City Edge, an exhibition consisting of shoddy upturned furniture, mangled beer cans and disheveled fishnets. The exhibition, which happened concurrently in Hong Kong and Osaka, was meant to raise awareness of the consequences of urban development on people who live on the fringes of society. Pier-2, with dilapidated residential buildings surrounding it, was a fitting place for this exhibition — although it’s questionable whether selfie-taking tourists were in the know.

A 15-minute riverside walk from Pier-2 is the Kaohsiung Film Archive (高雄市電影館), a three-story structure resembling a small lighthouse. For a compact space, it houses an impressive collection of old film reels and movie posters, including photographs of scenes from Hou Hsiao-hsien’s (侯孝賢) 1983 blockbuster hit The Boys from Fengkuei (風櫃來的人), which was filmed at Gushan Ferry pier (鼓山輪渡). Whereas you’ll need at least half a day to cover Pier-2, unless you’re a film buff, 30 minutes is more than enough time to peruse the film archive.

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