Wed, Mar 06, 2019 - Page 13 News List

Waste not want not

An exhibition on Dihua Street about the dying art of repairing and repurposing objects and a zero-waste fashion display at Huashan Creative Park highlight the resistance to fast fashion as well as society’s move toward a more sustainable economy

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

This 300cm-tall “demin tree” at “Zero Waste Exhibition” highlights the fact that it took 210,000 gallons of water to make all the jeans it contains.

Photo: Han Cheung, Taipei Times

A feeling of guilt overtakes me as I browse through Museum 207’s latest exhibition. The night before, I was cleaning my room — Marie Kondo style — and I thought of all the objects I threw away because they were slightly damaged, including a sweater that only had a tiny hole.

In tune with Dihua Street’s spirit of preserving traditions, Museum 207’s latest exhibition is titled “Cherishing the Old” (舊的不去), and focusing on techniques for repairing clothes, chairs, bowls, fishing nets and so on from a time when most people couldn’t afford to just go out and buy a new one.

The exhibition’s explainer is probably meant to make visitors feel guilty: “In today’s culture of casual ‘buy and discard,’ we have also forgotten how to cherish. We hope this exhibition will let us savor the beauty of cherishing the old by revisiting the dying craft of ‘repair,’” it reads.

Sustainability and minimizing waste has been a hot topic in Taiwan, especially with the government’s efforts in reducing plastic and promoting green energy. Related exhibitions and enterprises can be found all around the country these days — the Taiwan Design Center’s comprehensive “Circular Design — Are You In-Circled?” (循環設計展 — 你在圈內嗎?) show just concluded this past weekend, while reusable sanitary pads and metal straws have become mainstays of crafts markets.

After Museum 207, I head to Huashan 1914 Creative Park to explore the idea of repair and reuse in a modern and commercial context at the “Zero Waste Exhibition” (零廢棄時尚) pop up shop curated by Storywear (故事衣), a fashion brand that repurposes used jeans and collaborates with traditional or disadvantaged craftspeople.

According to a shop display, 438 pieces of clothing are discarded per minute in Taiwan. This number is only increasing. Last month, Greenpeace Taiwan announced that people are discarding clothes at twice the rate they did in 2000, yet they own 60 percent more clothing. “Fast fashion must slow down,” the organization warned.

Exhibition notes

What: Cherishing the Old (舊的不去)

Where: Museum 207, 207 Dihua St, Taipei City (台北市迪化街207號)

When: Open daily except Tuesdays from 10am to 5pm; closes at 5:30pm on weekends. Until July 7

Admission: Free

On the Net:

What: Zero Waste Exhibition (零廢棄時尚)

Where: Huashan 1914 Creatve Park (華山1914文化創意產業園區), 1, Bade Road, Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市八德路一段1號)

When: Open 11am to 9pm daily, until Sunday but reopening at Flora Expo Park next week

Admission: Free

On the Net:


Visitors to the 207 Museum are confronted with questions that urge them to think about how they live: “In an age where a ceramic cup costs NT$199, would you repair a broken cup?”

Some of the anecdotes are quite fascinating. Apparently in ancient China, coastal inhabitants used powdered oyster shell mixed with glutinous rice to mend broken bowls, while earthworm mucus or garlic juice was used in Europe.

Each section includes a short video with interviews and action sequences from actual repair craftspeople in Taiwan that contextualizes the text and artifacts. The highlight of the show is probably several bowls by Kansanlau (江山樓), a famous entertainment venue from the Japanese colonial era that’s known for once serving the late Japanese emperor Hirohito when he was still the crown prince. The mended bowls look quite ordinary until a museum staff told me to lower my head and look at the vessel’s side, where the repaired fissures are bolstered by metal staples that are not seen anywhere today.

“The staple repair is a sign of how precious porcelain ware was at that time,” the description reads.

The exhibition is small, only containing two narrow floors typical of Dihua Street buildings, but its detailed descriptions containing actual interviews with experts (and excellent English translations) and well-produced videos give life to the ordinary household objects that they accompany. From cracked records to fishing nets to oil umbrellas, nothing cannot be fixed.

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