Rainbow Village (彩虹眷村) is a former military dependents’ village and a well-known landmark in the southwest corner of Taichung’s Nantun District (南屯). On Saturday, most of the village’s colorful murals were painted over by personnel of Rainbow Creative Co, which has managed the village for several years under contract with the Taipei City Government.
After receiving a report of the incident, the police detained 14 members of the company’s staff, including its director, and held them for questioning.
News media reported that Rainbow Village had been under the company’s management for the past 10 years, but in the past few years, the parties to this arrangement have been engaged in a legal dispute about how the village’s profits are divided. The case is under investigation by the Taichung District Prosecutors’ Office, while Rainbow Creative Co’s contract to operate the village was terminated on Sunday.
Rainbow Creative Co CEO Wei Pi-jen (魏丕仁) on Sunday said that his company had spent millions of New Taiwan dollars to restore Rainbow Village during its decade of operation, and that 80 to 90 percent of the village’s murals were created by the company’s employees, whom it calls the Rainbow Creative Team. Therefore, Wei claimed that the paintings were the company’s intellectual property.
Wei said that all the art that was painted over was originally created by the team. He said that the Taichung City Government had instructed the company to restore the village to its original state, and they had done so by painting over the later designs as part of its protest against the city government’s sudden termination of the contract.
If Wei was being truthful about his company creating the paintings, does that not mean that all Taiwanese and overseas tourists who have visited the village over the past decade have been fooled into thinking that all the paintings were done by 99-year-old “Rainbow Grandpa” Huang Yung-fu (黃永阜)?
From a wider perspective, the phrase “cultural and creative” has been commercialized in Taiwan and turned into a kind of embedded marketing. It echoes the craze about painter Hung Tung (洪通) 50 years ago. Like Huang, Hung was a self-taught painter whose style was typified by freehand strokes and bright colors.
“Art” encompasses a wide range of creations, but are Hung’s paintings and Huang’s murals the work of “artists” or “cultural creators,” or even just a crystallization of media and business hype?
Further research might be needed to provide a clear answer. Take Pablo Picasso, for example. His abstract paintings might be incomprehensible to many people, but his style is praised by artists, masters and specialists all around the world. Collectors and galleries have paid exorbitant prices for Picasso’s works, making them nearly priceless.
A true work of art has a hidden soul beneath its outward appearance. In contrast, some might say that Rainbow Village merely puts its stamp on goods that could be found in a hardware store.
Many of Taiwan’s cultural and creative parks and former military dependents’ villages have become clusters of souvenir shops and snack vendors. This is an expression of the typical Taiwanese lifestyle that revolves around food.
Real cultural and creative enterprises should have the vision that it takes to become leaders in their fields and become globally recognized, rather than grabbing any opportunity for online marketing and short-term profiteering. This only makes Taiwan look like a cultural desert.
Fang Fu-chuan is an international trader.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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