From Aug. 25 to Sunday, about 200 works were displayed in the exhibition “A Vision for Transforming Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Park” at C-LAB, which used to be the Air Force Command Headquarters. Unfortunately, only a few people got to see the exhibition, as the Ministry of Culture appeared to have lost interest in it.
When it comes to transitional justice, the question of how to transform the Chiang Kai-shek (CKS) Memorial Park has been subject to endless debate. Last year, the ministry commissioned three non-governmental organizations to organize a conceptual design competition called “100 Ways,” hoping to stimulate the creativity of participants to find new ways in which the park could be utilized.
Public submissions for the competition started in July last year, and in March, the judges chose the top five entries each for the student and open categories.
The exhibition was originally scheduled to be held at the CKS Memorial Park right after the winners were announced and to last for two-and-a-half months. However, the ministry postponed the exhibition to late last month, reduced its duration to 17 days and relocated it to C-LAB.
Separating the exhibition from the competition event and moving it made it look like the ministry was intentionally downplaying the exhibition, discouraging people from engaging with it.
This not only let hundreds of enthusiastic young people down, it essentially covered up their creativity. Moreover, it closed the space for dialogue on transitional justice — especially the complex issues associated with the CKS Memorial Park.
Many works in the exhibition did not exhibit a strong critical attitude toward historical injustices. Some people who might have expected the younger generation to express a sense of justice might have felt disappointed, but young people have their own perspective on the subject.
Participants disagreed with the original allocation of the park for commemorating authoritarianism; they hoped to transform the situation: Promoting more diverse activities in the park, for example, would highlight the importance of citizens and the rejection of authoritarianism that their life and liberty represent.
This design orientation was active and coherent, showing the vision of the younger generation. It was an opportunity for further social debate on this issue. Why did the ministry turn its back on this, instead of promoting and making good use of the event?
Decisionmakers shied away from this contentious issue without understanding the collective consciousness of the younger generation on display in the exhibition. Such risk avoidance is only human, but it is the wrong way for people in positions of leadership to act.
The lifting of martial law and bringing about a transfer of power was the result of the efforts of courageous predecessors, and we should keep working on transitional justice. The ministry should not shirk its responsibility in this regard.
The exhibition organizers should let citizens seize this opportunity to communicate and extend the duration of the exhibition. The event should be hosted in central and southern Taiwan as well, and back to the CKS Memorial Park for two more months, giving citizens the opportunity to imagine the possibilities that the park offers.
Hochen Tan is a former minister of transportation and communications.
Translated by Chien Yan-ru
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