The Glory of Tainan
Tainan Art Museum Building 1, Gallery A~G
The Glory of Tainan
Curatorial Statement Abstract
Along with the advent of the Age of Discovery, Western forces began to arrive in East Asia, propelling Taiwan, a small island that borders the East China Sea and was once on the outer fringes of civilization, into a contested territory where nations fought over in the new Asian order. As the oldest city on the island of Taiwan, Tainan has not only witnessed centuries of historical rise and decline; it has also become an epitome of Taiwan’s political makeup and cultural traits. These factors make up for Tainan’s importance and symbolic significance. Art in Taiwan has undergone various stages under such complex spatial and temporal backdrop, which includes the burgeoning phase, the developmental phase, and the transformative phase. It is also an amalgamation of various regional and ethnic elements derived from the West, China, Japan, and southern islands, resulting in a fluid and hybrid maritime landscape.
After enduring multiple colonial regimes and with accumulated influences from various civilizations, Taiwan then began to gradually transform from a traditional and conservative society into a liberated and open civil society, with up-and-coming cities serving as private experimental fields and public display sites for culture and art. Confrontations and clashes were inevitable due to competing and conflicting Eastern and Western cultures and different incoming and outgoing ethnic groups; however, opportunities also arose for a cultural identity to be sought after, for regional features to be constructed, and for subjective values to be shaped. Spanning across its pre-war to post-war eras, art in Taiwan shows interlocking elements of the new and the old, the natural and the civilized, the public and the private, the Self and the Other, and within such binary framework, possibilities for modernization are explored, with a relentless quest for its position in history embarked upon.
The rich cultural resources available in Tainan encompass richly diverse features ranging from Dutch colonial era to the period of Koxinga family rule and onwards, which includes historical materials on wars, nautical charts, folklore illustrations, everyday objects, and literati writings and paintings, where the East crosses with the West, and the new coexists with the old. From the period of Japanese colonial rule to after martial law was lifted, art became an important symbol for individualism, and it also served to connect with the outside world in the midst of rapid modernization and through a process of internationalization and globalization; however, with increasing demands for subjectivity and regionalism, to see Tainan as the cultural and spiritual base of Taiwan and to examine its natural elements, temples, historical streets, folklore and festivities, culinary culture, and other existing heritage and memories of the city have become main points of reference that grassroots discourse and common aesthetics are built upon.
The Glory of Tainan brings together Taiwan or Tainan’s past and present, and consists of multifaceted spatio-temporal narratives. Looking onwards or looking back, studies on the city should not only focus on its tangible topography or spatial governance; it is also imperative to examine its cultural identity, land-oriented experiences, and other intangible cultural heritage. However, is it possible for region and nation, economic development and environmental conservation, individuals and groups, function and aesthetics to co-exist? Nonetheless, a power structure is observed in the progression and development of modern and contemporary art in Taiwan, which is reflected in the aforementioned complex context. This exhibition examines the developmental course of the city’s subjective consciousness and its formal content through exploring visual and material cultural resources related to the city, with the city applied as the exhibition’s methodology.
A Southern Wind
The 1990s: A Brief History for Beginning of Contemporary Art in Tainan
Curator︱Li, Szu-Hsien (Associate Professor, Dept. of Fine Arts, Tunghai University)
In the history of Taiwanese art, the 1990s was undoubtedly a time of flourishing ideals, open social atmosphere, and progressive artistic thought. The main reason for this outburst of social development was the end of the martial law era in 1987, which marks a milestone in the Taiwanese march towards democracy, and a definitive era in Taiwanese art. Social trends after the end of martial law brought great subversion and possibilities to old concepts and environments. In the face of new trends, thoughts and social change, people tend to develop a certain degree of anxiety and psychological unease. The various states of unease have become the main axis of an artist’s exploration of society and an overall cultural phenomenon of that era.
In 1983, Taiwan’s first official art museum officially opened. Artists at the time were either unsatisfied or unable to enter official exhibition systems, thus stimulating a rise of the”alternative space” movement that relied on the artists’ self-reliance and mutual collaboration. Taiwanese artists start to consider space operations and art creation from new perspectives and form new dialectic. They achieved self completion in the specific artistic atmospheres of the 90s and also defined Tainan as well as Taiwan through their art.
This exhibition will endeavor to restore the alternative spaces from the period. In addition to 1990s artistic works, visual elements of relevant art spaces will be reconstructed as an attempt to convey authenticity and the original aura that is part of the Tainan art history through interior design. Through these works, we share an interpretation of the local, artistic and avant-garde, linking localization to expansive experiences and conveying the exhibition’s contribution as the Tainan Art Museum’s opening display.
Through the exhibition of”A Southern Wind”, it is going to emphasize the museum’s cultural lineage as well as serve as a nucleus for contemporary development.
A Process of New Interpretations
Curator｜Chang, Ching Yuan(Professor, Graduate Institute of Applied Arts, Tainan National University of the Arts)
As a cultural entity, Taiwan does not have the historical experience accumulated over centuries, nor a millennium of cultural heritage, but due to its unique geographical location and the combination of immigration and colonization in the last few centuries, the Taiwanese culture is a construction of many intriguing flavors.
Among these many flavors, life crafts, and art that share a common inspiration in “tea” as a subject strongly demonstrate the Taiwanese ability to accept and reinterpret foreign culture.
In the past 30 years, Taiwanese tea enthusiasts have reinterpreted the rigorous yet engaging, diverse yet uncomplicated new tea ceremony through a continuous dialogue with tea farmers and tea artisans. The introduction of the philosophy and aesthetics of Japanese tea lifestyles and the use of tools is therefore injected into the development of Chinese culture and is an example of the Taiwanese internal transformation from taste to a new form of life and art through tea drinking in the lives of citizens.
In the cultural appreciation of tea sets and tea drinking attitudes, contemporary Asian neighbors are very obviously affected by Taiwan. This is an indisputable fact, while new interpretations are still in progress.
Urban ‧ New Landscape ‧ Spatial Power
Curator｜Pai, Shih-Ming (Professor, Department of Fine Arts, National Taiwan Normal University)
“Urban ‧ New Landscape ‧ Spatial Power” is intended to highlight the practical experience of urban life participation and citizenship construction through an artist’s view of landscape and urban writing in order to provide a comprehensive view of contemporary urban landscape in multiple perspectives. I aim to re-think problems created by modernization and urban construction while simultaneously reflecting the construction of visual imagery in modern and contemporary Taiwanese cities. These works of art are objects of urban observation, roaming, reproduction, or discussion, each reflects the internal dialogue between different eras or creative generations and the urban spaces from which they draw inspiration, as well as depicting the characteristics of “trans-locality” in the use of media and ideas. The cultural production of “trans-locality” demonstrates a re-encoding of subject consciousness in spatial rights, landscape history and urban memory that transgresses the identification borders of state, geography, ethnicity or locality. This re-encoding produced under political control, presenting a state of contemporary art and culture that is fluid, intertwined, autonomous and of critical independence.
Art Stories from Tainan
Curator｜Pan, An-Yi (Associate Professor, History of Art and Visual Studies, Cornell University)
Throughout the evolution and changes in Tainan aesthetics, macroscopic historical factors determine its general direction and tone. From the Ming Zheng era, the Central Plains culture formed the basis of Tainan aesthetics, shaping the characteristics of art which includes the ink and watercolor works of both literati and folk painters. The Japanese colonial rule introduced new education that changed Tainan aesthetics, with most students yearning for Tokyo as the capital of oriental art and a select few using Tokyo as a springboard to Paris. Western classical and modern influence became an important element of Tainan aesthetics, whereas the colonists emphasized the replacement of ink painting with Nihonga paintings shaped a new east-west confrontation, and Nihonga painting became the main axis of Tainan’s New Oriental Art.
After the war, the National Government sacrificed many important works in the process of cleaning up colonial residues, and then used local artists to help sculpt and paint new ruling class groups. At the same time, these artists created a new chapter in Tainan aesthetics to fit their ideals.
Tainan aesthetics is seen as an important, intangible cultural heritage, but it is not a constant concept. In a constant, temporal flux, Tainan aesthetics has been transformed many times. In the future, it will follow the same trajectory and continue its enrichment under the influence of macro and micro historical factors.