Taipei Imagery I

Born and grew up in Taipei, I found myself inevitably immersed in the seemingly harmonious incongruity. Instead of evading it, I chose to embrace the resplendent grey. I believed that it was since high school that I started to ascertain my fondness for aged apartments with full awareness. In my elementary and junior high school years, I used to move back and forth between home and school. Then, I attended a high school located in Minsheng Community, to which I had to travel quite a distance. The repressed rebellion had flown out under a rather peaceful surface as I skipped class. I couldn’t stay at home when I didn’t want to go to school, so I aimlessly wandered around. It was interesting that I always gained something while I aimed at nothing — I got to acquaint myself with aged apartments and they have held a place in my affection since then.

Minsheng Community inspired me to be a flâneuse. Appealed to the individuality of the buildings, I started to make note of them through my eyes. There are apartments of all sorts in Minsheng Community — spacious and elegant, orderly and refined, small but complete. There is also existence of abandoned, empty, as well as incomprehensible kinds. Despite the variety, they share the same mellow and laid-back style. This coherence may be relevant to the historical background. In the 1960s, the construction plan started in imitation of the American urban planning. The implementation was held during the same period. With the aim of innovation and aesthetic, the first American model community was born and has been one of the communities with the best life function in Taiwan.

There wasn’t a clear direction of my observation then. I saw them, appreciated them, and thought no further. Perhaps I was too young to scent something odd and even to taste sadness outside my personal feelings. After finishing high school, I left my playground. And Minsheng Community became a long shot in my remembrances. Two years later, I chanced upon Postsadness Taipei[1]. The book was an enlightenment to me. It became a guiding principle of my city observation. According to the author Sandra Köstler, Postsadness Taipei is an urbanism project focusing on the interplay between the enduring legacy bequeathed by an authoritarian past and the ongoing evolution of Taipei. Intrigued by the mergence of the concept, her photography and text, I started my own version of Postsadness Taipei photography.

The apartments cuddle in a neighborly relationship, which on the other hand creates an area where newly built buildings are no intrusion and thus there isn’t existence of the closeness between modern and olden days — the essential closeness that directly brings on the strong visual impact and emotional potentiality. Fine manner and tranquility are what Minsheng Community is known for. Not contrasts. Not sadness.

Now that I have developed my way of seeing, I classified Minsheng Community as a part of my growing process apart from my Postsadness Taipei series.

There was also a critical interlude that aroused my awareness of not only living in but living with the city Taipei and thus induced the first step in my seeking of what Taipei was to me. I was cycling along Dajia Riverside Park somewhere in time and went by a foreigner drawing graffiti on the wall. I was fortunate enough to catch a fleeting glimpse of his work, which said: SILVER TAIPEI. I was so obsessed with the description to which he has given this city. Couldn’t be more accurate. He didn’t use grey, which would be too oppressed and lifeless for a sophisticated city like this. Portraying Taipei as grey would also be an oversight to the dazzling and spectacular night Taipei. What was Taipei to me? A foreigner was rendering such sentimental response to a city which would probably be another passerby in his life, while I have never turned my attention to where I was born and been living in since I came. It was from then on that I began to see the city.

[1] Sandra Köstler, “Postsadness Taipei” (self-published book, 2016)