TAIWAN ARTIST VILLAGE RESIDENCIES
An ongoing project to revitalise and legalise a historic veterans’ community in Taipei has finally been realised, with the opening of the Treasure Hill Artist Village last month. The project has been under government redevelopment since 2006 and was open to the public for one weekend only.
In a unique arrangement, the new village will house 22 of the 100 former resident families. Not all the residents chose to return once renovation was completed, some accepted compensation to move away permanently. So far, five artists have been given permission to reside in some of the village’s fourteen artist studios. Artists and other individuals and groups new to the area are mandated to live in symbiosis with the original residents and must create artwork that relates directly to their experiences there. The village’s other empty buildings have been designated for a youth hostel, darkrooms, theatre spaces, bookstores, further studios and exhibition spaces.
Treasure Hill started off life as an ammunition depot during the 1930s when Taiwan was still under Japanese colonial rule. Then, Nationalist (Kuomintang) government soldiers, stationed in the area in the late 1940s, began to build shelters on the hill. Illegal building continued even when the area was zoned by the city government as an urban park in the 1980s. During this time, the official destruction of the settlement was announced and demolition notices were posted to all residents.
After a number of art and cultural activist groups worked to save the area, the government transferred management of Treasure Hill to the newly created Bureau of Cultural Affairs, resulting in a plan to redevelop and restore it as a place where artists and the original residents could work and live together. Because it is representative of the “squatter setting” that many Taipei citizens lived in during the 1950s, the city government declared the area a historical site in 2004. Since early 2010, the site has been under the jurisdiction of the Taipei Culture Foundation, an organisation that looks after two other artist villages in the city namely, Taipei Artist Village and Grass Mountain Artist Village.
For a more detailed account of the history and artistic development of Treasure Hill read “Altered Space: Squatting and Legitimizing Treasure Hill, Taipei” (2006) by Associate Professor Min Jay Kang of Tamkang University, Taiwan.
OpenLab Taipei (OT), a “digital creation community that uses open source codes and free software tools for artistic creations,” is an example of an arts organisation that has taken advantage of the art spaces now available in the village. Members come from numerous professional backgrounds including interactive software design, academia, Internet service, digital music and visual arts and until now, they have been operating nomadically out of coffee shops, art and culture galleries, personal studios or online. All are supporters of “FLOSS + Art” which means, as the organisation defines the term in a press release announcing their move to the village, “making Art with Free/Libre Open Source Software,” and are committed to “upholding the spirit of openness and freedom in carrying out all kinds of digital arts experiments.” In the same press release they say of their acceptance into Treasure Hill Artist Village:
“With mostly individually-run spontaneous community activities with no funding, [members of OT] only managed to make themselves heard through … online bulletin boards. With a physical office launched, will the operation of OT be seen by the greater public…? Is the new mode of operation likely to bring changes to the mode of [the members’] activities? These are issues that will continue to be examined…”
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