Five to See: Taipei

Fi Churchman’s guide to what to see and where to eat

By Fi Churchman

Chim Pom, Scrap and Build project-SUPER RAT, 2017, mixed media, 100 x 100 x 100 cm. Courtesy the artists and MoCA, Taipei Au Sow Yee, Kris Project I: The Never Ending Tale of Maria, Tin Mine, Spices and the Harimau (still), 2016, HD video, sound, 15 mins. Courtesy the artist and TheCube Project Space, Taipei Ueda Shoji, Four Girls Posing, 1939. © Shoji Ueda Office. Courtesy Each Modern, Taipei Chim Pom, Scrap and Build project-SUPER RAT, 2017, mixed media, 100 x 100 x 100 cm. Courtesy the artists and MoCA, Taipei York Noongar Community with Community Arts Network, Welcome to Balardong (still), 2019, stop motion animation, 13 mins 35 sec. Courtesy the artists and Taipei Fine Arts Museum Wu Tien-Chang, Farwell, Spring and Autumn Pavilion (still), 2015, single-channel video installation, 4 min 10 sec. Courtesy the artist and TKG+, Taipei

Bright unflattering lighting, crowds milling around, expensive coffee, terrible food options, smiling and nodding at people you’re supposed to know but don’t: yes! It’s a new year of art fairs! While some factions of ArtReview Asia content themselves with drowning the experience under a local bar counter, others are more likely to plan their day around their belly-rumbles as a coping mechanism. Trouble is, the seafood and champagne bars at art fairs aren’t really ArtReview Asia’s cup-a-cha, so it likes to combine an exhibition-going escape route with a bit of rootling around the vicinity for some decent snacks. Next week sees the opening of the second edition of Taipei Dangdai (Nangang Exhibition Center, 17–19 January), and ArtReview Asia knows that you’ll need a respite from art fair fatigue, so it has decided to provide you with a smorgasbord of exhibitions to see (and eat your way around) throughout the city.

** Before we get started, if you’re unable to make it down to Taichung to see the Asian Art Biennial (cocurated by artists Ho Tzu Nyen and Hsu Chia-Wei), check out Adeline Chia’s review of the show here **

Au Sow Yee, Kris Project I: The Never Ending Tale of Maria, Tin Mine, Spices and the Harimau (still), 2016
Au Sow Yee, Kris Project I: The Never Ending Tale of Maria, Tin Mine, Spices and the Harimau (still), 2016, HD video, sound, 15 mins. Courtesy the artist and TheCube Project Space, Taipei 

Au Sow-Yee: Still Alive at TheCube Project Space, through 19 January

First up is a solo exhibition by Malaysian artist Au Sow-Yee, who works primarily with moving image installations. At TheCube, she’s showing three short videos that explore ‘the relation between images, image making, historiography, politics and power’, with a focus on the re-imagined history of Southeast Asia. More specifically, the videos shown here reveal how the processes of mythmaking and storytelling can manipulate the way we understand the histories of, say, the complicated borderlines around the South China Sea, or the mysterious disappearance of Thailand-based American silk tycoon Jim Thompson. Through her works, Au asks her audience to question the foundations of their knowledge and beliefs, and to consider how these perspectives are fabricated by the context in which they are understood.

While you chew over this, you may as well sink your teeth into a delicious gua bao from Lan Jia. Just up the road from TheCube, you’ll find the street stall selling pillowy baos brusquely filled with pork belly, pickled veg, coriander and peanut powder. You are welcome.


Ueda Shoji, Four Girls Posing, 1939
Ueda Shoji, Four Girls Posing, 1939. © Shoji Ueda Office. Courtesy Each Modern, Taipei

Ueda Shoji at Huashan 1914 Creative Park, through 1 March

Originally built as a ginseng and sake factory in – you guessed it – 1914, Huashan Creative Park is now a public arts centre that hosts music, theatre, literary and visual arts events throughout the year. The remodelled brick warehouses also house artist studios. Currently, Each Modern is presenting a retrospective of Japanese photographer Ueda Shoji’s works, billed as ‘the first commemorative exhibition of Ueda Shoji in 20 years since his death’, at the park. Over a hundred hand-printed works from the Ueda collection are on display alongside ‘rare’ 8mm film footage, documenting the development of Japanese photography from the early 1930s through 1999. After joining the surrealist photography group Ginryūsha in 1947, he began to develop some of the works he is most famous for – the Tottori sand dune photos – and an avant-garde style that became known as ‘Ueda-cho’.

Once you’ve had your fill of photography, avoid the hipster cafes in the park (unless you really must have that matcha green tea roll cake for the ‘gram) and head west. You’ve got several options between here and your next stop: Fuhang Dou Jiang for their famous fantuan (fried dough stick and pork floss rolled in sticky rice) and freshly made soy milk, Takumi on Jinan Road for a quick plate of scallop-filled jade-green dumplings, or Dong Yi near Taipei Station for a fried pork chop on rice. Take your pick.


Chim Pom, Scrap and Build project-SUPER RAT, 2017
Chim Pom, Scrap and Build project-SUPER RAT, 2017, mixed media, 100 x 100 x 100 cm. Courtesy the artists and MoCA, Taipei

Co/Inspiration in Catastrophes at MoCA Taipei, through 9 February

At the next stop, representations of the apocalypse abound. From natural to man-made disasters, Co/Inspiration in Catastrophes looks at the ways in which the rapid development of technology and industry has impacted on the way we operate in the world. Pierre Huyghe’s Cerro Indio Muerto (2016), a photo that depicts a human skeleton laying prostrate in bleak landscape sets the scene for this group show, which includes 16 artists and collectives. Following Huyghe’s opener are works including drawings by Zeng Xiang-Chi (of natural disasters Typhoon Winnie, 1997, and the 921 Earthquake, 1999, combined with imagery from indigenous Taiwanese legends), Ai Weiwei’s films about the plight of refugees, a video by Vietnamese artist Tuan Mami depicting his hometown transformed by the mining industry, and Japanese collective Chim↑Pom’s Scrap and Build project (2016–17), which reflects on nuclear disasters.

If your appetite hasn’t completely vanished, ArtReview Asia tentatively suggests seeking reprieve in a basket of soup dumplings. After all, is it even possible to go to Taipei without visiting Din Tai Fung? You’ll find a branch six minutes away, after which you can waddle onto the Tamsui-Xinyi (red) line that will take you up to the Taipei Fine Arts Museum.


York Noongar Community with Community Arts Network, Welcome to Balardong (still), 2019
York Noongar Community with Community Arts Network, Welcome to Balardong (still), 2019, stop motion animation, 13 mins 35 sec. Courtesy the artists and Taipei Fine Arts Museum

Island Tales: Taiwan and Australia | Taipei←→Perth at Taipei Fine Arts Museum, through 1 March

Back in 1999, the cities of Taipei and Perth decided to be friends. Specifically, they signed a Memorandum of Understanding, that, while not legally binding (because friendships never are), is apparently ‘stronger’ than a gentlemen’s agreement. To that end they’ve cultivated a partnership for cultural and artistic exchange, and, for their 20th anniversary, it takes the form of an exhibition co-organised by the Taipei Fine Art Museum and Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts. For Island Tales, TFAM curator Chien Cheng-Yi has brought together 13 contemporary artists and art collectives from Taiwan and Australia, to explore the perspectives of both lands through stories, false histories, records, and personal memories, and reveal their shared connections through indigenous cultures, maritime traditions, and colonial histories. Here the artists are positioned as ‘storytellers’ who use fictional and non-fictional narratives to challenge the way we interpret the world around us, whether through history, time or space. You’ll find works by Australian initiative Community Arts Network who have collaborated with the York Noongar community, as well as artists like Chiu Chen-Hung (whose work is currently on show in the Asian Art Biennial at National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts), Jacobus Capone, Eva Fernandez and Chihhung Liu.


Wu Tien-Chang, Farwell, Spring and Autumn Pavilion (still), 2015
Wu Tien-Chang, Farewell, Spring and Autumn Pavilion (still), 2015, single-channel video installation, 4 min 10 sec. Courtesy the artist and TKG+, Taipei

Plus X at TKG+, through 22 January 

As an offshoot of Tina Keng Gallery, TKG+, which focuses its attentions on new Taiwanese and Asian artists, is now celebrating its first decade. And with that, they present Plus X, a group show comprising 13 of their artists with the intention that it reflects the smelting of ethnicities and cultures in Taiwan and ‘a cultural context that uniquely defines Taiwanese contemporary art’. Works here include Taiwanese artist Chia-En Jao’s video Father Tongue (2017), which explores communication and language barriers between younger and older generations; Burmese artist Sawangwongse Yawnghwe’s crudely-moulded tiny clay army People’s Desire (2018); and Farewell, Spring and Autumn Pavilions by Wu Tien-Chang, a videowork originally commissioned for the 2015 Venice Biennale and based on his 1993 series Until We Meet Again! Spring and Autumn Pavilions, which looks at Taiwan’s complex history and westernisation in the postwar era.

To drag yourself back to the venue for Taipei Dangdai, grab the Wenhu (brown) line east… or else head in the opposite direction for the centre of town, and get off at Nanjing Fuxing. From here you’ll be able to wander down to Liaoning night market for an evening snack of oyster omelette. But ArtReview Asia isn’t going to tell you precisely where. You’ve got to do some work for yourself…


First published online 10 January 2020