Artist Yao Jui-chung documents 400 publicly constructed buildings now abandoned (2015/11/29)
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    Artist Yao Jui-chung documents 400 publicly constructed buildings now abandoned (2015/11/29)

    It’s hard to believe publicly constructed buildings that are now idle cost taxpayers some NT$400 billion. These white elephants – known in Taiwan as “mosquito halls” – have attracted the interest of video artist Yao Jui-chung. Beginning in 2010 he led photography students in National Taiwan Normal University’s Fine Arts Department on a special mission to photograph all of these facilities. They have taken pictures of some 400 of these locations over four years.

    The entrance to the Taoyuan County’s Northern Exhibition Hall isn’t very inviting as the area is littered with garbage. This abandoned space sits adjacent to Taoyuan International Airport.

    This Ministry of Economic Affairs spent more than NT$200mn to plan and construct this exhibition hall. It thought people would be attracted to seeing planes taking off and landing. As big as three soccer stadiums, the facility opened in 1995 but closed after just three years in operation.

    Yao Jui-chung
    This was built about 20 years ago as it was expected to be part of the Taoyuan Aerotropolis. It was to be used for exhibitions, but it only hosted one or two exhibitions before going completely idle.

    In Dayuan Township, many public facilities have gone idle, such as this coastal recreational area service center. The Taoyuan County government spent NT$14 million to build and landscape the facility to transform it into the shape of a whale. A tank was also brought in to attract tourists, but the facility was failed.

    Here we can see corrosion on the doors and windows and mildew on these walls and abandoned equipment.

    Yao Jui-chung
    The government hopes that these large projects will lead to local prosperity and help level out the urban-rural divide. But after investing in the facilities, they find they don’t have the management skills to accompany these projects. This is why many of these spaces have gone empty. There simply isn’t the manpower or talent to run them or operate them over the long term. That’s where the problem lies.

    Here we see Yao with his camera carefully photographing this mosquito hall. He’s personally drawn to ruins. Prior to this project, he was actually a well-known Taiwanese contemporary artist.

    Here we see Yao transforming a traditional landscape painting by replacing the brush with a pen, creating his unique style.

    Yao Jui-chung
    Ancient people worked with a brush, which was one of their necessary tools of daily life. But now people have different tools such as this pen, which more closely resembles modern life.

    Many are wondering how a contemporary artist who is usually removed from society could develop such an interest in “mosquito halls" and seek to draw public interest in them.

    Yao Jui-chung
    When my daughter was born, I found that we had left her a society full of problems. I wanted to see if we make a small effort to help her remove some of the obstacles her generation will face.

    In 2010, working as a part-time lecturer in the National Taiwan Normal University Fine Arts Department, Yao Jui-chung, mobilized his students to collectively photograph and document all these deserted public projects.

    Liao Wan-ting
    NTNU Student
    Most people’s impression of art is that it’s disconnected from society, but the professor hopes that art can intervene. I feel this is very meaningful.

    Yao Jui-chung
    When you give students an assignment today they won’t go to the location. Instead they simply search the Internet for its location and read a few related articles. I emphasize to my students that they must actually visit the site to get a deeper impression.

    For four years, Yao Jui-chung has worked with more than 200 students personally, visiting some 400 mosquito halls in Taiwan. These works have been assembled into a four-part series “Mirage: Disused Public Property in Taiwan”.

    All of the photos in the book are black and white, suggesting the dark side of idle publicly constructed buildings.

    Yao Jui-chung
    Illustrations can quickly produce a sense of shock in (people) and we added some text to list the competent authorities and what construction budget was allocated and which year it was built. Afterwards, we really don’t know who was in charge of the project but at least we can send it as a reference for the government to review.

    Not only did the topic become a series of publications for Yao, but photos from the project went on to win the international audience award at the 2014 Singapore Asian Art Competition.

    Yao Jui-chung
    Taiwan doesn’t face this problem alone, as the whole world has this problem. Everyone agrees that we don’t know how to solve it, so many foreign audiences may encounter the same concern.

    The work produced by Yao and his students has touched on an important issue which is resonating with international audiences. The ultimate goal of this project is to make the government face up to this vexing problem of idle public spaces and the need to invigorate them with new life.

    中文 Chinese  




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