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Taiwanese scholar takes new tack on public art

2010/07/18 16:09:44

Taipei, July 18 (CNA) From Green Island to Taipei, many citiesand towns in Taiwan feature works of art in public places to alterthe mood of their communities. Though most may not rank asmasterpieces, Taiwanese scholar Lin Chih-ming has decided to telltheir stories, using a novel approach.

Rather than focusing on the works' themselves, Lin decided tozero in on the stories behind 15 of these public installations andrecently published a book chronicling his findings, showing how formany artists or communities the artworks have an emotionalattachment.

"This is only the beginning of a series of books I am planning topublish in the hope of promoting the beauty of Taiwan, " Lin, thepresident of the Educational Development Association for Public Art,told the Central News Agency on Sunday.

One of the 15 public works featured in Lin's book is a playgroundslide set called the "Green Island Elephant, " which originally was afixture on an elementary school playground on the island for about 23years.

The slide was then put up for auction on the Taitung Countygovernment's website in 2009. It was bought by young Taitung nativeLee Meng-fa for NT$100 and then transformed into a public work ofart, Lin discovered.

Lee worked with students of Taitung Gungguan Primary School topaint the slide and give it a new face, turning it into public artand one of the island's main landmarks, said Lin, who is also anassociate professor at National United University.

With the help of a government subsidy, Lee recorded the wholeprocess and asked the students what the elephant meant to them.

"I hope the elephant will take me on a train trip, " someanswered, while others hoped for "the elephant to take me to travelthe world."

Their responses made clear to Lee the strong desire of thestudents to see the outside world, so his next step was to make theirdreams come true at the beginning of this year and take them on tripsto Tainan and Kaohsiung.

More stories emerged during their trips, and the elephant andstudents became ambassadors of the county, Lin recalled.

Another story in the book describes a public artwork called"Bigpow" designed by artist Akibo Lee. The robot-like figure catchesthe eyes of children whenever they pass by it in a park near theZhongshan MRT station in Taipei City.

The work had a cathartic effect on the artist and the upsand downs he has experienced in his career and marriage, because theprocess of creating the story of a cartoon or sculpture of a roboticfigure became a bridge between him and his two sons.

"'Bigpow' means big power. The idea came at the suggestion ofLee's children. Lee designed the works according to the preferencesof his children, which successfully caught their attention rightaway," Lin said.

"Through these stories, public artwork will no longer seem likecold statues but will actually convey emotion," the author stressed.

(By Sunnie Chen)