The East Coast National Scenic Area, Tourism Bureau, Ministry of Transportation and Communications, Republic of China will host the third annual East Coast Land Art Festival. We invite artists to submit proposals to create installation arts that combine the natural environment, geographic landscape, and spatial aesthetics of the East Coast National Scenic Area. The festival emphasizes onsite creation and local participation, focusing on the dialogue among art, nature and culture to adapt to the climate and ecological context of the East Coast. The purpose is to gather local and international artistic creativity through a modern cultural tourist strategy into shaping unique cultural and scenic landscapes of the East Coast of Taiwan.
2021 Curatorial Discussion
From the direction of sunrise
A fin whale emerges, carefully
approaching a large population of humpback whales
A distance too elusive to measure by the aesthetics alone
Revealing the back of a thin and narrow outline
In the vastness between the mountains and the sea
Discover the boundary of making oneself comfortable
———————Liu Kexiang, “Coastal Range” Mountain Patrol Poetry Collection
When the monsoon wind blows, the songs from the Pacific cross over the long and winding coastline, through the county roads interwoven with emerald green and azure blue. They pass the diligently working folks in the mountains and seasides, flow towards the mysterious and silent layers of green mountains, the coastal ranges. When everything falls asleep late at night, and the hustle and bustle of the world calm down. We can hear the Coastal Mountains’ songs responding to the Pacific Ocean with full attention and realize that the mountains were never silent. The mountains and ocean harmonize with each other endlessly from time immemorial. It started when the volcanic island chain at the northern tip of the Philippine ocean plate (the present day’s Coastal Range) officially marges with the southern-eastern edge of the Eurasian continental plant (Island of Taiwan) three million years ago.
Similar to the harmony of the mountain and the sea, the movement of our beloved heavenly island’s creation is still vigorously active today. Suppose the 4.6 billion years of history of planet earth can be condensed into one hour. In that case, the island of Taiwan is like a newborn baby born in the last five seconds, growing up at full speed day and night. The East Coast of Taiwan intensely confronts such an impressive and vital growing process. It is located where violent plate movements take place with frequent earthquakes. The distance between sea level and mountains of elevation over one thousand meters is varied from as wide as few kilometers to as narrow as few dozens of meters, carving a unique and drastic change in terrain. The running waters that cut through the mountain ranges are short but rather rapid. An ordinary small stream can instantly turn into a flood gushing to the sea after torrential rain. As the largest island on the Tropic of Cancer it has a subtropical climate and a warm and humid cradle for a rich and diverse ecosystem. With long and scorching summers, frequently accompanied by the gusts from the Pacific, it is here where typhoons meet the island. After the fall, the northeast monsoon wind blows huge waves crashing into the mountain. Combined with the effect of global warming, sea levels rising, and coastline erosion, the highway has been encroaching towards the coastal mountain ranges. No one understands “impermanence as the essence of everyday life” better than the people of the East Coast, who strive to make a living amidst intense natural movements. Everything we currently see can change instantly. “The universe has no mercy, treating everything as ceremonial straw dogs”; Nature is as mighty as it is brutal, and as beautiful as it amazingly reveals. Yet, we can always find the courage and chances for rebirth in Nature’s breathtaking and awe-inspiring beauty.
With the world being churned and turned upside down in 2020 by the pandemic, we further understand the fragility and peril of human civilization. The most powerful nation is also where the virus damages the most. The regular, frequent international travel has been halted overnight due to the outbreaks of the disease. The global economy, politics, and the entire human civilization are undergoing severe challenges and getting realigned. Meanwhile, the island of Taiwan is like Noah’s Ark, surfing through waves of the monstrous tsunami with full loads of amazements and miracles from the whole world.
Perhaps because Taiwan has always been the meeting point where various cultural values collide, like the collision of Eurasian and Oceanic plates, Taiwan is at the front line where the superpowers from the East and West confront each other. Since Taiwanese people have been living cautiously with environmental and global changes, we become sensitive to adapt to drastic shifts and conflicts among various values, our incredible determination to survive is sustained.
When we are obliged to stop moving beyond the borders, there is more time for us to look at the land under our feet with quieter minds. This beautiful and miraculous island where you and I live is somehow unfamiliar. While the outside world is still entirely in pandemic panic mode, we can still live our everyday routine with stability. This apocalyptic crisis makes us ponder about how far our civilization, technology, industrialization, and extreme capitalism have developed and deviated from Nature’s path while plundering global resources. And how long can it last? The “East Coast Land Arts Festival” is an invitation to return to the boundary between humans and Nature, to reexperience, reconnect and piece together the relationship between humans and Nature.
With traditional rituals, ceremonies, or cultural and artistic festivals being created in response to maintain contemporary society’s cultural and economic flow, an important function is that through the process of collaborative participation in festivities, people can surpass barriers in real life and gain insight of life’s divine nature and power, which further reestablishes interpersonal relationships between humans and the universe. The most significant meaning of festivities is that it offers temporary transition from the normal/secular to the extraordinary/sacred. Then, the cycle repeats.
From an anthropological perspective, humanity’s social life consists of two phases or life states, the mundane/ordinary/working/home state and the sacred/extraordinary/festive/travel state.
Therefore, for a regional art festival created in response to the demand of our time, the most crucial factor of its continuity and expansion is that both local and outside participants gain the power of healing, transformation, change, and renewal of life through this art festival co-created on a cultural and environmental basis.
Living on the East Coast, people work back and forth on the sea’s reefs, on small plains by the streams, just like the late-night sound of waves from the returning tide between the mountains and the sea. Everything finds the power of healing and continuity of life in such a practice of to and fro.
Through the 2021 East Coast Land Arts Festival, we hope to convey the timeless and ceaseless healing power of the “Harmony of Mountains and Ocean” of the East Coast to prepare for the new, unknowable world of the “post-pandemic era” as vaccines become available and international borders reopen.