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.
In 2017 the Taiwan East Coast Land Arts Festival proposed the theme “Mother Island” which was highly acclaimed and widely recognized, and established a unique theoretical basis that is different from other worldwide art festivals. The theme is conceptualized upon the observation of it’s geographical location: the long and narrow land mass between Hualien City and Taitung City, Taiwan. Nestled within the coastal mountain range and facing the Pacific, it is 168 kilometers long, and was home to a paleolithic Changbin culture, between 5,000 and 50,000 years ago, presenting the earliest evidence of human activity on the island. In the last few thousand years more than ten indigenous groups found their home here, including Han Chinese settlers and significant numbers of immigrants. The current total population is just over 50,000
With so many ethnic groups scattered around in such a long and narrow space, where mountains meet ocean, a diversified and fluid character has been presented to create these unique and tightly-woven symbiotic relationships, both inter-personally and between human and nature. Just like the exposed coastal area of inter-tidal zone, where different realities such as the land and the ocean overlap, its rich and diverse ecology feeds the local Amis people daily, cradling an abundant oceanic folk culture in the East Coast of Taiwan.
Thus, on the foundation collectively built by diligent individuals and groups of local artists and villagers over the past three decades, as well as the art festivals from previous two years, a more refined and thorough approach under the core concept of “Mother Island” was integrated and operated. The“Taiwan East Coast Land Arts Festival”adopted a grander vision to present the culture and aesthetics of symbiosis life in the inter-tidal zone of East Coast of Taiwan, which, as a matter of fact, has deeply effected the entire Pacific world. As we created our own identity in the mother island of cultural and natural worlds, the most crucial issue for now, and for the future, is about how to continuously deepen and diversify our dialogues with the world.
Following up on the main theme of “Mother Island”, we would like to present the sequential theme “Inter-archipelago” from the prospective of Taiwan’s East Coast in 2018 for more in-depth observations on the countless co-existed inter-relationships between the island of Taiwan and planet Earth. “We never look at just one thing; we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves. Our vision is continually active, continually moving, continually holding things in a circle around itself, constituting what is present to us as we are. Soon after we can see, we are aware that we can also be seen. The eye of the other combines with our own eye to make it fully credible that we are part of the visible world.” As the most important contemporary art critic, John Berger’s theoretical statement from “Ways of Seeing” on visual arts has precisely explained the Taiwan East Coast Land Arts Festival’s key proposition – how to transform tourist’s unidirectional gaze into flowing eye-contact, and to continually establish new relationships from these encounters.
Living in Taiwan, we often forget that Taiwan is an island surrounded by the ocean due to the restraint of a Han-Chinese centered historic viewpoint from the mainland for the past 400 years. We tend to think of ocean as a barrier that separates the land, and forget that the ocean, with its flowing, open and inclusive nature, actually connects all the islands and landmasses. Hailing from the island of Taiwan, the early island inhabitants had spread the seeds of oceanic civilization all around – through unceasingly sailing over the past few thousands of years – giving birth to various island cultural communities across the entire Pacific ocean. Over the last few hundred years, the arrival of colonial power from China, Europe and Japan also imported their own cultures, and as the ocean flows, expands and protects, Taiwan has become such a culturally diversified island where symbiotic cultural expressions blossom. Preservation of pristine natural landscapes of mountains descending into the sea, and a rich oceanic folk culture, the East Coast of Taiwan has attracted innumerable overseas voyagers to settle down, as the most essential factor, the intimacy between human and ocean, can be easily experienced here. Just like this poetic observation made by Mark Jackson, a documentary director from South African, on East Coast Taiwan’s cultural landscape, “if each individual is an island, a group of individuals is archipelago, a chain of islands, and the ocean connects both!” With a lower population in the region where mountains and ocean co-exist, each one of us can live like an island with a rich eco-system, meanwhile, maintaining interchangeable open symbiotic relationships with other islands. Amis artist Rahic.Talif, extended his ocean-dependent life experience to creative practices, and articulated that “only when diving down into the sea, in that moment of churning serenity, as one faces the boundary of life and death, one is able to see the real world, and retrieve one’s authentic self in the Pacific Ocean.”
In 2018, under the theme “Inter-archipelago”, the deepest intention of Taiwan East Coast Land Arts Festival is to explore the “oceanic nature” of Taiwan, which has been forgotten by ourselves, as the mother island of the Pan-Pacific culture. With such exploration, we continually express the “Pacific Aesthetics” from the East Coast of Taiwan with our dialogue in the world.
Taiwan, as our dialogue with the world continues.