Urban Archaeologist

by on Friday, 22 April 2011 4955 hits Comments
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Chen Bo-I, aka 'The King of the ruins' doesn’t necessarily come across as glamorous as his nickname sounds. Currently, working on his PhD in Hydraulic and Ocean Engineering, a most realistic and practical trade, yet beyond his advanced studies in man-made structures on the ocean, he is also avid reader of the fascinating marks of history left on landbased structures. In the interview below he tells us how he got into this underground culture, how he works with the ruins in his photography and what he values about these decaying remains.

Hongmaogang Juancun (紅毛港眷村)

Why is this world...why is it so messed up? Because of typhoons, because of rains, those types of things, and floods, and mudslides, that's what normally causes it. But this is all caused by ships, and excavators. Why do they have to destroy our homes?

A young boy and resident of the Hongmaogang Community before it was destroyed - speaking in the documentary film Homeless (紅毛港:家變)

OutLooK-02
 
In 2005 Chen Po-I (Bibi) started shooting some fishing villages or military dependents’ village where intensive city regeneration was underway.
 
Hongmaogang community, lying off the coast of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan was perhaps the best example of a juancun or military dependants’ village, a phenomenon unique to Taiwan. These juancun are particular to Taiwan in that they were made for the families of KMT soldiers who had come over from the mainland following the civil war . They were built as temporary settlements, since the prevailing idea at the time was that Taiwan was a temporary base for re-conquering of mainland China, thus the houses were put together with great haste, there were no regulations on how they were built and as such impulsive building of extensions and additions was the norm. This allowed a very natural human feeling to develop in the area. Eventually however, juancun residents would begin recieving notice that they were too leave the buildings, the moment residents have left the excavators get demolishing. Bibi, tries to get there first - like he did to take these photographs at Hongmaogang.
 

In 1968, Hongmaogang was declared land for building a port. However at the time they didn't have the funds to move all the people and instead time was frozen as the government declared new building or work on their current houses was banned. This strategy was not enough to suppress the residents will to build and throughout the 1970's the residents did all their building at night, while the police were off duty, so as not to be discovered. It was often the case that on waking up in the morning, a house would expanded a metre or two. It wasn't until 1986 that this provoked a government response in which they took aerial photos and stated that from then on the residents buildings were not allowed to change from the way they were captured in the aerial photos. Eventually in 2004 the government had sufficient funds and began moving the residents. In 2008 as the government evacuated the final inhabitants of the harbour, Chen Po-I took to action to make sure that there would always remain a poetic memory of the Hongmaogang Settlement, where for him life stories were the traces engraved in the walls. He also brought these photos together as part of his exhibition 'Outlook', giving the community the chance to share in these memories.

Walking the wires

On a more sober note one of the raiders nonetheless reminds us of the dangers of visiting ruins. The majority of these buildings are uninhabited and unkempt, some of them are as the name suggests, in ruins - states of devastation, with pieces of metal, wood, glass and sometimes even needles littering the floor, others are private property and guests are unwelcome. Be careful and aware when inside and only go into ruins with unlocked doors. If you listen to this advice however, everyone can be touched by the poetry of these ruins.

 

Last modified on Wednesday, 08 January 2014 17:33
Nick Coulson (聶克)

I was born in sunny Torbay on the south western coast of England's green and pleasant lands. I'm prowling the streets, parks and ruins of Taiwan hunting for absurdities and studying the sociology of the underground. Furthermore with our nomadic arts and action space "The Hole" we attempt to challenge rigid and alienating structures.

出生於英國西南部,海邊的天堂為Torbay。目前在台灣的街上,公園,廢墟尋找世界之荒謬與世界之美,努力盡量在各方面跳脫框框。透過我們的游牧空間「洞」我們不斷地用藝術與行動來挑戰早已僵化的體制。

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