Erenlai - Nick Coulson (聶克)

Nick Coulson (聶克)

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。

週一, 03 三月 2014 00:00

山城台北

在台北城邊緣的山區,存在著多樣的生態環境:獨特的老社區,或社會實驗的

發生場域。在全球化,且越來越同質化的現代社會中,這些場域可以作為中介

性的空間,給我們一些另類生活方式的線索。

 

煥民新村是獨特的歷史和建築瑰寶。由蟾蜍山腳下往上延伸,形成台北最後一座山區眷村。

眷村是國共內戰後來台的外省士兵和眷屬搭建的老社群遺跡。由於當時國軍匆促遷台,難以安置突然湧入的上百萬外省移民,所以大部分的眷村聚落都是在山腳或河邊的畸零地上搭建而成的。蟾蜍山聚落位於自然和都市叢林的間隙,是記錄著歷史湍流的文本。聚落還保存著特殊的社群生活方式,這在現代城市中,越來越難得一見了。2013年,官方決定拆除部分聚落,以利台科大校舍的擴建,這引發了一股眷村保留運動。在運動如火如荼的進展中,我們決定趁這社區還存在時,去探索,記錄,與社群及運動作連結。

 

 

若想要知道更多關於此議題以及保存運動的訊息請察看:

 

http://www.erenlai.com/index.php/en/focus/2013/at-the-mountains-and-the-margins/5454-liminal-realms-at-the-mountains-and-the-margins-of-taipei

 

http://www.erenlai.com/index.php/en/focus/2013/at-the-mountains-and-the-margins/5459-toad-mountain-edge-effects


http://www.erenlai.com/index.php/en/focus/2013/at-the-mountains-and-the-margins/5455-the-toad-mountain-community-arts-festival\

週二, 25 二月 2014 00:00

Gleaning for Intimacy at the Mountains and Margins of Taipei

At the mountains and the margins of Taipei exist diverse unique ecologies, old communities and new socio-experimental laboratories. These can act as liminal spaces giving us clues to alternative ways of living in the increasingly globalised, homogenous modern city. Exploring the remnants of leftover architecture, nature and community doesn't necessarily leave us inebriated on irretrievable moments of the past, but can inspire us to creative solutions and ways of living in the future.

Huanmin Village is a unique historical and architectural gem of a community, assembled upwards from the foot of Toad Mountain, Taipei, the last mountainside military dependents' village remaining. Military dependents' villages are makeshift communities built by Mainlander soldiers and their families who came to Taiwan in the aftermath of the Chinese civil war. With a lack of space to accommodate the huge influx of immigrants, most of the communities were built in leftover pockets of land, often at the mountain or the riverside. The Toad Mountain settlement lies at the margins between the natural and urban jungle, was built with a gleaners ethic and maintains an intimate community life increasingly elusive in our cities. In 2013 the decision was taken to partly demolish the settlement to make way for campus development. This triggered an ongoing preservation movement, from which time we decided to explore, document, question and connect with the community and the movement while it still existed. 

 

 

Gleaning for Intimacy (山城台北)is a film by Pinti Zheng and Nicholas Coulson

 

For more information on the Toad Mountain history, preservation movement and The Hole’s urban projects, see:

http://www.erenlai.com/index.php/en/focus/2013/at-the-mountains-and-the-margins/5454-liminal-realms-at-the-mountains-and-the-margins-of-taipei

http://www.erenlai.com/index.php/en/focus/2013/at-the-mountains-and-the-margins/5459-toad-mountain-edge-effects

http://www.erenlai.com/index.php/en/focus/2013/at-the-mountains-and-the-margins/5455-the-toad-mountain-community-arts-festival\

 
週四, 04 十一月 2010 07:24

超越傳統的現實:草場地工作站‧吳文光專訪

在今年的台灣國際紀錄片雙年展中,草地工作站(CCD Workstation),一個北京的藝術家空間也貢獻了它們自己的影片。吳文光,草地工作站的創辦者,以特別嘉賓的身分被邀請參加此次的展演,並且擔任獎項的評審。在他抵達台灣並在頒獎儀式上幽默的發言前,Nick和Shinie抓緊時間採訪他,好讓他多說一些有關"村民記錄片專案"的故事:

週三, 22 十二月 2010 10:34

可思汀‧艾葛琴:「鬚空間」

可思汀‧艾葛琴(Kerstin Ergenzinger)受邀成為2010年第五屆「台北數位藝術節」駐台的國際藝術家。

她的作品 「鬚空間」(whiskers in space) 結合了聚丙烯,智慧金屬(muscle-wire),矽,氣流感應器,線熱式流速計(hot-wire anemometer)和自創的電子設備來擬作貓的觸鬚,感應房間內細微的氣流變化,在回饋給環境前不斷改變它們的姿態,進一步再影響氣流,創造出自身於回饋和反應間不斷的循環作用。

 

週二, 22 十一月 2011 17:03

原住民醫療的全球視野 ─ 維多利亞大學原住民衛生研究中心

第五站 - 溫哥華島 - 維多利亞大學 原住民衛生研究中心 (Centre for Aboriginal Health Research, CAHR)

 

維多利亞大學是一所研究型大學,被公認為原住民研究的標竿,和原住民部落與不同領域的相關學者都保持著密切良好的關係。原住民衛生研究中心建立於2008年,致力於原民衛生研究的進行與推展,與當地和全球的原住民人士共同合作以改善他們的健康問題。目前為全球原住民衛生研究的首要機構之一,定期舉辦國際專題討論和研討會

此次訪問給了我們絕佳的機會去了解加拿大的原住民健康問題,藉由參考他們當地的問題、研究,和解決辦法,與台灣和全球相較,我們更能深入探討全球原住民共通關連的議題,以及需要什麼政策來對抗難題。

當我們抵達研究中心的時候,迎接我們的是幾位學者和博士生。研究中心的負責人首先向我們介紹了中心的總體任務,接著由各位學者一一說明他們正在進行的研究以及在各個地區的發現:像是不同部落間自殺率的差異、嘗試將傳統治療與西方醫學系統結合,和文化傳承與原住民身心健康的關連性等。

中國讀者請點以下連結:

「加拿大為了原住民健康問題設置了中央級的研究院,台灣的中研院卻沒有這樣的安排,我覺得相當可惜。目前的研究似乎缺乏較大型、完整的計畫,對於改善台灣原住民的健康問題也無太大的幫助。當我看到這種不足,同時也看到了未來可以付出和努力的方向。」

── 陳平 Rimuy Watan - 陽明大學臨床暨社區護理研究所碩士班二年級 - 泰雅族

「在維多利亞大學的公共衛生研究中心,我向其中一名與會教授問及,加拿大原住民自殺比例是否高過非原住民?他的答案是肯定的。他認為造成這個現象的原因,絕大部分是出自加拿大原住民在都市謀生需面臨極大壓力;他也說在他輔導過的個案中,對自我族群認同越高者,通常較不會有輕生念頭。我也相信『認同是可以改變的』這一句話。」

── 陳至宏 Gyusi Meihua - 國立東華大學民族語言與傳播學系三年級 - 泰雅族

 

 

「我發現台灣和加拿大在公共衛生方面所面臨的問題非常的類似,處理的方法卻不一樣。例如:加拿大的部落也正面臨著醫師資源的缺乏,一開始他們也採用類似『醫事人員養成計畫』的政策,但因為發現成效不佳,實際上最後回到部落服務的醫事人員並沒有增加,因此放棄此計畫。我們熱烈討論了其中的原因。另外,也談到健保制度。加拿大也採用全民健保,雖然每個人繳的健保費差不多,但是都市與部落所享用到的醫療資源有著極大的差距,這衍生出公平問題。兩國似乎都還沒有能夠成功解決此問題的方式。如何公平的讓每個人都能得到合理公平待遇的醫療照護,也還是個待解決的問題。」

── 李慕凡Wilang Watah - 陽明大學醫學系四年級 - 泰雅族

「在維多利亞大學公共衛生研究中心裡,我們討論有關原住民就業、教育等議題。當他們談論到『應該要教育非第一民族族群,學會如何用第一民族的角度及思維來尊重或是幫助他們』,這是很值得學習之處。」
── 邵慧君 Gagai - 國立東華大學民族語言與傳播學系四年級 - 排灣族
「來到維多利亞大學公共衛生研究中心,印象深刻的是,有一個研究生論文題目是關於部落傳統醫療和現代醫術之平衡。原住民早期部落就有傳統醫療管理人民的身心健康,巫師、祭師扮演很重要的角色,他們是人民的醫師、諮商師,藉由傳統規範去運作,加上一些科學無法解釋的醫療現象,無形中鞏固了整個部落的運作。直到殖民者到來,介入部落原有的醫療體系,並以歐洲主流觀點去看待、干涉,傳統醫療的瓦解帶來部落間的規範失衡,更使許多人開始質疑自己的文化的價值。」
── 溫彧青 Labi - 國立東華大學族群關係與文化學系四年級 - 阿美族

「由於我的專業領域是護理,起先在整理加拿大有關『傳統醫療與現代醫療結合』的相關議題,發現他們為了尊重原住民文化中的傳統醫療,在進行現代醫療時仍會進行儀式。在這裡看見的不只是對文化的尊重,而是能藉由傳統儀式來安撫該個案的情緒及增加他的歸屬感。
以前在老家時,常常看見一位很少清醒的老先生,他每天幾乎都是早上清醒工作、晚上醉醺醺。我問過他為什麼那麼常喝酒,他回說:『以前不知道怎麼教小孩,導致現在小孩都不乖,有罪惡感。』連身為原住民的我,都會有這種類推性的主觀想法,更何況是非原住民族群的人。我們應該從事件中找出問題核心去深入瞭解,才可能撇清某行為中的意義,而非一昧的為某族群套上污名。我認為,惟有先對原住民文化有基本概念,次者瞭解環境與原住民認知的相互關係,才可以真正了解原住民的需求給予適當資源。」
── 羅秀英 Yubax Hayung - 台北護理健康大學護理系二年級 - 泰雅族



Filmed by Cerise Phiv, edited by Nick Coulson, subtitled by Yenching Chu

Photo by C. Phiv

週二, 22 十一月 2011 16:58

站在文化巨人的肩上 ─ 英屬哥倫比亞大學第一民族學習中心

 

 

 

第四站 - 溫哥華 - 英屬哥倫比亞大學 第一民族學習中心

教育問題是目前全世界原住民運動的核心。除了介紹第一民族中心在促進原住民教育方面的角色,Rick Ouellet 和 Debra Martel也告訴我們,加拿大教育體制如何因應原住民的文化處境來運作,又有哪些政策、計畫成功地被執行。譬如英屬哥倫比亞省開創先例的政策─所有該省的教師都必須修習原住民研究課程。第一民族中心也正在一些原住民區域推展一項工作,讓想要獲得學位的人,能在他們畢業 後能夠回到他們的社區,且仍有足夠的就業機會。

中國讀者請點以下連結:

「在UBC裡的第一民族學習中心裡,擺設與建築物外觀均夾帶著第一民族的濃厚味道,但對我們來說那正是最真實、活用的教科書。教授說,畢業的 學生一定要有一個畢業成品,因為走出這個學習第一民族文化的地方,代表你學習到了自己的文化,那樣的意義多麼深重啊!... 再者,因我讀的學校是有著台灣第一所原住民族學院的大學,可是就跟上面的問題一樣,其實是相當薄弱的,只有一個院碑就象徵了民族學院似乎不夠。我們是不是 可以思考有甚麼更好的想法去裝置這樣一個學院,讓人家更看得到我們呢?」

── 林哲玄 Utun Titi - 國立東華大學民族語言與傳播學系四年級 - 太魯閣族

在民族學習中心的訪談對話中,我了解到第一民族的教育體制及福利制度,迥異於台灣將民族教育及一般教育分開執行,政府根據學 校或地方提出申請欲實施的民族教育,撥預算幫助實施。 整個行程裡,從自治、公衛、教育、文化產業行銷四個大方向,瞭解及探討加拿大第一民族。從中,我反思到台灣是個多元族群的社會,雖早已倡導尊重多元文化, 政府在制度上也給予原住民許多福利及補助,像是加分機制、推展鄉土文化教育、補助金等等,然而根據文獻資料顯示,仍未見良好績效。或許是因為政府用的是主 流文化思維在幫助原住民族群,卻很少以原住民族的文化思維、生活習性等立場去看待問題。例如中小學的教材裡,未曾出現任何原住民族相關知識,使得原住民孩 童在學習上因文化差異,顯得較主流族群孩童處於弱勢。在維多利亞大學公共衛生研究中心時,他們說:『現在你們年輕人就是一群很強大的力量。』這句話提醒 我,應該多重視原住民族的教育問題,特別是文化教育,這關係到一族群的消逝危機。

── 邵慧君 Gagai - 國立東華大學民族語言與傳播學系四年級 - 排灣族
 
這次參訪過程,不管是政府機構或民間組織,對方介紹的一開始一定是告知我們,現在所屬的土地是哪個部落及族群,這是很令 人感動的。加拿大稱原住民族為「First Nation (第一民族)」;台灣稱為原住民族(Indigenous),二者有異曲同工之妙。兩國都確認原住民族是該國原本抑或第一居住在此的民族,但在台灣我們何 時會談起土地的故事以及以前居住在此的民族?加拿大處處感受得到當地族人及友人對於土地的認同以及認識,令人動容。
 
── 陳睿哲 Yahu Kunaw - 國立東華大學民族語言與傳播學系三年級 - 泰雅族
 
 

 

ubc_house_learning

 

Video filmed by C. Phiv and D. Chen, edited by N. Coulson, subtitled by Yenching Chu

Photos by C. Phiv

週二, 22 十一月 2011 16:47

從無到有的藝術 ─ 英屬哥倫比亞大學人類學系

 

第二站 - 溫哥華 - 英屬哥倫比亞大學人類學系

已從事教職多年的人類學教授 Dr. Bruce Miller 對於世界各國原住民事務具有深刻的了解和經驗,他首先向我們簡述加拿大原住民的歷史和第一民族爭取自治所歷經的挑戰,接著以世界上其它地區像是巴西、美國、和巴布亞新幾內亞的原住民曾面臨的困境為例,帶領台灣學生們共同討論並提出建議。他強調不但要善用現有可行的法律,也要使用多元的策略來推動法律進步以改善原住民權益,例如「政治尷尬」("politics of embarrassment")。Bruce Miller 教授認為,最重要的不是我們僅有多少資源,而是將想法轉化為立即行動的力量,現在便開始行動並創造未來!

中國讀者請點以下連結:

「Dr. Bruce Miller以簡短的時間讓我們了解加拿大第一民族奮鬥過程,並以其經驗及關注的焦點議題進行討論。教授盡量聽取團員所提出的問題並予以回應,大多是以鼓勵的方式回應我們。尤其他認為台灣原住民要利用製造更多『尷尬』的社會運動方式,迫使政府不得不做出決定,而不是任挨任打,哀求政府能多給予原住民權利,其意思在於告訴我們,權力是要爭取,極力地爭取。」

── 林凱恩 Piho Yuhaw - 政治大學民族學系三年級 - 泰雅族

「Miller博士提出:『任何事情,開始做就是一個法律。』強調法律具有現實與執行力量,而非紙上談兵。他將這個概念落實到部落,對原住民推動自身文化造成很大影響,並使得部落發展協會所希冀的憧憬逐漸成形。」

── 温傑 Takun Tado - 陽明大學醫學系三年級 - 賽德克族

「第二站哥倫比亞大學人類學系的Dr. Bruce Miller,是此行讓我留下最深刻印象的學者,他在介紹加拿大第一民族歷史及現況後,我提出『經費來源』之疑問後,馬上被教授嚴厲駁回:“No, You are wrong!” 教授認為法律是人民『做』出來的。換句話說,政府會制定法律是因原住民強烈要求使然,但多數原住民若沒有實際做出他們當初所要求的方式,這法律等於無效,所以重點在於原住民自己要『做』的決心。」
 
 
 
 
─ 邱婕 Ibu Isliduan - 國立東華大學民族語言與傳播學系四年級 - 布農族
 
 
 

「英屬哥倫比亞大學人類學系,與Dr. Bruce Miller進行了將近兩個小時的雙向溝通。其中讓我感動的是,第一民族如何將悲劇式的逆境轉為反敗為勝的契機。教授建議我們成立一個專為原住民喉舌的團體,並且不能以經費當作藉口,他說這種事:『做就對了!』」
 
 
 
── 李慕凡 Wilang Watah - 陽明大學醫學系四年級 - 泰雅族
 
 
 
 
 
 

「Bruce G. Miller教授鼓勵我們要付出行動力,因為法律往往形成於人的執行和行動之後,因此『現在做的,就是未來的法律』。關鍵在於,當我們遭遇國家政策的結構問題、經費不足等等問題,是否還有前進的勇氣?福利和好的政策不會憑空出現,而我們正是最有資格為自己說話的一群人。」

 
 
 
 
── 陳平 Rimuy Watan - 陽明大學臨床暨社區護理研究所二年級 - 泰雅族

 

Video filmed by Cerise Phiv and Diane Chen, edited by Cerise Phiv and Nick Coulson, subtitled by Yen-ching Chu

Photo:Shuching Hsueh

週日, 01 十二月 2013 00:00

Toad Mountain Edge Effects

For students of NTU, Gongguan's café hipster youth and the high density of foreigners and government officials in the surrounding area, Toad Mountain (蟾蜍山) is merely a beautiful mountain ink landscape backdrop as one walks down Roosevelt Rd, as that painted by the traditional oil paint artist He Cong (何從):

週一, 08 三月 2010 17:53

Foreign students in Asia: From teacher to student

Please introduce yourself and what you are doing currently. What is your educational background?
My name is John Perry*. I am a Canadian who has been working as an English teacher and editor in Taiwan for more than 7 years. I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Canada studying marketing and psychology.

How do you regard the quality of your courses and universities?
I was quite pleased with the quality of the education that I received in Canada, however it was quite a long time ago, when I was very young, so I believe I had a different outlook then. Finishing school and getting good grades were more the priorities when I was doing my undergrad rather than getting the best education I could get. All in all, I thought the professors generally did a good job, it was challenging and I certainly got something out of it after graduating.

I have mixed feelings with the experience as a MBA student in Taiwan. With regards to the professors, I feel that most did a good job at trying to educate us. The lectures were generally well prepared and the professors showed that they cared about their students’ performance. However, I question the way in which they held students accountable for their performance. I recall when I started my program that it was required for first year students to maintain an 80% average or otherwise students could be taken out of the program; for second year students, 70% was a passing grade. I was a bit nervous at first thinking that attaining an 80% would be challenging while holding a full time job. After the first year though it became clear that grades were given out arbitrarily and that passing was almost a given provided that I did most of the work and showed up for class. I took my studies seriously and received very high grades. Most of my grades were above 90%, some even over 95%. After a while this came to be expected on my part. This was never the case when I studied in Canada where getting over an 85% required a lot of work and was never taken as a given. I found that there were a lot of open book tests or adjusted grades in my Masters program, something that I never experienced in the past. There were even cases where it was obvious students plagiarised and they were never penalised for this.

Your class is 1/5th foreigners. How do Taiwanese students differ from foreigner students? Are there areas where they could learn from the foreigners? Do you think the Taiwanese system provides a good academic setting for foreign students?
A major difference between Taiwanese students and foreign students (western) I found, was that Taiwanese students were not willing to participate in class, even if the professor specifically expressed that participating was part of the grade. Participating here means voluntarily sharing ideas, asking questions or debating with the professors or other students. I think part of this is due to the fact that the program that I studied was in English and some students were reluctant to speak out, fearing that their English was not good enough but I also feel that the teaching method in Taiwan is didactic; where the teacher tells students what is what and students do not question it, or it is seen as disrespectful to do so. In fact, in some courses that I studied even though participation was part of the grade on the syllabus, professors seemed frustrated with the way that western students would speak out, but this is the way that we learn. It is accepted, and expected in our culture to learn this way. There also seems to be a lot more comradery among Taiwanese classmates than the foreign students. Foreign students seemed to have no problems debating with each other out in the open when they disagreed with comments made. I never saw this happen with the Taiwanese students. Taiwanese students seemed more willing to help each other out with assignments, be it individual or group, and develop a social network more easily simply because they were classmates.

I do feel that Taiwanese students would benefit more from more open participation or dialogue in class. Lectures at times seemed very passive. Many students were busy using their notebook computers rather than listening or interacting with the professor. But again, I believe that this kind of ‘listening’ has been encouraged from earlier education. There is so much emphasis on getting high scores on exams and students find ways to do that, and if listening in class does not contribute to attaining a high score then students probably won’t do it.

I think that there are pros and cons about the Taiwanese system and some things about it I found beneficial as a foreign national. Primarily, I felt that getting the opportunity to work in a multicultural environment was a definite advantage. Even though Canada is a country with people of different ethnicities, it sort of is a melting pot. Working in a classroom setting in groups with people from different nationalities provided me with the opportunity to get a real understanding of what working in a global environment would be like. It was challenging and even frustrating at times, but I definitely think that it was a positive experience that foreigners could definitely benefit from.

hub_kilian_fujen_uni_03_2010From your experiences and knowledge, how do you evaluate the Taiwanese education system? Do you think there are any areas for improvement and how do you think they could be improved on?
I have had quite a bit of experience with the Taiwan education system both as a teacher as well as a student. The education system in Taiwan certainly is different from what I experienced in Canada. I think it is well documented that in Taiwan generally there is an emphasis on rote memory learning. As a teacher of primary and secondary school age children I have found that in comparison to Canada, Taiwanese get an overwhelming amount of homework, spend more time in class both in compulsory schools and private cram schools and there is an overemphasis on testing. There also seems to be more pressure on students to achieve higher grades. One of the first surprises I encountered as a teacher was that students were expected to get grades higher than 90 or 95% and anything less was unacceptable to parents. This is far different from what I experienced in Canada where getting an 80-85% was considered a reasonable score. That being said, the testing in Taiwan seems to be designed so students can easily achieve high grades if they memorize bits and pieces of information (there is much more reliance on multiple choice-questions where the answer is provided and does not require the student to reflect on what they have learned and express themselves). When I started teaching English I would often ask open-ended questions giving the students a chance to use what they have learned and explain themselves. This did not go over well. A lot of the times the students thought I was being unfair, complaining that I did not teach them the answer or often asked me how many sentences they need to write to answer the question and when I gave them a minimum number, that is exactly what I got. When I gave scores of 80 – 90% and complimented them for good performance, students, school administrators and parents were less than pleased. This I believe is a disadvantage and results in students either lacking the confidence or ability to express themselves or make any attempt at deviating from what the teacher or texts have taught. Some call this “thinking outside the box.”

I do admire Taiwanese students’ dedication to their studies and the seriousness with which they do study. I am amazed at how some students, as young as 4 or 5 are able to speak sometimes more than 2 languages and the knowledge they have at that age. What is also amazing is that they enjoy learning. I have seen this with the young kindergarten and grade school age children but this enthusiasm seems to change once they get into secondary school. In my opinion I really don’t see the need for so many cram schools (math, science, English etc.) but it seems that it is the norm here. As an English teacher I was quick to realize that ‘cram’ schools are exactly what they are. The curricula at most schools involve numerous books and teachers are told to pile on homework, even though students often don’t have the time to finish or do it correctly. Accountability again is an issue here because how often does a student get held back for not performing up to standard and completing the expected work? There are problems but at the end of the day students usually learn English and progress as they continue which I guess is the goal. It just seems strange with all the bells and whistles that go with it that make it look like more than what it is.

Do you think the Taiwanese education system does enough to produce well rounded members of society; tools for a strong democracy; the creativity, hard work and enterprise to progress civil society and develop the country in an equal, fair manner?
As mentioned already, I feel that the education system should emphasize more open expression rather than right or wrong. This would encourage students to be more willing to deviate from the norm and contribute to more creative thinking. I am not saying that the western style of educating is the right way. I admire Taiwanese students’ work ethic and diligence, but I think an education system that was not so fixated on quantifying and measuring (test scores) would promote more willingness to come up with individual ideas. With my experience working in Taiwan in both schools and in an office environment, although limited, I found that organisations are very centralised and managers are not as willing, compared to western organisations, to delegate responsibility. Employees work long and hard hours, much like students, but do as they are told and deviating is not an option even if going off the path would be beneficial. Taiwan certainly has prospered and companies are doing well, especially in the IT industry but I feel that if company policies encouraged their staff to contribute more and gave them more discretion, the situation could be even better and the work environment would be better for many. This of course is coming from western eyes, and how I would prefer things to be. In the end, I think that the education system should do more to encourage individual creativity starting at a young age.

*John Perry is not the interviewee's real name

(Photos provided courtesy of Hubert Kilian, taken at Fu Jen University, Taipei county, 2010)

週日, 01 十二月 2013 00:00

Liminal Realms at the Mountains and the Margins of Taipei

 

The Mountains and the Margins of Taipei

 

As the second of our two-part feature on nature and the city, Shanshui Taipei, we explore Taipei's mountains. The mountains represent the natural frontier of the city, the border between the natural jungle and the urban jungle, but also the border between a standardized modus operandi of urban living and the diverse community lifestyles on the periphery, detached as they are from the daily reliance on the mainstream structures of the urban core.

週五, 01 十一月 2013 16:10

In Search of the Source: Sunlighting the Liugong Canal

Dr Chun-E Kan, a retired professor of the Department of Agricultural Engineering, NTU, has been working in hydraulics and sustainability most of his life. The completion of his lifework would be the 'Sunlighting' or the re-opening of Liugong Canal, an irrigation channel running through Taipei, which is now buried underneath asphalt or concrete. However, his magnum opus is not yet complete. It has been 12 years since he submitted a proposal for a sustainable, economically inexpensive and romantic plan to bring clean rainwater back into Taipei City, starting off with the reopening of the stretch of the Liugong Canal which flows through National Taiwan University's campus. While it had been largely accepted at the time, Dr Kan has already seen a decade of retirement pass without any real action being taken to implement the plan. Negotiating the complex city and university bureaucracies make it extremely difficult to put a large scale engineering plan into action. We met with Dr Kan in the company of Professor Elijah Chang of NTU's Department of Building and Planning and her doctoral student Wu Chen-Ting who have also conducted research projects relating to the Liugong Canal.

As Dr Kan explained to us, the problem with water in the Taipei basin is that ever since dense urbanisation of the whole basin began in the Japanese era, what the government has feared the most was the crippling inundations during Typhoons, thus governments have aimed to get the rainwater out of the city and into the river as quickly as possible. For example, underneath the wide Keelung road, there was a huge underground passageway taking all the rainwater water straight down to the polluted Songshan River - a natural resource wasted. The Chinese idiom 'bamboo sprouts spring after rainfall' (雨後春筍) is commonly used to signify things springing up everywhere. Yet if all your rainfall is immediately flushed from the city, what can grow? You are left with an urban desert, where sand is replaced by concrete, and only shrubbery breaks through. In fact almost all the ponds in Taipei, despite perhaps bringing classical Chinese teachers to a emphatic sigh of contentness and harmony, are actually connected to the city waterworks using a hugely energy consuming pump system; meanwhile, the underground canals are now mostly polluted water. Essentially after more than 200 years of using a very sustainable engineering facility, the Liugong Canal, we no longer have any natural clean water sources fertilizing the lands and communities of Taipei. 

"The question we are facing today is how we can make the water stay a little bit longer in our living environment," said Professor Chang. "In fact this is the same question as 270 years ago, except then it was irrigation canals for farming purposes. Now we are trying to irrigate our communities." She felt that any project that started from the premise that we need to reopen a long defunct canal, for nostalgic or post-modern design purposes, was no different from any other costly beautification project. "The key is finding where the water is."

The spirit of the Liugong Canal was that of searching out the source, and for Professor Chang any project which did not first solve the problem of bringing in clean rainwater to the city rather than using reservoir water, defeated the purpose. Nowadays all the clean water in the city comes down from the huge reservoir in Pinglin. But as Prof. Chang explains, with the unpredictability of changing global weather patterns it is feasible that the reservoir could at times dry up, if that happened, how would Taipei's communities acquire there daily living water needs.

It was based on this premise that Professor Kan has always worked on his 'sunlighting' project. His Liugong dream is to first bring clean rainwater back to the NTU campus, restoring the NTU section of the Liugong Canal (Fig 1). His new even more cost effective plan is to channel natural rainwater flows from the nearby Toad Mountain. By researching various other rainwater canal systems in places with far less rainfall than Taipei, such as Stratford-Upon-Avon in the UK, he has determined it is not only feasible but also economically thrifty to channel Toad Mountains rainflow. This lower starting cost of the plan makes the project less daunting to politicians, the university and other possible sponsors such as the Liugong Irrigation Association. Most importantly it is environmentally sustainable, saving much energy in the long run as it operates largely without using energy. The plan also incorporates water cleaning facilities, inside a mound of debris which comes from the extra stretch of canal to be dug up in the process of linking the pre-existing canal route to NTU's infamous Drunken Moon Lake. The cherry on top of this project is the drum tower built on top of the mound (Fig 3). The drum tower is a historical reference to the original drum tower (guting), which was constructed to serve as a guard tower warning for attacks by the local indigenous population on the Liugong Canal construction workers and farmers. It is also the namesake of the Guting area of Taipei, though the 'gu' character has since been simplified from 'drum' (鼔) to 'ancient' (古). The rain coillecting waterway which would descend Toad Mountain like a spiralling slide, also has a walking path fixed on top which both controls the amount of water to avoid flooding the campus during Typhoons, and also brings the mountain back to the community. One major difficulty with this part of the plan is that the intended mountainside is owned by the airforce, and as yet off limits to the public. Finally, the plan appeals to the imagery of a canal campus like that of Cambridge University, UK, which has been a romantic ideal for many top Chinese students since the Qing Dynasty poet Xu Zhimo referenced Cambridge in his poem "farewell once again Cambridge" while studying there in 1928. Eventually becoming a pinnacle for aspiring Chinese academics. Cambridge University also erected a stone tablet with the first and last two sentences of Xu Zhimo's poem, immortalising the poet in ROC history.

Reading the poem, one imagines Xu Zhimo spending hours staring at the River Cam and dreaming. The shadows of the trees, the duckweed and the gentle rippling of the river seemed to set off his imagination. In the second line of this stanza Xu Zhimo says "is not springwater, but a heavenly rainbow" Ironically Cambridge, despite its rainfall of only 700mm, compared to Taipei's 2800, is surrounded by natural rainwater canals. If Cambridge can find enough rainwater for a 15-metre river, then so can NTU. In the stanza of the poem below he talks of a rainbow of dreams that are hidden amongst the floating grass in the springwater:

That pool in the shade of elm trees,
is not springwater, but a heavenly rainbow;
crumbling amongst the floating grasses,
the settling rainbow seems like a dream.

那榆蔭下的一潭,
不是清泉,是天上虹;
揉碎在浮藻間,
沉澱著彩虹似的夢。

See here for original and full translation by Hugh Grigg

If the world beating success of Cambridge is anything to go by, a canal campus can inspire dreams in future leaders and visionaries. Creating even better study conditions for the academic elite is perhaps a dream for nobles, but if it was just a starting point for the re-irrigation of community life, it could be a noble dream nonetheless. If Dr Kan's plan was put into action it would be an important starting point for bringing water from natural sources back into different parts of the city, starting from the particularly visible and influential base of the NTU campus. It would be a huge life achievement for Dr Kan, but also a step forward in making Taipei a more sustainable water city.

taida map1Fig 1: The preexisting underground canal route and extension to Drunken Moon Lake on the NTU campus 

taida map2Fig 2: Possible alternative waterway routes on the NTU campus

 mountain liugongFig 3: The water cleaning mountain at NTU, with the drum tower on top.

 

週三, 30 十月 2013 21:40

Reopening the Liugong Canal. Sustainable Synergies?

Despite having spent hours on end frequenting a café which bordered one of the few remaining open sections of the 250-year old Liugong Canal, it was years after my arrival in Taipei before I began to understand its significance. While conducting eRenlai's May 2011 feature, Beyond the Pale, exploring marginal architecture in Taiwan, I came across and began exploring the works of the Ruin Academy where I was greatly intrigued by architect Marco Casagrande's mission of returning Taipei's citizens to nature and reality, including his vision for Taipei river urbanism. Casagrande went on to win the 2013 European Prize for Architecture, particularly for his ideas such as systematically including the 'local knowledge' of community and environment in urban planning and design, or healing the city with urban acupuncture, ideas explained in the following short documentary:

finish students liugong taipeiLater I gave some minor assistance with pre-arrival research and communication to a group of students from Aalto University's Sustainable Global Technologies Studio, under Casagrande's direction. They were building a multifaceted proposal for the reopening of the now underground Liugong Canal, with the idea of bringing people back to water and water back to the city. Just exploring above the old flow of the canal was a de-alienating experience, as I described and reported to them in the fullest detail what I saw along the way. It was foreplay with the land, getting to know Taipei as I ran my feet along the Liugong Canal, my first topography of Taipei's curves and quirks, searching, sniffing, seeing and feeling. These explorations formed the basis for a long term relationship with the Liugong Canal, which has only grown in intensity with time.

When the Finnish team of Virva Kajamaa, Kätlin Kangur, Riikka Koponen, Niklas Saramäki, Kristina Sedlerova and Sanna Söderlind arrived in Taipei, I also joined them in their explorations of an island of farming allotments surviving in the middle of the Danshui River, hidden and protected from the development of the metropolis. These explorations of alternative city lifestyles were empowering in themselves, as free running or parkour is to traceurs. It was an exercise in what social philosopher and Jesuit, Michel de Certeau[1] would call 'walking in the city', the practice of everyday resistance, where the people use everyday 'tactics' to survive and make consumer choices based on adapting to the constraints of city, yet never being fully controlled by them. This 'walking in the city' is a symbiosis between memory and action, creating the opportunity to change the existing spatial power relations. Indeed it was this social opportunism which interested me the most about the project. Behind these spatial aesthetics, there was an anarchic attempt to re-empower the community, strengthen social relations and release individuals from the excesses of the legal state, government power and market conformity.

Before they completed their field trip and returned to Finland I invited the Ruin Academy to a forum at our nomadic arts and action space, The Hole, to explain their ideas for bringing the people back to the river and the river back to the people. Novelist and curator Roan Ching-yue questioned the soundness of Casagrande's theoretical construction in the second part of the discussion and in particular the discrepancy between the ideas of urban farmers and a nomadic city. This led to an interesting discussion which touches the heart of the urban planning problem here - the psyche inherited from the KMT that Taipei is just a temporary home.

The final work of the Aalto University students was completed in 2012 under the name of Sustainable Synergies: The Leo Kong Canal (full pdf available). The plan included wetlands, parks, recreational canal streets, water cleaning facilities and far more ideas. The commitment to social innovation was particularly interesting:

Social innovation is often considered difficult to recognize since it is out of our sights and habits. The crux of the social part of the work became a search for a creative "hidden potential" so that the resource of our ideas and plans come from existing actions, traditions and memories, which are left unattended and can be illegal but as an integral part of the design process will enhance our attempt to create more sustainable solutions and raise the overall well-being.

Under social innovation we mean to:
- Improve social cohesion;
- Involve and improve the conditions of marginalized people;
- Promote systems enabling social integration between different generations;
- Enhance peculiar local cultural characteristics;
- Develop systems to encourage and foster local communities and network-structured initiatives;
- Adapt participatory approach and collective use of infrastructure. (p24)

The above are guiding principles by which to de-alienate the city from its memory (inter-generational dialogue), from other humans (community activity) and from our own agency (to act without permission). Throughout his work with the Ruin Academy, Casagrande emphasizes the need for cross-disciplinary research, and has tried to involve NTU sociologists and sociology students into their urban planning projects. Furthermore he has stated his will to bring further community participation into the design of the Liugong Canal project.

That said, while there were some interesting design suggestions put forward, one member of the proposal team, Kristina, questioned the social validity of the housing side of the project, which it was claimed would not really bring people closer to the river as it constructed 3 to 5 mega-expensive buildings "for some privileged people, who have the money to buy apartments there...". Others criticize the willingness of the Ruin Academy to collaborate with big development companies of the status quo, whilst claiming to be focused on social innovation. This criticism however is also related to one of the Ruin Academy team's greatest strengths. They are dreamers who believe that nothing is impossible and will find a way to make things happen, using the system when it suits them to further a project, yet never really giving up their autonomy and right to action.

In terms of sociological rigor and social fairness, these proposals may still need some research; nevertheless, further cross-disciplinary research with a focus on local knowledge can only help to create a more durable, fairer urban planning, which is more respectful to the community and individual agency. Furthermore, the holistic view that the sociological imagination provides and the rigor of the field of sociology can help bring into check carelessness and short-sightedness of urban planning and reducing the negative social effects of plans built on a whim. Therefore the development of this cross-disciplinary collaboration should be encouraged.

water-in-city

All photos courtesy of the Ruin Academy


[1] de Certeau, Michel. The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall, University of California Press, Berkeley 1984

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