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Erenlai - 按標籤顯示項目: art
週二, 19 六月 2012 14:07

Rediscovering Taiwan through wall art

The new wall art team Bihuadui is encouraging artists from Taiwan to reconnect with their roots and include elements of Taiwanese culture in their art. It addresses some of the problems such as isolation of the artists and estrangement from one's own culture by promoting collaboration between artists and painting in unusual locations.We talk to some of those artists about their opinions on the team.


週三, 30 五 2012 12:46

The Dubious "Art" of Bullfighting

A bull slowy bleeds while spectators look on passively. Photo by Mait Jüriado

As a student in Beijing, back in 2007, I used to travel quite often by taxi. Taxi drivers in Beijing are incredibly friendly people and always encourage you to chat with them, which is great when you are trying to learn Chinese. Of course, one of the first questions is always “What country are you from?”. After I answered Spain, the common response I got was either the driver lifting both hands off the wheel and using his index fingers to imitate the horns of a bull, which as I’m sure you can imagine is quite stressful when you are travelling at a fairly high speed; or some variation of the phrase: “Spain? Bullfighting is great!”

Unfortunately, at that time, after only having learned Chinese for a year, my Chinese was not good enough to answer with “I am morally opposed to bullfighting”, so I had to settle for the rather less impressive “I don’t like bullfights”. After that, the driver usually stared at me in confusion and asked “Why?”. Once, again, my Chinese was severely lacking and rendered me unable to communicate my elaborate point, but I usually managed to articulate “Because kill bull”.

The usual response to that was and still is, utter shock. Not only from taxi drivers but also from a lot of my Taiwanese or Chinese friends. A lot of them are not aware that the animal is killed. People who were enthusiastic about bullfighting at the beginning of the conversation become more and more disillusioned or upset as I go into the details of exactly what bullfighting entails.

I often wonder how there can be such misinformation about what bullfighting is. The killing is essential to the activity, and yet, both in Asia and in Europe, a lot of people seem to believe that bullfighting is running in front of a bull. This is actually a very specific festival called San Fermin, which is unique to the city of Pamplona (incidentally, this festival still culminates in a bullfight in which the bulls are killed). Whilst it’s probably not true that the Spanish government deliberately promotes this misunderstanding, it is certainly quite convenient that many people are not aware of the bloody nature of the act.

I realise that there are lots of different types of events that are called bullfighting, and lots of different spectacles that involve bulls. However, I am focusing specifically on the version practiced in Spain and in certain parts of Southern France, the only variety that includes the intentional killing of a bull for entertainment. Bullfighting has been one of the identifying features of Spain for quite some time, and is up there with paella and flamenco as one of the experiences tourists crave when visiting Spain. Its association with Spain was probably accentuated thanks to attempts from the Spanish fascist government to rally the people in support of an intrinsically “Spanish” activity, and indeed the propaganda from the fascist era includes many nationalist slogans exalting the act.

The issue of bullfighting and its status as art or brutality has been debated endlessly by both advocates and detractors. One of the common arguments that supporters of bullfighting repeat ad nauseam is that the bull is given a dignified, honourable and noble death, in addition to a chance to prove its worth and fight for its life. It must be noted that for a human being there may be a distinction between an honourable death and one that isn’t; for example, the samurai practice of Seppuku (ritualized suicide) being preferable to dishonour or slow death. However, for a bull, there is no such thing as an “honourable” death, since honour is a purely human fabrication.  Moreover, we could once again argue that there is, in any case, no honour or dignity in being slowly tortured by a group of armed thugs dressed up as clowns while a group of spectators leers and brays for blood. If it was a human being killed this way, would it still be called a “honourable” way to die?

However, out of these three erroneous claims, the most outlandish is the implication that bullfighting benevolently grants a bull a chance to “prove its worth”. A bull does not have a sense of worth, seeing as this is a human construction which stems from the way we are viewed by others and the way we see ourselves. Even if a bull had this sense of worth, surely it would not be derived from being humiliated and scared, since if anything one might say that would diminish its sel-esteem. Neither would it derive its value from trying to kill other living beings, the bull being the peaceful animal that it is. The whole concept is quite bizarre since the bull never requested a chance to “prove its worth”, and even when forced to do so is very reluctant to engage its opponent. The notion that the bull is fighting for its life is laughable at best since the cases when the bull is spared are ridiculously far and between, and in any case the bull usually dies from its wounds shortly after. It seems that it is rather a case of the bullfighter proving its worth by conquering the beast.

Some of the arguments advocates use attempt to remove human attributes from the bulls, presumably to establish a distance between themselves and the animals by turning a blind eye to any human traits they might possess. The most common way these people do this is with the sentence “el toro no sufre” (the bull doesn’t suffer). Whilst it is true that we do not yet know the extent to which animals suffer pain in the same way that humans do, it is certainly hard to argue that the cries of anguish the bull emits and the distressed look on its face are due to the joy of the experience.

The other common argument where bulls are dehumanized, is saying that bullfighting is a form of art or culture, therefore lowering the death of an animal to an art form, which obviously could never be said of killing a human. According to the Merrian-Webster dictionary, art is “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects” and culture is “the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behaviour that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations”. There is no creative imagination used in the killing of a bull in the ring, the same actions are performed with next to no variations every time there is a fight, and the end result is hardly aesthetic. As for the belief and knowledge being taught to future generations, one would think that after thousands of years of human history, we would have something better to teach succeeding generations than a ritualized form of public torture, with no goal other than death. I suppose that it could be argued that this is indeed the best we have to offer, in which case it is a sad state of affairs that we are in. To quote the Spanish band Ska-p, in their song about bullfighting: “To call structured  and deliberate sadism, violence, and death culture, is an insult to intelligence itself”


Protest against the Spanish government taking schoolchildren to bullrings. The sign reads "Torture". Photo by AnimaNaturalis

There are many other arguments that proponents of bullfighting bring to the table. It is claimed that these bulls are to die anyway, seeing as there only purpose is battle and there are too many for them to be of use as breeding bulls. It is also questioned whether culling these animals would be preferable to killing them in the bullring, which is a very complicated point. If it has to come to premature death, if there is no other use that those bulls can be put to (although I personally find this hard to believe) in my opinion it seems better to end the life quickly and quietly rather than subject the animal to prolonged suffering. Bullfighting enthusiasts also maintain that the value of the activity stems from it being a long-standing tradition, which it is, there is no point in denying it. However, this immobilist approach is dangerous, since values and societies change. What is traditional and acceptable in one era is not necessarily so in another. No one wants to see a world where globalisation is so prevalent that local traditions are assimilated into a global culture, but still, it is a case of measuring the pros of the tradition against the cons. For me, the cons of bullfighting clearly outweigh the pros.

Sometimes I wish I lived in the blissful state of mind regarding bullfighting that a lot of foreign observers do, in which it is just a bright spectacle of shining colours and “matador” (which just means killer in Spanish) bravado and where the bull isn’t hurt. As humans, we often pride ourselves on being civilised, and indeed the fight may be symbolic of civilisation conquering the wild. It seems to me though, that when it comes to a bullfight, the bull behaves in a much more civilised manner than the bullfighter. This is why I feel no sorrow when a bullfighter (rarely) dies or is badly injured in the ring, for it is a victory of civilisation over mindless cruelty, and surely, a victory so rare and hard to achieve is worthy of admiration.


週二, 27 三月 2012 14:29

Returning from Abroad

The artists in this section have all been inspired in their work by travels or study abroad. Tpcat spent several years in England, where she started to re-evaluate the role of religion in society and gained an insight into the cultural divide between 'East' and 'West'. Iron tells of his return to Taiwan after a sustained period abroad, and how some of his manga is based on the Taiwanese ex-pat community in Shanghai. LI Lung-Chieh describes how a trip to cambodia gave him a new perspective on the different problems people face, those that are more basic 'animal' problems, like feeding oneself and surviving and the more 'human' problems, like creative freedom, self-expression and the pursuit of happiness, all of which inspired his manga RoachGirl.

“For me, comic books are the best tool for telling stories”

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Tpcat is very passionate about drawing and comic books. Her specialty is depicting all sorts of small furry animals. She studied graphic design in a Taiwanese university, before getting a Masters in illustration from Kingston University in England. In order to make a living, she spent the next two years showing her work in different comic book Expos around England; she also had a stand in the Brick Lane market where she sold her comic books. Tpcat’s style is completely different from that of other members of the new generation of Taiwanese authors. She doesn’t follow the Japanese ACG (animation-comic-game) style, but rather takes her inspiration from England, with a style rich in details. Whilst her illustrations are certainly very cutesy, the content is much deeper than most of the other comic books that are popular nowadays. Tpcat is a specialized author swimming against the tide.

Readers in Mainland China can watch here

“The intrinsic purpose of comics is to tell stories. I believe it is our duty to draw comics and tell stories to each other. It is a simple reciprocated duty between individuals. If I still had faith in anything in this life, it would be in this.”

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Iron, whose real name is CHO Yi-pin, was born in Taizhong, in the centre of Taiwan. He graduated from the design institute of the National Science and Technology University of Taiwan. His talent was revealed in 1995, when he won the Gold prize in a comic contest organized by China Times newspaper. In 1998 he started to publish his comic book series Nezha in the magazine Dragon Youth. Nezha has also been compiled into a book. This comic, halfway between a mysterious world and a dark style of drawing, is a perfect example of Iron’s creative style. In the last two years, Iron has participated in the publication of the TX (Taiwan Comix) compilation, which showcases a new creative style, free and independent. Iron currently lives in Shanghai.

Readers in Mainland China can watch here

“ I believe that one day, thanks to comic books, even bald people will be beautiful.”

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LI Lung-Chieh is a discrete, mysterious and melancholy illustrator. He graduated from the department of interior architecture of Shih Chien University. In 1998 he won the award for the best first creation from the Ching Win comic books contest, thanks to his story The white gun. In the next few years, he won in the Ching Win contest again in addition to the Dong Li contest which he won in its third, twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth editions., after which he started publishing his short comics. His first individual work, Roachgirl (the cockroach woman), was edited after he won the first prize from the GIO in 2008. In 2010, he self-published Animal Impact, which was chosen for the Golden Comc Awards in the category of youth comics, and then participated in 2011 in the International Comic Book Competition of Algeria.

Readers in Mainland China can watch here

週五, 16 三月 2012 14:47

Memories of the Local

The experience of local culture and how it is absorbed is often a big source of inspiration for manga artists. The two artists in this section give us an insight into what growing up in Taiwan was like, and the perspective on the world that this granted them.

“For me, comic books are a means towards understanding others, they are also a way to allow others to know what I think.”

Ruan graduated in advertising design and interior architecture. He was an assistant designer for many years. In 1997, he published the comic book A Civilian-turned-President: Abian. 2009 was a big year for Ruan, since he won the first prize from GIO for his book Donghuachun Barbershop and he also published the comic book serial Spring at the Emergency Room online. Ruan depicts the lives of the lower classes of Taiwanese society in a touching manner, which flourish against a backdrop of flowers and plants, of bricks and tiles, strongly influenced by local traditions. The Taiwanese television has already acquired the rights to adapt and show Donghuachun Barbershop as a television program.

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Readers in Mainland China can watch it here

“Comic books give me a space for freedom of expression, drawing gives me a feeling of serenity.”

Sean Chuang has made more than 400 commercials since 1996. More than ten years ago, he wrote A Filmmaker’s notes, which was well received by the public thanks to its fresh and hip style. It launched Sean Chuang’s drawing career and it inspired him to write the bilingual graphic novel The Window. Passionate and dynamic, he spent ten years perfecting this masterpiece. In 2009 he won the GIO first prize with The Window. During the 10 years it took, Sean Chuang went through a rough spell and almost abandoned the project, but the prize gave him confidence. The story tells of the fate of a small town in the North struck by war. Afflicted by poverty, the numerous inhabitants of the village desert it, leaving behind children and the elderly. Totally without dialogue, there is no lack of passion in this colourful comic. As he always does, Sean Chuang continues to make films on the one hand, whilst on the other he focuses on writing comic books.

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Readers in Mainland China can watch it here


週五, 16 三月 2012 12:40

Tradition versus Modernity

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Taiwan's culture draws on many different sources, stemming from traditions from the different parts and ethnic identities of China, the Pacific and its Austronesian peoples as well as its colonial legacy from Spain, Portugal and Japan. These traditions in the 21st Century engage in dialogue with the globalized world and The artists in this section


“If comic books didn’t exist, I would have been dead by primary school…dead of boredom.”

CHIU Row-Long was born in 1965. Due to all the small nudges received and encouraged by having both a father and a grandfather who were illustrators, his younger brother and him both grew up to be comic artists. CHIU Row-Long excels in the realist style of design and writing, and is particularly inspired by the history and culture of the Taiwanese aborigines (his wife is a member of the Seediq tribe). He has participated in the creation of numerous aborigine language educational textbooks. He spent several years conducting research and compiling all sorts of documents relative to the revolt by 300 Seediq aborigines against the Japanese colonialists. This revolt is the most heroic, albeit tragic, that has occurred in the modern history of Taiwan.


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“I always wanted to explain the world, and comic books are the tools heaven has given me to do so!”

James HUANG was born in Taipei in 1966. After completing his studies, he started working in animation. In 1987, he published his first, 16-page long comic book, The Blue Side, in the journal Huanle (Joy), under the penname Red Army. His humour is famous for being very sharp. For the next few years he published a few more books until 1996, when he edited a long comic book, The Little Boy Kui-hsing, before diving into the world of animation and video games. In 2003, he was recruited by the biggest Taiwanese online gaming company, Gamania, where he worked in the department of design and the creative centre. Through Gamania, he participated in the creation of the animation film “108 heroes”, which was broadcast on an American animation channel.

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週四, 21 四月 2011 16:09

The Cultural Inheritance Behind Illegal Architecture

Amongst the participants of the opening of the Illegal Architecture exhibition held in Ximen in March of this year, was mainland Chinese architect and artist Wang Shu. Perhaps aptly, given the topic of the exhibition, there was a construction crew digging up the road right beside the exhibition's marquee. Despite the repressive authoritarian thrum of council diggers and drills, Wang Shu took time out from competing with the noise to answer a few questions from the eRenlai team about illegal architecture and its role as a voice of civil society in Taipei:

Alternative (for readers in China)

Interview by Ida Wang, Nicholas Coulson and Conor Stuart, Video Editing and Subtitles by Conor Stuart.

Wang Shu's installation on the roof of the exhibition centre, The award winning "The Decay of A Dome"


週二, 15 三月 2011 17:04

Tim Yip and Chinese Art

Tim Yip discusses the avant-garde art scene in China, and how globalization and the desire for a quick buck can affect the core values of traditional culture in societies.

週三, 09 三月 2011 18:08

The National Palace goes digital!

This article has been adapted from S. Bozzato's research project on the National Palace Museum, "Like City Lights Receding: An assessment of the National Palace Museum Digitization Project."


週五, 17 十二月 2010 20:07

Simulating Dereliction in Taiwan: An Interview with visual artist Yao Jui-Chung

Yao Jui-Chung (姚瑞中) discusses his interest in derelict buildings as well as the marketing in recent years of these"derelict" spaces which had previously provided creative space for art, like for example, the redevelopment of HuaShan from derelict stage for alternative art to a commercialized business front for middle-class consumption.

週三, 23 六月 2010 11:26

Project 2304 + 1

Shih Wei-Chieh is a young taiwanese visual artist. One of his many projects combining modern technology and software with traditional arts was in this co-operation with Li Jiexin. In this piece he uses his musical background and objective art to rebuild a new story with no preconceptions as the movements of Jiexin's body interplay with and change the music and image.


Watch below a video of the 2304+1 performance


週一, 30 十一月 2009 00:00

Treasure Hill

Treasure Hill is located on the site of a temple devoted to Guanyin, in Taipei. Over fifty years ago, people started building their own houses, on this land owned by the Ministry of National Defense. Originally it was settled in by war veterans, but developed into a community composed mainly of poor people, migrant workers and others who couldn’t afford the steep prices in the area. Thus the inhabitants were generally a marginalised and voiceless community. In 2004, the government declared that it was going to raze the buildings in the pursuit of urban development. Students and teachers of several National Taiwan University departments along with the NGO ’OURS’ and many ’Artivists’ acted to try and save the residences. The academics and artivists attempted to support the cause, and give voice to the voiceless by putting it in a context that would be more likely to achieve government support. 

Zijie, who studies at NTU’s Social Work department was amongst those who joined the experiment. Zijie and a small group were given a place that local photographer, Li Guomin (李國民), had been fixing up, to base themselves and live from for the following six months. Many artivists resided at Treasure Hill for short periods of time, few lived for long spells of time. For Taiwan it was an experimental, but historical cooperation between art and activism. For some of those involved, it was a cultural space that had art potential, others were more concerned about the residents property rights. Their actions had both successes and failures, but finally in 2006, the government took the decision to go ahead in evicting residents and taking down buildings. When renovation is completed this year a small proportion of the residents have been promised they will be allowed back.

Yang Zijie, Li Guomin and another reknowned artist Wu Zhongwei (吳中煒), were among three people accused and sued by the government.

Two years after, the artivists and residents were evicted, Zijie reflects on the movement to maintain Treasure Hill. With hindsight, He discusses the pitfalls and difficulties involved in understanding the needs of those one is trying to help when socially engaging and which aspects he feels could have been handled better.

Introduction by Nick Coulson


週一, 01 六月 2009 20:12

A Spiritual Dialogue with Art

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'OPA’ means in Portuguese ’Prayer Through the Arts’. Originally founded in 1976 by a Jesuit from Paraguay, Fr. Iraguay, it is based in the city of Salvador (Bahia).
Visit OPA website

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