Today I went to investigate reports of an abandoned building on the edge of Ximending 西門町, a busy commercial district in central Taipei 台北. It is fairly well-known due to its central location but I could find no easy means of entry for the very same reasons. From this television news report it sounds as if this was originally the Zhongwai Department Store Company 中外百貨公司 and later the Yangyang Department Store 洋洋百貨. While it isn’t surprising to find such ruins around much of Taiwan it is somewhat unusual to see in such a prosperous area. The building is for rent, as I understand it, and much of the aforementioned report seems concerned with the outrageous price tag for such a decaying monstrosity.
Taichung 台中 is changing fast. The historic downtown area, formerly one of the worst examples of inner city blight in the nation, is presently undergoing a massive urban renewal effort. Some decaying and disused commercial buildings have been restored, many more await their fate, and others have been demolished before I’ve even had a chance to document their interiors. Zhongsen Theater 中森戲院 belongs to this last category: it came down after I shot a preliminary set of photos but before I had a chance to sneak inside. You have to move fast to capture these small histories in their unmaking.
The elevators leading up to the Taipei 101 observatory are the world’s fastest, propelling passengers at more than 60 km/h from the 5th to the 89th floor. The precision-engineered steel cables used to hoist those high-speed lifts are subject to incredible strain and, as a result, are regularly decommissioned. Rather than sell them for scrap, these discarded cables were given to Taiwanese artist Kang Muxiang 康木祥, who began shaping them into a series of provocative and unconventional sculptures.
The first of these works of public art is Infinite Life, “a steel embryo reborn from the towering structure from which it came”, to quote the official Taipei 101 web site. The artist notes that the cables “carried 6.6 million visitors during their six years of operation, so there seemed to be millions of lives wound up in them…”…
It’s grim up north. But that same darkness keeps me coming back to Keelung 基隆, Taiwan’s most important northern port, to explore its dense, multi-layered urban core. Pictured here is a long pedestrian overpass that snakes around and over the railway station for about 200 meters. It is visible on Google’s satellite view, running the length of Keelung’s Zhongshan Bridge 基隆中山陸橋 (also known as the Keelung Train Station Bridge 基隆火車站陸橋). After posting this photo on Flickr a visitor pointed out that this is the same pedestrian bridge featured in Millennium Mambo 千禧曼波 (watch the introduction on YouTube and you’ll see it). I was going to post it anyway but this adds another layer of meaning to this obscure work of urban psychogeography.
Keelung Ghost House 基隆鬼屋, formally the Linkaiqun Mansion 林開群洋樓 (and sometimes Keelung Lin Residence 基隆林宅), is one of the most famous ruins in Taiwan. Much like Minxiong Ghost House 民雄鬼屋 and Xinglin General Hospital 杏林綜合醫院, it commonly appears on lists of the most haunted places on the island. This ghostly reputation makes it difficult to separate credible information from the many tall tales that are told, particularly through the dark glass of machine translation.
Recently I posted my full exploration of the Qiaoyou Building 喬友大廈, a towering ruin in the heart of Changhua City 彰化市. It was a big building and I ended up capturing many more photographs than I ended up sharing there. Here, in this post, I’d like to share a few more photos I captured in black and white. I have also included a couple of images demonstrating how I digitally restore photographic negatives I find in the ruins (a technique discussed in more detail here). If you’re curious about this building be sure to see the original post.
A year ago the Taiwanese people stood up to their elected government and halted the passage of a controversial free trade agreement by occupying the Legislative Yuan. This act of mass civil disobedience was soon christened the Sunflower Student Movement. I was living in Taipei 台北 when it all went down and visited the protest on several nights to watch history unfold. I am not a professional photographer, political observer, nor journalist, so please excuse the poor technical quality of the images and lack of elaboration in this gallery. It is my hope that these pictures capture something of the spirit of those wild, uncertain nights when anything seemed possible.