This entry documents my final day of riding on a bicycle trip down the Huadong Valley in 2018. I began with a short yet eventful spin around Taitung City 台東市, the administrative capital of Taitung 台東, and headed southwest across the alluvial plains before curving back to catch a train bound for Taipei 台北 in the afternoon. I already introduced the history, geography, and culture of Taitung City in this post from a previous visit in 2015, so I’ll focus on specific sites I visited on this particular trip.
This bizarre installation is one of the more iconic and well-known works of public art in Taipei 台北. Created by artists He Cairou 何采柔 and Guo Wentai 郭文泰 in 2009, it is entitled The World in Aves’ Eyes 愛維思看世界 (alternately Birdman 鳥人 or Daydreams 夢遊) and can be found somewhere in the labyrinthine passageways beneath Taipei Railway Station 臺北火車站. Apart from the obvious, the immature, androgynous figure holds a pencil in its right hand (never to write a word), water continuously seeps from its neck, and its feet show the signs of a mild case of pigeon toe, a condition that should be familiar to anyone who has seen young Taiwanese posing for photographs. Here is the original creative statement that accompanies the piece:
My ability to translate Chinese remains limited, particularly when it comes to the sort of conceptual language employed above, but I’ll do my best to provide the gist.…
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 is hard not to notice the giant freaking eyeball and neon orange head hanging out at the side of the road leading up Honglusai Mountain 烘爐塞山 at the southern edge of Zhonghe 中和, Taiwan. After taking in the scene I jokingly came up with a new slogan for the tourist bureau; “Taiwan: don’t ask why!” But of course that’s not really my style—I always like getting to the bottom of the seemingly inexplicable things I encounter in my travels here.
Taiwan loves Totoro, the iconic star of Miyazaki’s animated classic My Neighbor Totoro. Known locally to Chinese speakers as Duoduolong 多多龍 (or 豆豆龍) and—my favourite—Longmao 龍貓 (literally “dragon cat”), Totoro recently appeared on the streets of Taichung 台中 alongside Chibi and Chu Totoro, numerous makkuro kurosuke (soot sprites) and No-Face (who appeared in Spirited Away). These life-sized, fan-made sculptures have drawn so much interest that the site even appears on Google Maps as Dali Totoro Bus Stop 大里龍貓公車站.