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Lantern festival a reinvented celebration in Taipei

By Psyche Cho
Staff Reporter

During the past week, the densely-populated concrete jungle called Taipei has been taking on a more nostalgic atmosphere as lanterns in various shapes, sizes and designs have been lit here and there to celebrate the Chinese Lantern Festival.

Back on February 12 the Taipei Lantern Festival-Public Art of Taipei for 2011 was unveiled in a 3D show which lit up the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) to launch a series of programs in conjunction with the festival.

“Beyond just being a crowded city, there must be something interesting and worth exploring hidden in the many communities of Taipei,” says Su Yao-hua, Director of Taipei Artist Village.

Image of an ancient palace is shown on the exterior wall of Museum of Contemporary Art as one program during the Chinese Lantern Festival session. (Photo courtesy of MOCA)
To revive the custom of carrying hand-made lanterns to greet friends that was popular in ancient times, this year’s edition of the festival was developed under the theme of ‘light up the city’—right within the community — to fulfill the idea of lifestyle aesthetics and to cultivate an identity with local culture.

Celebration relays began on the evening of February 12. At six p.m. that day, a 15-minute live show projected a 3D animation on the exterior wall of MOCA, presenting touching stories that occurred in 2010, a look at the underwater world, and Taipei Flora Expo, to kick off the annual celebration.

An amusing episode of a rabbit chasing a tiger, the animal signs of this year and last year respectively, was also integrated into the show.

Following the high-tech opening, at eight p.m. the Treasure Hill Artist Village continued the unveiling celebration with a ‘White Night’ concert. Musicians and bands performed in an overnight party at the Gongguan Riverside Plaza of Waterpark.

After the grand opening, numerous programs such as flower arrangement exhibitions were held here and there in the city. Organized by the Department of Cultural Affairs, Taipei City Government, the public art exhibitions were planned for mainly two parts — southern and northern Taipei respectively.

The northern section extended from MOCA to the neighborhood around Zhongshan MRT Station, Red House in Ximending, and all the way to the Zhishan Cultural and Ecological Garden, with each area presenting fascinating activities for citizens to enjoy.

Echoing its theme of ‘Bling Bling, Let the Lights Shine’, an assortment of artistic installations has been set up around the Zhongshan MRT Station. This area has been reborn as an eye-catching spot following completion of a renewal project last year which centered on a linear park dotted with artistic works for residents and passersby.

Artistic lantern installations are set up by artists in the neighborhood of Jhongshan MRT Station in Taipei. (Photo courtesy of Department of Cultural Affairs, Taipei City Government)This time several new works have been added to warm up the modern city, such as Tess Lin’s giant lanterns. These striking lanterns were transformed from what were humble roadside concrete blocks.

“Their original appearance was cold and ugly,” says Lin, adding that “I hope the renewed look will entice passersby to stop for a while and take a photo.”
Lin colored them with seasonal features —trees and snowmen as well as rabbits and carrots can all be found on these large-sized lanterns. “Every year consists of four seasons, and then another cycle begins,” she says.

Not far away rest several creatures in strange shapes. Designed by Hsu Tang-wei, these sculptures, which might be classified somewhere between outer space machines and unearthly creatures, radiate laser beams that penetrate the entire park zone, painting the streets with fictional colors each night.

One black-and-blue rabbit surrounded by carrots stands atop one of the underground passages that leads to Zhongshan MRT Station. (Photo courtesy of Department of Cultural Affairs, Taipei City Government)Looking up, people may be surprised to find a black-and-blue rabbit surrounded by carrots standing atop one of the underground passages that leads to Zhongshan station, while in Ximending lighting techniques have turned Red House, the 103-year old historical spot, into a super-sized lantern.

In the other direction, a program called ‘2011 Rabbit Year Taipei Lantern Festival’ was held in the Treasure Hill Artist Village (THAV).

A series of events were planned under the general theme, ‘Bow Bunny Looking for the Sun’, including strolls with radish-shaped lanterns, an open studios project, exhibitions and workshops which were also available during the festival session.

This gentle one-eared rabbit, Bow Bunny, was designed by Hoper Hsu, who tried to convey the idea that everyone is unique despite any defect or difference that may exist between one person and another.

Austrian artist Gustav Troger, left, dressed in a suit made of stitched-together glass mirrors, stands next to Hsieh Hsiao-yun, Commissioner of Department of Cultural Affairs, Taipei City Government, in a press conference February 10 to promote the exhibition. (Photo courtesy of MOCA)In addition to appreciating these static exhibitions, there were also moving surprises on the street. Austrian installation artist Gustav Troger, dressed in a suit made up of stitched-together glass mirrors, also made a brief stop at Taipei as part of his global ‘mirror tour’.

Dubbed the “Emerald of the City,” the Zhishan Cultural and Ecological Garden hosted several nighttime exploration activities along pathways decorated with lights.

When it comes to reviving a tradition, hand-made objects are always a great centerpiece. The blocks between Yongkang Street, Chingtian Street and Longchuan Street and the neighboring area were the spotlight of hand-made lanterns. Each of the 80-some shops involved in the event prepared a lantern displaying features of their own brand.

Unlike the artistic air in the above section, the Guling Street and Nanhai Road area featured a ghostly atmosphere, highlighting nighttime events such as night strolls, a creative lantern workshop, a night market and concerts.

The various types of events and artistic installations presented during the Lantern Festival session were an effort to revive the sense of attachment felt among people in ancient times.

“By joining in these activities which are held in the community, local residents can find contentment living here,” notes Su.

No worry if you missed all the aforesaid programs, because other events will continue into early April.

From now until March 27, ‘Let there be light: an art regeneration project’ is being held in Treasure Hill Artist Village. The project aims to overturn the ideas associated with “light”, as artists try to reinterpret life, light and art.

In the meantime, a public video art installation by Japanese artist Shimura Nobuhiro called ‘Urban Vision’ will be presented in the Gongguan Riverside Plaza of Waterpark.

For more information on upcoming activities, please visit the website at http://www.artistvillage.org