Sharon Zukin在《裸城：純正都市地方的生與死》(Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places)書中昭示了一個城市(她以紐約為例)的變遷宿命，往往是一個「不可逆」的過程 。當你生活周遭的景象快速在腦海中覆蓋、取代或刪除，甚至被「都更」到眼前一片「重開機」時，你該如何記憶這些成長過的世界？
然而高雄不只是個工業硬漢，過去清領時期的「鳳山八景」 或是日治時期「高雄八景」 ，這些對高雄風景的「認證」，在描述中還包括了時人對在地特有景觀的驚艷，包括大氣變化與自然生態等生動感受，可謂「沉浸式」的全身心詮釋；這些都讓後人可以感受到當時高雄迷人的氣息。
Opening the Story Box of Time and Space for You
Nita Lo (Head of Department of Research and Development, KMFA)
The Year Circles of an Old City
In her Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places, Sharon Zukin indicated that the changes of a city (using New York as an example) is often an “irreversible” process. When the world around you is no longer the one you remember for it has been quickly overridden, replaced, or deleted by new architectures and things brought by “Urban Renewal Projects” as if everything is “rebooted” like a computer, how can you remember the world where you grew up?
During the election season, I heard many heated debates about the description of Kaohsiung as “an old and poor city”. As a local of Kaohsiung, I did not feel agitated by this description for I was thinking—What is wrong with Kaohsiung being an old city?
An “old” city is not necessarily a “poor” city. After all, there are many old cities around the world that are enjoying invaluable tourism wealth for they are ultimate destinations attracting tourists with their fascinating historical heritage.
Whether a city is “poor” or not should also be decided by the spiritual wealth of people living in it. After all, the history of a city is the most reliable source of nutrition for the well-being of human souls. The age of a city is like the year circles of a tree. The older a city is, the more year circles it grows with a larger accumulation of heritage and a richer collection of stories to be told.
In a city where there is no story passed down from generation to generation and where the cityscape is always changing with new buildings replacing old ones, people will eventually end up with collective forgetting. It represents a kind of spiritual “poverty”. Even though the city is decorated here and there with hypnotizing symbols or signs that read “Ai” (Chinese word for “love”) or “LOVE”, it is nothing but temporary self-delusion without really filling the void inside people living in the city.
Constantly Changing Cityscape
Because of all the different development models and administration methods throughout different periods of time, Kaohsiung seems to exhibit two extremes in its nature. For example, it is located next to the ocean but its “marine image” has been latent for quite a long time. How come? This history is mind-boggling to people from outside the city. Actually, most of the coastal areas of Kaohsiung have long been reserved for military use since the period of Martial Law. It is not until nearly 20 years ago that, thanks to the guidance of the city government through “interference measures” such as holding activities on the seashore and renovating warehouses in the old district of Kaohsiung Port, the authority in charge of all the ports in Taiwan started to gradually release its control over the coastal areas of Kaohsiung, allowing the general public to travel freely along the winding coastline here and broaden their “view” of the ocean.
For artists, their imagination has never been confined by political control. Among the scenes depicted in the paintings and photographic works by different generations of artists collected by KMFA, one of the most frequent choices is Mt. Chihou. Nicknamed “Saracen Head”, this mountain is one of the top choices for most artists to paint from different perspectives in Kaohsiung. The breathtaking scene of “Sunset at Mt. Chihou” highly acclaimed since many years ago is probably one of the most representative images of Kaohsiung.
Another site equally popular among artists is the Love River, one of the arteries of this city. All the bridges, mansions or gondolas along this river were nowhere to be seen in much earlier years. Back then, on both sides of the river, there were only swamps, mudflats, and saline ponds overgrown with mangrove, pandanus, thorny bamboo and other vegetation. Bamboo rafts of local fishmen were frequently seen sailing along the river. On each raft, the bamboo frames used to hang and release the fishing net added elegance to the river view with their beautiful arc shapes. The straw huts where local fishermen sundried and stored their fishing nets were the “mansions in the front row of river view”. When the river was later used for transportation of wood logs to the log basin downstream, these views along the river were replaced by different views of a new time.
In his Comments on Figures in Kaohsiung (Book II) , Chao Shih (originally known as Lin Shu-guang) described the lives of many intriguing influential Kaohsiung natives (including senior artists) and anecdotes of their times, providing us references to indirectly appreciate in detail how the landscape and society in Kaohsiung have changed.
Among the articles in this book, the one titled “Trailblazers of Western Medicine in Kaohsiung: Chuang Ma-chiang & Li Ping-sen” told the anecdote about a “nail resident” (resident who refused to accept any compensation and relocate for a development project) during the Japanese colonization period. Back then the Love River was called the “Takao River” and Hsu Chu, one of the residents on a sandbar in the river, adamantly refused to move for a river dredging project. The colonial government then dug deep ditches surrounding the sandbar to make it collapse amidst the erosion of river currents.
This anecdote, along with others, are now unverifiable stories about the cityscape transitions of Kaohsiung. They also remind us that all the architectural landmarks in a city, no matter how magnificent, will eventually disappear from the map someday.
Reading through the Chapters of Memory
Kaohsiung has evolved from the “Takao” a century ago to what it is today. Known for its industrial development and eagerly seeking industrial upgrading and transformation, this city is often shrouded by scorching heat and fumes that make people feel fretted.
Thanks to its bullet-sweating labor force, Kaohsiung has been enjoying significant industrial prosperity. The trucks carrying containers and running on the road constitute the most noticeable industrial image of this city, which accordingly gives rise to such representative activities of Kaohsiung as the “Steel and Iron Sculpture Festival” and the “Container Arts Festival”. If you think these are what “Kaohsiung” is all about, then you will have to think again!
Even though the history of Kaohsiung Port among the top commercial ports in the world is something worthy of dwelling upon, its development from a fishing village nearby a lagoon to a major commercial port has not only enriched an abundance of social, cultural, and industrial characteristics but also brought this city diverse historical facets. The historical prosperity along the Hamasen Railway that was used to transport exports from downtown to Kaohsiung Port during the Japanese colonization period is now something beyond the imagination of those young people flying kites, having picnics, and taking pictures in the Hamasen Railway Cultural Park or visiting one chic store after another at the Pier-2 Art Center and KW2.
During WWII, the Japanese navy intentionally sank many large-size ships at Kaohsiung Port to block the US navy from entering for supply replenishment. The wreckage clearing of these ships after the war brought Kaohsiung unexpected prosperity of its “ship dismantling kingdom”. However, this part of history not only brought people living in Hongmaogang industrial development but also left some damage difficult to undo (pollution of the ocean and danger of ship explosion). As people living in Hongmaogang moved out and their village was replaced by Hongmaogang Cultural Park, the local industrial prosperity is now no longer seen. The legendary history of Gongyuan Road in Yancheng District as the largest hub of second-hand machinery and hardware trade in Taiwan can now only be faintly felt through a visit to the cluster of not-so-busy hardware stores on the Hardware Street, the remnants of Guongyuan Road. Maybe, after all the tourism facilities are in place in the Kaohsiung Port Area, these hardware stores will be closed amidst rising land prices and this old street will also become another part of history.
However, Kaohsiung is more than an industrial stronghold city. It was also known for beautiful scenery such as the “Eight Scenes of Fengshan” during the Qing Dynasty or the “Eight Scenes of Kaohsiung” during the Japanese colonization period. These “recognition” titles of Kaohsiung’s landscape convey how physically and mentally “immersed” people back then were in the unique local scenery under different climatic and ecological conditions. Through these titles, people of later generations can have a vicarious feel of Kaohsiung’s glamor back then.
As time goes by, most people nowadays associate the landscape of Kaohsiung with only a few of its representative “looks” such as the sunset at Xizhi Bay, Chengcing Lake veiled by a fog, Lotus Pond with swaying willow branches. The other scenes among the above-mentioned titles have gradually faded like the beauty of a fine lady in her elder years after all the vicissitudes of life. The beauty of these forgotten scenes is no longer carefully and slowly savored by busy tourists but by viewers of paintings and/or photographic works depicting these places. Through the collections of art museums, viewers can read through all the chapters of memory about this city.
Among the collections of KMFA, Church in Kaohsiung, a painting by Chang Wan-chuan, gives a pan-impressionist depiction of Kaohsiung Rose Basilica and also reveals the past of this catholic church located on Wufu Road close to the estuary of Love River.
During each Christmas season, many people excitedly rush into this small cathedral with only few of them knowing that it was built on a patch of land reclaimed from the Love River by its members strenuously carrying sand and soil over themselves to fill the lot. Even though Chang’s painting is not a realistic rendition of the cathedral like a postcard, it can still inspire us to go back to those days to meet those believers who overcame what seemed impossible and built the church like the legendary Yugong (literally meaning “the old fool”) and his descendants who moved away the mountains in front of their house bit by bit.
Those who are painting from life or taking pictures on the street are probably also recording our present time that will soon become the past. Artists of different generations give us their interpretations of the world in their eyes, leaving evidence of “what was once there” for this city and taking us on a profound journey across time and space back to the past where history and culture was closely intertwined.
Extracting “Eternal” Images of the City
Different from the sizable collections of “self-evident” photographic works at history museums that can vividly retell historical “stories” of the past like a TV drama or movie, the paintings or images in the collections of art museums are unique in their interpretations, telling stories of the past beyond the images and allowing us to gaze at the “eternity” of a certain space or time despite the constantly changing and undulating values of different times.
Each painted or photographed image of the cityscape is like a story box of compressed time and space. Only when gradually “decompressed” by viewers, more stories will be extracted from it. As the skyline of this city is constantly changing amidst the fast passage of time and all the familiar sights are either destroyed or replaced, you will fall in love with this kind of “eternity”.
To make sure that local citizens of Kaohsiung will not feel “rootless” in their “hometown”, KMFA is holding this exhibition to relays the stories of this city through images. It is impossible to start a pursuit of collective memory about a place like Kaohsiung without artist records, such as works collected by KMFA, of its landscape changes, isn’t it?
Together with the eye-catching “Corridor of Landscape on Stone-drum Lightboxes” at the Kaohsiung Cultural Center and the board game of “Kaohsiung Landscape in Transition: Exploring the Museum Collection through Art Game”, this exhibition can serve as a “2D tour group”, taking viewers through time and space, through reality and virtuality, to better appreciate the scenic and social transitions of Kaohsiung. However, images are just images. It is hoped that each of you will have your own “one-day excursion in the city” to different places of this city with a heart filled with “nostalgia” to better remember this city in person.
Therefore, put on your sneakers and backpack and then use a map to navigate your way around in the streets and alleys of Kaohsiung, exploring the changes of its skyline and the subtle glamor of its history in the air, observing the elegant designs of windows and plaques of historical architectures, and savoring traditional delicacies and local atmosphere. These are all the real-life sensations you cannot find on Google.
As traveling around and painting from life is a must for an artist, so is having curiosity about the past for all of us. (202007)
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