Life in Taiwan is often changing and endlessly curious, but one thing it seems unable to provide is the impetus for regular blog updates. I know it's a combination of Taipei's endless distraction, the temptations of new friends, the ecstasy of old ones. I just can't seem to become too serious about regular updates. And that's OK, the purpose of this blog in my life has changed. It may change back again in the future, or it may move closer to a typical artist's website (though that's unlikely). One thing I do miss is the pleasure that comes from developing thought through writing. So in rekindling semi-regular updates, well, I'm hoping it will help me ground my mind in what could be the basis for bigger and better work, exhibitions, and all that good stuff. The momentum upon leaving Canberra fueled my enthusiasm to continue on with the work I had been planning. But as I say, life here is often changing. The first major change came when I had to leave my first apartment. Not something I planned or hoped for but thankfully for the best. Now I'm in my new place, with a perfectly functional studio space, I wouldn't change how things went down. What's more, I've found the process of settling and just getting some goddamn work done much more difficult than I expected. I've been working, but my things are periodic and lack some quality of honesty or truth that I find hard to define here.
My classes up till now have been very tangentially related (to put it kindly) to my planned graduating body. But perhaps that's just an excuse for my lack of motivation. No, really, as I said before, Taipei is a land of distractions, but I wouldn't have it any other way. There is always somewhere wild to visit, and always something I want to read or watch or talk about.
When I was in art school I thought a lot about a time in which I wouldn't need to distinguish art from the other rituals of my life. I still long for a future when life and art can merge, when every action is art, and every art-piece becomes the way in which I move through the world. In some ways, I view the past year as that. What is walking through the mountains, reading essays and manga, eating sweet cold ice treats, learning Chinese, if not art? My movements when making, my thoughts and rituals when walking or cooking or lovin', mirror one another. And this year they have been looking more similar to me than ever before. And I need it. Every day as I work through life in Taiwan, I can feel a coalescence inside me, and it's leading to the next stage of my time here. It's the beginning of my second school year, and I'm about to start making full time again. And it's going to be so good. I can feel the power behind a year of slow build up pushing against the inside of my body, and if I can be sure to release that energy with kindness, control and sincerity, I think I can do something really good.
Taiwan is an island that doesn't feel like an island. When I was still settling I felt a sense of unease that was hard to place. Taipei is big, the population is large, and living in this city I forgot about the ocean. I took a hike up one of Taipei's nearby mountains and to the south could see cold silky cloud stretching over the vast and tightly fecund mountain range that is central Taiwan. I'm barred from that landscape though, it's a visual density that tempts and repels at the same time. How exciting it would be to wander there! But how physically challenging, how heavy that wet air! Behind me was the east coast, and in the far opposite distance was the west coast. And here I was, I could see both sides of the island at once. It reminded me how truly close we are to the sea.
Over the last few months I've been thinking about something from a book Shellaine gave me. The book is called Wanderlust, a History of Walking. It says "Walking returns the body to its original limits again, to something supple, sensitive and vulnerable, but walking itself extends into the world as do those tools that that augment the body. The path is an extension of walking, the places set aside for walking are monuments to that pursuit, and walking is a mode of making the world as well as being in it. Thus the walking body can be traced in the places it has made; paths, parks and sidewalks are traces of of the acting out of imagination and desire; walking sticks, shoes, maps, canteens and backpacks are further material results of that desire. Walking shares with making and working that crucial element of engagement of the body and the mind with the world, of knowing the world through the body and the body through the world."
I guess I feel the same way about painting. My current project is centred on a walk across Taiwan. The walk will begin on the west coast of Taiwan and end on the east. In a sense, a journey from the two points I saw from the mountaintop. I want to know why the ocean remains relatively forgotten here. Comparable island nations have a long and well-established relationship with the sea that Taiwan doesn't share. I think the answer is cultural and historical. Elements of Chinese philosophy, Qing era marginalization, 20th century martial law and industry, and even the current constitutional framework have all contributed to a muting of the oceanic culture, though as an outsider I find myself often guessing as to why. Walking from one ocean to the other will act as a reminder of the relative smallness of this country. A literal indication that the ocean is right here, so close but so hidden. "Walking is a mode of making the world as well as being in it." I keep hearing this line and thinking there must be no better way to answer these questions than through walking. The trip will also provide the space to actually see and document some examples, new and old, of Taiwanese oceanic culture that I'm only peripherally aware of.
On this walk I'll be making and installing small ceramic objects and larger scale installs. The walk will bring me to locations for installing previously made pieces, and be the starting point of an accompanying painting and photo series. I'll be making updates on this blog.