CHEN Po-I was born in Chiayi City, Taiwan in 1972 and graduated from the Department of Hydraulic and Ocean Engineering, National Cheng Kung University in 1999. He has been documenting the cities of Taiwan and their culture and history for years. The artist is especially dedicated to land development and environmental issues. Since 2000, he has looked into places in Tainan, Kaohsiung and Chiayi to draw “a landscape of the ruins” with his camera lens. He faithfully documents the shattered and the forgotten like a historian, and highlights these places’ sense of time and the beauty of loss.
Chen worked on a black and white series entitled The Exorcist between 2000 and 2005. After that, he turned to study Taiwan’s course of development, and started making Outlook, Strata and Remains. The three series are the artist’s important career cornerstones. He visited several large relocation sites in Taiwan, such as Hongmaogang, which by now have turned into ruins. He was there to collect traces of the past, such as lost personal belongings, to unveil, collect and re-present the previous residents’ personal histories. The artist aims to illustrate a period when drastic changes took place in cities, anxiety and chaos were all over the place, and everything went out of control. By re-collecting these forgotten pieces of the past, the artist delves into the history and culture of Taiwan, almost as a sociohistorian than a photographer.
Remains, Strata and Outlook were made in response to the Hongmaogang Village Relocation Plan. Hongmaogang is the oldest settlement in Taiwan. The government decided to turn its several neighborhoods into a coastal industrial park in 1968, but only completed the project 38 years later, as this involves the largest relocation plan ever in Taiwan’s history. The government was faced with protests by local residents during the course, and in 2006 relocation finally officially began. One year later in 2007, CHEN Po-I went to Hongmaogang to take photos of the abandoned houses there. He kept records of the objects left there, as well as emptied spaces without objects at all. He also captured views of the industry-threatened village from broken house windows.
Crossing a 40-year time span, Remains contains photos of certain houses that people abandoned in different periods, from the 70s, 80s, 90s, till year 2000. The artist pays tribute to those once glorious ages through an “object theatre” that he constructed with discarded objects found in those houses. Strata is also about the traces of life and everyday events. Outlook laments the loss of land in an ever expanding industrial society. Fragmented pieces of the present and the past are brought together the “windows” in this artwork.
In the course of modernization, major changes happened to the city and countryside landscapes, overall demography, and family and community structures in Taiwan. Over the last ten years or so, people’s lifestyle and living environments changed even more greatly due to industrialization. People’s relationship with land alters, sometimes breaks. Excessive development damages nature and fundamentally changes the composition of human relations in society. The major incidents which affect Taiwan’s cultural landscape include the 921 Earth Quake（Richter scale 7）in 1999 and Typhoon Morakot which claimed many lives in 2009. More disputable land development and urban renewal projects have also appeared since 2000. They often escalate into civil protests, such as the Miramar Incident, Hongmaogang Relocation Controversy, Wenlin Yuan Argument in Taipei, and Dapu Incident in Miaoli.
The artist documents bits and pieces of the old scenery, objects and buildings left by the advancing Taiwan society over the last ten years or so. He began to take photos of deserted military dependants’ villages in 2005, and turned to follow the Hongmaogang Village Relocation Plan from 2007 to 2013. The artist also kept photo records of the destruction and the following reconstruction work in response to Typhoon Morakot between 2009 and 2014. Influenced by HUANG Chien-Liang, Chen believes that a photographer naturally knows what to do when he or she works on site, as the happenings there will enlighten the photographer’s body and soul. His works can hence so powerfully reveal the most forgotten wounds.
|Chinese title：||窗景（高雄 紅毛港 海汕4路40號－李水上宅）|
|English title：||Outlook（No.40, Haishan 4st Rd., Hongmaogang, Kaohsiung City - Lee Shui Shang's house）|
|Medium / Classification：||Photography|
|Collection Unit：||Courtesy of the artist|
|Contact method for authorization：||
|Related Exhibition：||"The Pioneers" of Taiwanese Artists, 1971-1980|