Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Museum of Temporary Art

On Friday we rolled into Taipei for the April Swenson's Meet Up. Big crowd today! More on that later.

Meanwhile, on Friday afternoon, in the undoubtedly vain hope of enabling my children to soak up some culture, we took them to a museum. My children protested that they were already Improved, and wanted to do something fun, like murder aliens by the thousand in real-time strategy environments, or break priceless family heirlooms at their grandparents' house. We compromised on an hour at the art museum....



The Museum we chose was, according to the sign at the metro station, the Museum of Temporary Art. We searched in vain for the museums of Semi-Permanent and Permanent Art, thinking the effect on the children would be all the greater. Alas, shutter lag prevented photography of the exhibits at the Museum of Ephemeral Art.


The Museum of Temporary Art is housed in a beautiful Japanese-era building, a former school with lovely old brick walls and wooden floors. The signs in front identify it as the Museum of Contemporary Art (台北當代藝術館), but we knew that those signs had to contain an English error, since the exhibits change frequently and do not last very long.


The old schoolrooms are given over to exhibits, and after careful perusal of the place, objectivity compels me to admit that I would rather have my eyeballs gnawed out by gophers than visit it again. Many of the exhibits stimulate the viewer to speculate on how many relatives the artist must have had on the Board of Trustees to get his work in there. Others look as though the artist is playing a game to see just how mundane an object has to be before he can stop labeling it art. One or two look like the kind of scribbles my daughter makes when the cat is biting her ear. On the plus side, the wooden floors creak in a cool, reassuring way, and the place has great atmosphere. The student volunteers manning the exhibits were not only polite, but often quite decorative as well.

The second floor housed an exhibit of 50 years of Italian fashion, whose complete title must surely have been Fifty Years of Italian Fashion: Clothing Rejected by Betel Nut Girls for Being Too Garish. In addition to the hideous clothing, which looked as though it had been created from the skins of tropical parrots whose genes had been crossed with DNA from the entire insect population of Gautemala, the museum broadcast videos of fashion shows on the walls of the exhibit. Standing there, dumbstruck, I suddenly understood what the phrase "tortured to the brink of insanity" really meant.

All in all, if someone suggests visiting this place, clout them on the head and lock them in a closet until the urge passes. Taipei has plenty of other museums improving for both adults and small children.

INFO: In case sustained bombing has reduced all other Taipei attractions to rubble and you actually want to visit this place, it is located on Chang-An W. Rd about two blocks from Chungshan N. Rd. Adult tickets are NT$50. The nearest metro station is Chungshan (Zhongshan) Station.

UPDATE: Feiren and others (comments below) say it's not so bad. Apparently the rotating exhibitions are sometimes quite good...

Yes it is the Chungshan Stop. And Michael, you should really it another chance. They have had some very cool stuff there in the past--like the 卜湳文明遺跡特展. This was a supposed ancient civilization dug up in Tainan. They created a whole 'dig' artifacts and scholarly monographs to go with it. Great stuff.

You can also combine MOCA with a visit to Spot, Taipei's art house film theater. It's right around the corner on Chungshan just north of Nanking Rd. As you probably know, it is housed in the US Ambassador's old residence. The first floor bookstore is a great place to pick up Taiwanese films.

Also in the area and must visit for people with kids is the Lin Liu-hsin Puppet Theater Museum (http://www.taipeipuppet.com/english/index-menu.html). An excellent historical collection that is very crisply presented. Your kids will learn something about Taiwanese history and maybe also catch a good puppet show.
The puppet museum sounds really great.

7 comments:

Mark S. said...

Although the building was originally designed as a school, it served as Taipei City Hall for many years: from the KMT takeover until the early 1990s.

Here's the museum's Web site.

Mark said...

"My children protested that they were already Improved, and wanted to do something fun, like murder aliens by the thousand in real-time strategy environments"

Well, in that case I hope that their education has included Starcraft. It was sure a big part of my experience at school.

mark said...

Forget the musuem, I want to see the map. Is it at Chungshan station?

T. Destiny in Taiwan said...

I visited MOCA last year they had a combo betel nut & karaoke stand as an exhibit. It was so odd to go to a museum and have three essentially naked girls coax me to sing "500 Miles" (which I'd never heard before) while sipping Betel Nut Tea. I got talked into buying a packet of the tea too... Art indeed!

huoguo said...

They've had some good exhibitions there though (eg Australian indigenous art etc). Best to wait for those instead of going there on spec.

Good example of Japanese colonial architecture though. How much of that is left on the island??

Michael Turton said...

HG:
I don't know -- there's quite a bit of Japanese architecture around, being saved as museums in some cases -- the garden/villa at the Gold Ecological park on the NE coast, or the Crafts museum in Lukang. But a lot of really good stuff is rotting in the city centers.

Mark S, it is the Chungshan Station that has the Museum of Temporary Art.

Michael

Feiren said...

Yes it is the Chungshan Stop. And Michael, you should really it another chance. They have had some very cool stuff there in the past--like the 卜湳文明遺跡特展. This was a supposed ancient civilization dug up in Tainan. They created a whole 'dig' artifacts and scholarly monographs to go with it. Great stuff.

You can also combine MOCA with a visit to Spot, Taipei's art house film theater. It's right around the corner on Chungshan just north of Nanking Rd. As you probably know, it is housed in the US Ambassador's old residence. The first floor bookstore is a great place to pick up Taiwanese films.

Also in the area and must visit for people with kids is the Lin Liu-hsin Puppet Theater Museum (http://www.taipeipuppet.com/english/index-menu.html)
An excellent historical collection that is very crisply presented. Your kids will learn something about Taiwanese history and maybe also catch a good puppet show.