In-between Co4 Documenta and UBU a bunch of artists and me spent a couple of hours sitting and drinking on the grass out the front of 華山創意文化園區 Huashan watching performances by local drumming, music and theatre groups. Not just a fun evening of free performance with a sound-system in serious need of tweaking though. Huashan, like Beijing’s 大山字Dashanzi 798 Factories, Shanghai and Guangzhou artist villages is staring down the barrel of a gun at its own demise. In a bitter irony, the agents of Huashan’s demise is the Council of Cultural Affairs. Like so many mid-20th century and earlier industrial sites, Brisbane’s Powerhouse, London’s Tate, Huashan could remain an amazing place for art, but more likely, it will be a place for the consumption of culture and the real artists, they’ll have all moved on.
When Wu and other artists first came upon Huashan around 1997, it was a derelict group of Japanese-built warehouses that had lain unused for years. So they moved in and claimed it as a fringe art and performance space, something Taipei lacked.
Over the next two years, different groups grappled for the complex, one of the few large open areas in downtown Taipei. Through repeated protests (and drum circles), arts groups managed to secure the space under the management of the Association of Culture and Environmental Reform in Taiwan (藝術文化環境改造協會), beating out competing development plans, including one to build a new home for the Legislative Yuan on the site.
Ultimate administration of the land went over to the Council of Cultural Affairs (CCA)(文建會), the central government agency that last year adopted a new attitude towards Huashan, hoping to bring it under the umbrella of its Creative Industries push, a plan that extends to all sorts of cultural production from pop music to fine arts.
Last November, the CCA pushed out the Association of Cultural and Environmental Reform, granting management to a more commercial group and renaming the complex the Huashan Cultural and Creative Industry Center (華山創意文化園區).
Now the CCA wants to build a new skyscraper to use as its own offices. The building would be built within the walls of some still unused and un-renovated warehouses on the Huashan site, said Wu.
The proposed design, he said, would remove the structures’ roofs (which are currently falling in) and leave the walls. The tower would be built inside the walls.
“It would destroy the feel of the place,” said Wu.
“In the whole city, Huashan is really only the only arts space where you can still see the sky.”
The NT$30 billion budget that would include continued renovation and development of the Huashan site, however, has not yet been ratified by the national legislature. The protests aim to stop or alter those plans.