The Taiwan Collateral Event, showcasing the project ‘Diachronic Apparatuses of Taiwan – Architecture as on-going details within landscape’, is set to launch this May 20, 2023 at the 18th Venice Biennale. It is a project organized by the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (NTMoFA) with coordination by the Ministry of Culture and an extensive curatorial collaboration involving the Architectural Department of Tunghai University.
This year’s 18th International Architecture Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia in Venice, Italy, is set to open May 20, 2023 under the theme of ‘The Laboratory of the Future’. The theme challenges participants to look to the future and offer solutions to the many arising challenges of the 21st century. The Taiwan Collateral Event launching this year is an extensive curatorial collaboration. Curator Wei Tseng and co-curators Sheng-Chieh Ko, Jeong-Der Ho and Meng-Tsun Su from the Department of Architecture at Tunghai University put together a team involving the students and teachers of, not only Tunghai University, but also National Cheng Kung University, Tamkang University, Feng Chia University and Chung Yuan Christian University. This ‘joint participation model’ allowed the project to have an educational component as well to give an opportunity for the creativity of the students to flourish.
The title of the project is ‘Diachronic Apparatuses of Taiwan – Architecture as on-going details within landscape’, and it examines the geography of Taiwan and its various agricultural landscapes. The goal is to offer future propositions for the development of Taiwanese architecture.
The National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (NTMoFA) with coordination by the Ministry of Culture helped organize and launch the project. Jen-I Liao, Director of NTMoFA, has said that, “the project allows people to rediscover the rural landscape and nature of Taiwan, and to rethink the connection between Taiwan’s architecture and the land.”
The project allows people to rediscover the rural landscape and nature of Taiwan, and to rethink the connection between Taiwan’s architecture and the land .Jen-I Liao, Director of the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (NTMoFA)
In Venice, the main venue will be Palazzo delle Prigioni, which is a historic structure and also a former prison. The Collateral Event will unfold there, and it will include exhibition areas, as well as playbacks of recorded audio and video. There will be a preview period, May 18th and 19th, which will include networking events.
Interview with Mr Meng-Tsun Su
I spoke with one of the curators, Mr Meng-Tsun Su, about the project; its realization, its participants, its main message, and the hopes and ambitions of the curators.
Maie El-Hage: Thank you for this interview. It is really my privilege to report on the Taiwan Collateral Event at the upcoming 18th International Architecture Exhibition the Venice Biennale. I have read extensively about your project “Diachronic Apparatuses of Taiwan – Architecture as on-going details within landscape” which will be showcased as a Collateral Event at the Palazzo dell Prigioni. I have a few questions to better understand and appreciate the project.
Maie El-Hage: How and when did you arrive at the choice of the curatorial topic? And how, in your opinion, does it link to the Biennale’s theme of ‘The Laboratory of the Future’?
Meng-Tsun Su: One may say the topic may well be the byproduct of several countryside excursions that we made. But of course it will come back to the need of a “Taiwan Pavilion” that is supposed to represent the nation in an architectural method. It is exactly this representative urge that we try to avoid or even question. Is it possible to hold up an exhibition and then tell people this is what our country is about? Or is it possible to tell people that this the commonality that we share as inhabitants of the earth?
Maie El-Hage: The six key words of your choice: “negotiator”, “duality”, “prosthesis”, “domesticity”, “intermediary”, and “filter”; did they act as a lens for how you observed the different landscapes of Taiwan? Or were they a call-to-action for how best to intervene on the different sites?
Meng-Tsun Su: Perhaps the easy answer will be both an observation and a call-to-action. Understandably, there are much more ambiguity in the landscapes than buildings that tells us there are different kind of shades in the world instead of just black and white. It is more intimate ways to be in conversation with the environment rather than looking at them as a distant contemplative objects. In turn, when we design a place it is the similar both-end kinds of qualities that we would like to celebrate in our engagement with the landscape.
Maie El-Hage: What were the students’ roles in the exhibition’s conception at the respective Architectural Department of Tunghai University, as well as National Cheng Kung University, Tamkang University, Feng Chia University and Chung Yuan Christian University? For how long did the students work on the exhibition materials? How did this project enrich their architectural education?
Meng-Tsun Su: We have one semester after we won the competition. The results are an extraction of a year-long thesis projects that fit the purpose of the exhibition— experimental, detail-oriented environmental concerns that cultivate the teaching and design processes.
Maie El-Hage: The Palazzo delle Prigioni is a historic structure and a former prison. How did the choice of the venue come about? What inspires you about this venue? How do you see the Collateral Event realizing at this unique venue?
Meng-Tsun Su: For two decades Palazzo delle Pregioni has been the venue of Taiwan Pavilions of both art and architecture biennale. There are round tables and presentations on the opening day that discuss the ideas and projects of the exhibition.
Maie El-Hage: What are the ambitions of the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts and the Ministry of Culture for this project and its message?
Meng-Tsun Su: The selection of projects for architectural biennale is decided through open competition with joint juries. For this reason I think the nationalist message is more open to the diversity of different proposals, although unavoidable it is still a national pavilion by nature.
Maie El-Hage: How do you foresee the public reception of the project at the upcoming opening in May 2023? What are your hopes for the exhibition, the international exchange forum and the public sessions for that month?
Meng-Tsun Su: We invited scholars and designers from different countries in the hope that a cross-cultural conversations may spark new possibilities.
Maie El-Hage: Will any of the exhibition models/ designs be implemented on the ground in Taiwan? Or will they serve as learning tools for future educational endeavors?
Meng-Tsun Su: These are student projects so none will be implemented. But the lens through which we see and operate may prevail. We try to hold on to the comradery among the teachers and students across several schools that the exhibition has cultivated and see where we go from here.
Maie El-Hage: Thank you for your answers, and best wishes for the opening in Venice!
The Taiwan Collateral Event will launch at the 18th Venice Biennale on May 20, 2023 and will remain open to the public until November 26, 2023. There will be a preview period on May 18th and May 19th for those interested in networking events.
Make sure to pass by and see this amazing project!
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