Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Taipei's first international salsa festival


Such a great weekend..dancing salsa almost non stop, with some amazing dancers and teachers - including world champions - all in Taipei.
The salsa scene here is small but growing. Hopefully events like this will make it get even more popular.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Trouble at the memorial

Tensions rose and tempers flared with several people - mainly journalists - injured outside a memorial hall and square dedicated to Taiwan's former ruler, Chiang Kai-Shek.

A few months ago, the goverment held a ceremony rededicating the building as a symbol of the island’s democratization. But legal disputes with the city government – whose mayor is a member of the opposition Kuomintang – prevented the government from formally removing the building’s inscriptions and plaques, honouring the late President.

Putting up the barricades

Now, however, the ministry of education – in charge of the building’s management - believes it has the legal right to make the change . Its ordered workmen in..and they’ve begun putting up scaffolding around the monument, ready to removing some of the inscriptions . It also sent in several hundred police to try to prevent protestors from disrupting the work.

Barbed wire barricades have been put up to prevent people from entering the plaza around the memorial hall.

Chiang Kai-shek remains a highly controversial figure in Taiwan. He fled to Taiwan with his troops and followers in 1949 after losing the Chinese civil war, where he set up a rival government and ruled with an iron grip.

The current government has blamed him for the deaths of thousands of people by ordering crackdowns on political dissidents. In the past its ordered Chiang's statues to be removed from public buildings and military barracks; and erased his name from Taiwan's main international airport.

But not everyone agrees with those steps...and the latest move is no exception. Many protestors outside said it was a waste of money; and driven only by political ideology...a gambit by the ruling DPP to mobilise supporters ahead of legislative and presidential elections next year.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Rockstar reception for artist

An amazing event in Taipei on Friday night. The Taipei Arena (seating around 15,000) was packed out as people came to listen to Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, talk about his work.

He's been dubbed Japan's Andy Warhol (whom the artist regards as a personal hero) ...mainly because of his ability to blend "high art " with "low art" - drawing on contemporary culture in Japan (manga, anime and pop) and blurring the boundaries between fine art and commerce. He embraces "cuteness" - or "kawai" - welcoming pop culture and consumerism.

He's now one of the best known Japanese - and Asian -contemporary artists...and his works can fetch huge prices at auction (his painting, Vapor Trail sold for $2.1m at Sotheby's in New York this year)

. He's probably best known among the general public for his collaboration with designer Marc Jacobs in designing handbags and fashion products for Louis Vuitton. More recently, he collaborated with rapper Kayne West on the singer's album and is designing a jewellery line for him.

He calls his cartoon-like style “superflat” - characterized by flat planes of color with no artistic perspective.. And he's effortlessly moved across different genres from huge sculptures to painting and commercial work. He's now planning to release a full length feature animation in 2009, Kaikai and Kiki - which is also the name of his factory. The factory holds a twice yearly event, promoting other contemporary young Japanese artists.

Murakami is an individual, an art name and a brand. His work has been copied onto mugs and t-shirts., as well as the expensive LV bags.

He has said he's inspired by the business models of Bill Gates (Microsoft) ; and Steve Jobs at Apple computer.

Does the commercialisation of his work undermine it or diminish its value? not according to the artist, who says the art market needs famous names and lots of art works. History will judge, he says.

He's quite a phenomenon. I'm intrigued to see what he will do next.