Arriving in Taipei I had a familiar feeling when touching down in major Asia cities, of a world bigger, faster, more technologically enabled. But Taipei is different from Tokyo, Seoul, Singapore. The city is more intimate and human scale, its many centres spilling out into back streets packed with food and cultural delights.

I was in Taiwan on a development trip for an art project at Taipei Art Festival, and to build on FutureEverything’s ongoing programme in the region. This follows the success of our FutureEverything Singapore programme in 2015, and a talk and research visit during Taipei Smart City Summit & Expo in 2016.

Tofu fried in green tea on Maokong mountain.

Tofu fried in green tea on Maokong mountain

Taipei Art Festival and FAULT LINES

FutureEverything has been commissioned by Taipei Art Festival to deliver a new art work in Taipei as a part of FAULT LINES, FutureEverything’s talent development and commissioning programme for art in technology innovation.

Kasia Molga is the artist from the FAULT LINES artist cohort, commissioned in the first FAULT LINES art commission.

Responding to the theme ‘The Future of the City’, the new work aims to engage the citizens of Taipei in a dialogue about the emerging role of technology in society. Taipei is one of Asia’s leading innovators in urban planning and design, green architecture, public transportation and smart technology leveraging the Internet of Things. Kasia’s vision is inspired by a curiosity around the future of technology, and the touch points with the lives of ordinary people in the city.

To develop the artistic concept, Kasia wanted to get under the skin of Taipei and its technology culture. Together we developed a workshop for local people, around four themes, a set of questions under each, and a canvas to structure the discussion and capture insights.

Scoping workshop for FAULT LINES commission by Kasia Molga.

Scoping workshop for FAULT LINES commission by Kasia Molga

The workshop was a big success, we all left energised, heads buzzing with ideas, grounded in the interests of local people. We found out later the festival Director had to limit the invites because of the level of interest, which included people from the local DIY Bio scene.

Visit to ITRI

On my last trip to Taipei, everyone had pointed me to one place, ITRI. This is a world leading technology research lab, that has been at the centre of Taiwan’s emergence as a tech superpower since 1973.

Tour of technologies developed by ITRI.

Tour of technologies developed by ITRI.

Having recently closed its creativity centre, we were unsure what we would find. We were treated to a tour through its forty year history of technology innovation, including some of its most current R&D.

Kasia found a beautiful trajectory from the scoping workshop. Some of the most far flung, imaginative ideas are already a reality at ITRI.

Local art and technology landscape in Taipei

We caught up with friends from my last trip in 2016. Dimension+ are a fantastic art and design studio, who know and work with a load of people I love and respect. We visited their studio and looked at some of their recent projects.

Art project by Dimension+

Art project by Dimension+

Digital Art Center Taipei (DAC) would be familiar to anyone on the new media art circuit. They run the Digital Art Festival Taipei, and host a maker space, artist residencies and commissions. Only a few months ago they visited FutureEverything in Manchester.

We had a series of site visits to research venues for the art commission. This and meetings with cultural institutes and venues on potential for new partnerships and collaborations between UK and Taiwan.

We met with other arts agencies such as Fly Global, who support Taiwanese artists working with new media and performance, who we linked into the EC STARTS programme on my last trip. I took the high speed train to Taichung, a city on the west coast, the focus of major art development, to meet curators at a new national theatre and museum.

Digital cultural policy

While I was in town, I was interviewed by DAC on behalf of the Ministry of Culture.

The Taiwan government are looking for new ways to connect art to technology innovation.

They have looked at the likes of ZKM and CERN, and are interested in how FutureEverything operates, as a smaller organisation. What are the lessons for Taiwan in FutureEverything’s work in the UK, Europe and Singapore – What is FutureEverything’s goal? How do you do this? How do you get the technology partners involved?

I shared our work and findings on bringing art and technology innovation together. This is our focus in FAULT LINES where we are developing a framework we call Open Prototyping to guide and reflect this work. I also spoke about other projects such as the GROW Observatory, where to win the grant we had to compete on science and technology terms.

Good times in Taipei

My abiding memories of Taiwan are of the people, and of the food. There are people there who I am happy to call dear friends. This includes the cousin of my best friend in Manchester, Matthew, who has had a colourful few decades in Taiwan, and happens to be one of the biggest pop stars in the country, as well as Judy and Per, of Per Van de Horst Gallery (http://www.pervanderhorst.com) in Taipei.

We ate the world famous dumplings at Din Tai Fung and rode the cable car through the mountains at Maokong.

The trip was full of inspiration for the new artwork – Kasia, myself, and Exec Producer, Julia left full of energy and ideas.

Till the next time, Taipei!

FutureEverything at ITRI

FutureEverything at ITRI