Taipei, Taiwan

The sea is our refrigerator

To understand the natural part of the island, we set up a trip to the east coast, to Hualien. First we met Yu-Ping who researched the heritage of the Taiwanese landscape as living and changing entity. We’re invited by her to see an ­exhibition she curated and meet two of the participating artists. The exhibition is the result of a site specific project where over 10 artist from ­aboriginal descent created work for or in their local communities. In the works it becomes clear how the artists show the different struggles between urban city life and rural village life. How many cultural stories, skills and traditions are difficult to bridge between the two worlds. The theme of the exhibition is explained to us by the concept of hand fermentation. Only a few people in the local tribes have got the right ecosystem on their hands to activate the fermentation of rice, vegetables or meat. A dying skill that we don’t seem to need in the city anymore. 

The second person that we got introduced to in Hualien, runs a fair trade shop and organises a land art festival based on encounters between artists and indigenous people. She hopes people can get a deeper understanding of how the first people that started to live in Taiwan see and use the land. 

Inhabiting a landscape means it can provide everything you need, we learned from meeting Emas. He’s part of the small local Kaluluan tribe on the East coast of Taiwan. With him we explored his local village and the ­surrounding area of the sea, fresh water stream and the jungle on the ­hillside. When you need food, building material or medicine, he believes it all grows around you. Knowing how to use the landscape is an invaluable but also dying ­tradition. We go shopping in a supermarket and store our food in a fridge, always buying and consuming more then you need. It creates a disbalance between us and the landscape surrounding us. ‘In the old days the sea was our refrigerator.’

How can we imagine a relationship to food in a global food system where we mostly can’t retrace its origin and landscape it has been produced? In Taipei we experienced that the whole city is a stage for food consumption. Everything is or potentially becomes a shop. Stones with straps, buckets and concrete blocks. All elements screened of with fabric, silent sculptures lying in corners of the street, the city becomes public storage. Everything stacked up, waiting to be build up and activated. All the elements combined, opens up as a shop for a local vendor. The stalls become inscrutable ecosystems on their own terms and rules. Tubes contort and embrace one another, ­beginning and end is lost.