Sightings in Taipei—Late December 2018

As my Fulbright time winds down, I have more sightings to share of human-bird connections past and present. One day the subway greeted me with photos of elegant birds of Taiwan. And near the famous Taipei 101 tower, a movie poster the size of a building reminds me that our urge to fly is often gratified by pop culture’s historic and futuristic tales.

Wordless ads in an MRT subway car highlight Taipei’s exotic wildlife

Wordless ads in an MRT subway car highlight Taipei’s exotic wildlife

Movie poster for  Return of the Condor Heroes  dominates an intersection of modern Taipei

Movie poster for Return of the Condor Heroes dominates an intersection of modern Taipei

In contemporary art, the Taipei Biennial this year focuses on environmental and social projects; one haunting kinetic installation recreates bird calls now missing from the streets of the city, using simple and very visible mechanical means.

And in much-renovated Taipei, a public sculpture mosaic seems to use the inviting birds-as-messenger motif to connect different worlds.

Kinetic sculpture  Return,  by Sheng-Chien Hsiao, recreates bird calls now absent from the streets of Taipei

Kinetic sculpture Return, by Sheng-Chien Hsiao, recreates bird calls now absent from the streets of Taipei

Public sculpture mosaic  This Is a Good Place,  by Yi-Hsun Lee, with inviting birds

Public sculpture mosaic This Is a Good Place, by Yi-Hsun Lee, with inviting birds

I was honored to visit the studio of an artist-teacher of traditional Chinese painting and watch Teacher Chiang in action. Viewing his confident brushwork, I was fascinated to learn he observed nature often and made many sketch-studies. Then the paintings can flow.

Teacher Chiang’s nature sketches fill his many notebooks

Teacher Chiang’s nature sketches fill his many notebooks

Observations from life are recorded for use in later paintings

Observations from life are recorded for use in later paintings

Every mark counts in traditional Chinese brush painting, using ink and color washes

Every mark counts in traditional Chinese brush painting, using ink and color washes

At the Taiyuan Asian Puppet Theatre Museum, which keeps alive an important Taiwanese tradition, my search for bird-figures was rewarded with an Indonesian shadow puppet as well as a winged emblem made up of embroidered Taoist puppet costume and a carved wooden head.

Shadow puppet from Indonesia in the form of a duck

Shadow puppet from Indonesia in the form of a duck

Original Indonesian Wayang puppet with painted articulated parts

Original Indonesian Wayang puppet with painted articulated parts

Winged figure featuring antique embroidery at the Puppet Museum in Taipei

Winged figure featuring antique embroidery at the Puppet Museum in Taipei