Beitou Snippets 漱漱北投, Honggah Museum, 2018
Et voilà ! The first part of my sound piece Beitou Snippets 漱漱北投 is open for your ears at Honggah Museum, part of the project Herbal Urbanism curated by Manray Hsu, affiliated with Topography of Mirror Cities, conducted by Sandy Hsiuchih Lo in several Asian cities.
I got an invitation : let’s talk and think about the sounds of Beitou.
I do have a method : I listen to the place, I record its sounds, I organize them in time and space, then I share them.
In two words : observation & description.
Before this project started, I have been very often visiting Guandu Nature Park, participating to some of the activities related to amphibian surveys, learning about the ecology of Taiwan from the experts working or volunteering there, and last year I participated to the nature art festival. To me, this area is an island in the Taipei Basin, a shelter for the flora and the fauna. There, I could hear so many animal sounds, from frogs songs to ultrasonic signals of bats and even the voices and breaths of organisms under the surface of the water of the ponds.
Like many visitors, I have been attracted in Beitou by the volcanism. But to me, hot springs don’t mean a relaxing bathing time in touristic buildings, but it represents the strongest energy of the planet – yellow white grey black – toxic gazes coming through the solfatara, warming and shaking of the soil, incredible sonic textures when gaz and water meet. I had the chance to record some sounds that seems to come directly from Yu Yonghe’s fantastic descriptions towards the end of the 17th century.
Beitou presents a too wide range of topics, of layers of history or diversity of habitats to make an exhaustive project of collecting sounds. An archive would be meaningless without a point of view, a perspective. I decide to just grab a handful of threads in this complex weaving.
The first step of this project was to follow the curator, thanks to Ubike, travelling along canals and rivers. The water in Beitou is not only omnipresent, it is expressing the transformations of the land by its inhabitants. Through the history of the place, the flow of water has constantly been conveyed, controlled, with a variety of techniques. Navigating in acoustic spaces, the human ears can detect some of these transformations.
Meeting with local activists – people who grew up there, and/or identify to a place, who are attracting with passion the attention of inhabitant and visitors on the essence of an inhabited area.
Who can live in a city who hasn’t a readable past ? Who can bear an environment where all traces of activities of visible and audible lifeforms have been erased ? How to connect with a place if it functions are only practical ? How to play with a urban area if all dialogues are designed by commercial brands ?
Sediments – accumulation of grains and stories. The weight is progressively condensing them into a thick physical memory. One can follow the layers of time by the colours, and in Beitou these are golden, brown, yellow, sometimes light purple. And also, shiny because of the silicium contained in good quantity.
Master artisan Xie knows how to be heard by the stones. His technique allows him to slice them quickly into regular rectangles and he’s devoted to the sedimental rock of Beitou, which has been a presence among his family for already three generations. Even his tools are witnesses : car parts weekly hammered into chisels or pieces of metal from recycled boats when Taiwan was hosting such dangerous activity. Nowadays the sounds of stone carving can still be heard next to a metro station, but the melodious sounds of the quarry in the hills, they’re only in Master Xie’s memory.
Next steps :
A class for international exchange students
A soundwalk in the surroundings
And finally on April 28th, I will add the second section of that piece (topics : history, agriculture, transportation infrastructures).
Still in a permanent emergency in the working schedule (but why ?!)…
Herbal Urbanism : Beitou
“Beitou Snippets 漱漱北投”
Honggah Museum 鳳甲美術館
in Beitou, Taiwan