"Forest or Wood", Parallax, Yilan 2017

“Forest or Wood”, Parallax, Yilan 2017

Forest or Wood

– a sound work based on field recordings and oral history.

A few years, I have been invited by Laila Fan, founder of Soundscape Association in Taiwan, to visit the mountain forests of Taipingshan 太平山, located in the North-East of Taiwan, in the region of Yilan. Called by Atayal indigenous people “Mien Nao”, which means green and thick forest, it has been renamed during the Japanese colonization. Its precious trees were logged, especially Taiwan Cypress, used locally or exported towards Japan. After WW2, the government of Taiwan (KMT) kept a high pressure on the forests of the country : most of the oldest trees were cut and indigenous people were denied the right to hunt in their traditional territories. Taipingshan is nowadays under protection, its fauna and flora are diverse and dense.

Since my first visit, I have been regularly visiting and recording the forest environment of Taipingshan 太平山, accessing to the trails and some areas which were the forest was exploited. I have a whole collection of sounds from this ecosystems, including various birds songs, sounds from the wind in the beech trees.

These recordings are providing an impression of a preserved and nature. They can represent a pleasant listening walk. But interestingly they give no clues about the history of the area, the intense exploitation of the forest, its transformation by humans.

In 2017, I have been invited by curator Eva Lin, to participate their exhibition Parallax in Luodong, next to Yilan. The location is nowadays called “Chung Hsing Cultural and Creative Park 中興文化創意園區“, but it is a former paper factory Chung Hsing Paper Corporation, which was once the biggest of South-East Asia.

It’s in the ruins of the administration offices that I found some pieces of Hinoki wood certainly coming from Taipingshan, and that I found the inspiration. I conducted interviews with people from the region, who have a strong personal connection with those forests, or who have a knowledge about the local history. Visitors of the exhibition could read those texts, listen to my recordings, in the room where some bureaucrats and employees were deciding how to convert the trees into sheets of paper.

This project was partly inspired by the artwork of Leo Liu, who exhibited in the same Chung Hsing Culture Park, a breathtaking installation work devoted to the forests. I think the common point between our two projects is to propose by artistic process an opportunity to rethink our relation to the vegetation, to the animals.
It is now out of question to consider the nature as an ideal space, abstract from the human world. Human beings in Taiwan and elsewhere have such an impact on non-humans, that pure nature isn’t anymore, anywhere. Landscape and soundscapes are two ideas that can helps us reconnecting and remembering that we are parts, not observers of the physical and organic environment that surrounds us.

This exhibition gave me a fantastic opportunity to rethink my approach to field recording in those so-called “nature reserves” and to start a more interesting project related to the forests and mountains in Taiwan. I will publish soon a little book along with a CD. This publication entitled “Fushan & Taipingshan” will present the work exhibited in Yilan, and also another piece made in the same region, in the low altitude forests of Fushan Botanical Garden 福山. The CD will contains two pieces related to the soundscapes of these area. The book will be composed of five interviews concerning the places, and a short essay by myself.

With all my gratitude to the four interviewees :

– Lai Bo-Shu 賴伯書, ranger at Taipingshan Forests Recreation Area.
– Wu Qiu-Xiang 吳秋香, who grew up in the forests of Taipingshan in the 50’s.
– Kacuzi Hacyo, Atayal historian who has great knowledge of the local history of the area.
– Lai Quan-Biao 賴春標, journalist and specialist about the history of the mountains of Taiwan.