2019 Harvard Taiwan Arts Festival - Reveal

Event Coordinator:

Fan Yun Lan
Sammi Chung

Curator/ Exhibition Design:

Poyao Shih
Anita Cheng


Hung Ju Kan


Hung-Ju Kan was born in Tainan, Taiwan in 1993. He graduated from National Taiwan University of Arts with a BFA in Painting and Calligraphy Arts. He is currently a graduate student in Fine Art 2D at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Kan is exploring common aesthetic ideas shared by both classical Oriental aesthetics and contemporary Western arts. By connecting to personal memories and combining them with the impressions of Boston, he generates a special resonance in time and emotion in order to discover something new and allow it echoes with the city in a memorable way.
42561338_1571070631198119_r.jpegArtwork Description:

Kan uses acrylic and oil paint to combine meaningful patterns with foggy backgrounds and ghost-like figures. His work shares a sentimental connection to his state. Each figure and pattern specifically correlates to his state of mind, profound memories, and life experiences. For instance, his current artwork weaves his visual experience of moving to Boston with memory fragments and feelings from his hometown.

Bricolage and hybridity are very important parts in his expression of art in which he compresses the concrete concept into abstract style coagulating his present appearance. The symbols and lines flow in the image are constituted by his clear and vague fragmented experiences.

The works present two carriers, “memory” and “feeling”; he regards the experiences of living and studying in United State as creative matrix. For him, those works are a kind of diaries that record or capture his visual perception, such as blooming flowers, faded flowers, scenery along the way, fluctuating weather, and so on, rather than merely a painting.

Kan uses the pattern of flowers and cloths to trace the emotional connection between himself and the hometown and to echo the various memories between the present and the past through different images, which transform the lost sense of time into concrete presentations and expression of his personal life. Showing feelings in different stages of experience, the foggy layers of the picture explore how time is perceived and how to regroup as identifiable or unknown picture memory.

Taiwan was once colonized by the Netherlands, China, and Japan hence this country received different cultures from the West and East. Through those cultural integrations in history, Taiwan has integrated foreign multiculturalism into its own native culture. The flower cloth of Taiwan is one of the examples expresses its diverse cultural backgrounds.

On the other hand, with this mixed cultural background, Kan re-examines Taiwan's history and culture with today’s concepts. After moving abroad, he has a strong feeling that that even though one’s self-identity is important, it is also important to learn to accept new culture.

This hybrid situation corresponds to the cultural memory of the flower cloth, mixing with emotions that has been accumulated in history. Through the visual image of the flower cloth, Kan’s work resonance with the culture. He combines two kinds of fabrics from both eastern and western cultures to collide and create new sparks.

Chia Liang Liu

Chia Liang Blake Liu is a graduate student from Harvard School of Public Health. Before coming to the U.S. a year ago, he had spent 22 years of his life living in a small island in Asia, Taiwan. Liu has studied Public Health since college yet keep photography as his interest. He was first introduced to photography by his grandfather who is a photography enthusiast. He gave Liu his old Canon 550D and brought him into the world of photography ever since. After years of shooting, he had the opportunity to work as an assistant in the wedding filming industry which later brings him into the world of filmmaking.

Currently residing in Boston, Liu recognizes the unprecedented living challenges Taiwanese people are facing and wants to engage and connect his heart with his home country through photography. He hopes to share the beauty of Taiwan to the world with his photos and films.
Artwork Description:

Organized chaos­— that’s how people describe the streets of Taiwan. But, if it were not for the chaos, there may not be as many street cats as we got now. On Rooftops, in the allies, even on the seat of the scooters, you can find street cats most likely everywhere in Taiwan. Cats, just like humans, have very different personalities amount themselves. Some of them are very friendly and are used to hang around people. They usually are supplied with food, received TNR treatment, and some may even have their own collars and name tags. On the other hand, some are feral and hard to approach.

People in Taiwan have mixed feelings about street cats. On one hand, they are not only adorable to look at but also therapeutic to some people such as the elders. Feeding them and looking after these cats has become many people’s daily routines and has also brought many positivity to their lives. However, street cats could also create environmental problems such as attracting flies and cockroaches from leftover cat food and threatening other wildlife’s survival as the number of street cats grows. Communities in Taiwan are split with different opinions on the street cats in the neighborhood. There is always the question of what is the most appropriate actions to live with these cats. Finding the balance between cat rescue and a safe environment for both cats and people is still questionable. To answer these questions, I suggest to first observe how these cats live.

Through the lenses, we see the life of these cats in Taipei. Photographing street cats can be a challenge, not only you need to know their habits but also being ready to take photos at the right time. Perhaps most importantly, some degree of familiarity of the neighborhood is critically necessary. Rather than using a common digital camera, Liu also takes on another challenge by capturing their life with traditional film strips, which have fixed ISO or film speed. The difficulties is that shooting in small, dark alleyways with a telephoto lens needs some sturdy hands. Despite all the limitation that comes with shooting film, he chose film over digital for the unique aesthetics that it provides. The way that film renders light and the dynamic range is not something a digital sensor could achieve.

Nonetheless, digital is still a popular choice for most people. As manufacturers more and more discontinue some of the iconic films without introducing new products. Having the mission to save film camera from going extinct, Liu wants to keep shooting it because he believes there’s some way that digital and film can live in harmony, rather than competing with each other— so can street cats and humans.

Poyao Shih

Poyao Shih is a Taiwanese architectural designer and explorer based in Brooklyn, New York. He is interested in combining advanced spatial ideas with existing urban condition. He considers architecture’s theoretical discourse of form, program and representation to be as important as its concerns for social context. Currently, Shih is currently developing his research of renovation/preservation architecture. 

Shih began his architectural journey at Tamkang University in Taiwan. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in 2016 and a Master’s degree in architecture from Harvard Graduate School of Design with scholarship in 2019.

Since 2011, Shih has worked for various well-known offices all over the world, including, Kengo Kuma Association, Olyer Wu collaborative, Coop Himmelblau and Morphosis. He previously served as a teaching assistant at SCI-Arc, research assistant at Harvard GSD and Lab manager at SCI-Arc Shanghai program respectively. He was a lecturer for several workshops in Taiwan and was a final jury for Chung-Yuan University. His academic works have been widely published in Suckerpunch Daily, Archidog, the International Exhibition of Architecture Graduation Design, Taiwan Architecture and Architect Magazine in Taiwan.

Artwork Description:

In the past century, we have slowly seen more and more cases of architectural transformation, which can be attributed mainly to the industrial transformation of developing countries. After nearly a century of World War II, the economy gradually recovered the demand for housing and the form of industry. Under this transformation, many cities have also faced numerous architectural updates and reconstructions. Especially industrial architecture, which used to provide non-human scale space for a different purpose, is now facing a transformation to fit smaller-scale programs. Architecture nowadays does not only deal with its surrounding as context but also, for the preserved architecture, the architecture itself has become the context. 

These selected artworks introduce the experiment of three architectural renovation projects. They all challenge the traditional preservation method by introducing the idea of looking at the formal difference between the old and new, the public and private spaces. The introduction of formal difference in renovation architecture creates new spatial conditions within the existing structure which can then be viewed with a new perspective. 

The first project is the renovation of a railway factory located in Taipei, Taiwan. To open up the site to the public for this renovation, a second layer of public pathways and programs were overlaid to connect the city and people. This pathway responds to the existing elements of the old railway and structure both formally and programmatically by proposing floating spaces and circulation that connects to the existing programs on the ground. In the process, creating a new dialog between the museum and the public program, the old and the new structure system.

The second project is an experiment of a new living style in the old town Suzhou.
Suzhou’s housing has been gradually changing through its long history. Suzhou has intensive urbanization going on right now, which, in some ways, affects the aging population. In order to reactivate the community, the plan of the original space is reconfigured and three unique spaces are embedded on the site. Referring to the pavilion concept in the Suzhou garden, these three spaces become the icon of each public area that trigger the community to get together. 

The third project is a dormitory expansion project of Columbia University. The concept of the project is to articulate the presence of negative space which is currently not present in the object/field of Columbia campus. By the introduction of carved objects that attach to the existing Mckim Mead and White buildings, the presence of negative space is rendered visible and a new experience of public space is created. 

This space is in opposition to the rigid and tightly controlled grid of figure/field relationships of the existing campus. The new objects shift their orientation away from this grid and index a more ambiguous possibly irrational way of existing on the campus.

Feng-En Tu
Feng-en Tu received his Ph.D. in History and East Asian Languages from Harvard University in 2019 and is currently the inaugural Fong Fellow for East Asian Digital Humanities and Scholarship at Harvard-Yenching Library. Born in Taipei, he received both his B.A. and M.A. in History from National Taiwan University. Before coming to Harvard, he had worked in the Research Center for Digital Humanities at National Taiwan University, where he became increasingly aware of how digital technologies may change the future landscape of historical studies and humanities in general. In the past few years, he has been exploring the new horizons of humanities in the digital age. He is the founder, editor-in-chief, and chief executive officer of StoryStudio.tw, a public humanities website based in Taiwan. The website attracts more than half a million visits per month, mainly from East Asia, Southeast Asia, and America, as well as more than 300,000 followers on social media.

Artwork Description:

Taiwan: An Island of Fragrance

Have you ever thought about the reason that when you see the words that describe the smell, it triggers your brain to sense those smells immediately? These smells exist in various spaces in our daily life, and always inadvertently, it affects our memory. The smells you know are always accompanied by the memory events and are stored in the brain database. The words and images evoke our feelings.

These odors, in their molecular form, are transmitted directly to the various regions of the brain through the olfactory nerves. The odor always directly triggers human reflection or memory. This is why some odors are individually classified as warm, comfortable and fragrant. Some are fear, discomfort and sour.

Although the memory of scent may be subjective, we also have collective olfactory memories of certain spaces, which are usually brought about by common experiences. The smell of spaces such as libraries, dry cleaning shops, temples, car interiors, KTV, etc. can be immediately recalled when you see the text. This kind of olfactory memory and the reflection of feelings, as time goes by, may be even more intimate and stronger than the visual memory, sometimes even more accurate. The effect of smell that evokes your memory or feeling is so direct and effective. This is also the reason that variety of products on the market come with pleasant smell-- to increase your desire and to seduce you.

Exquisite products are marked with ocean fragrance, sweet berries and even green grass after rain. They occupy the shelves of the supermarket. In the department store's fragrance machines constantly spray fragrant mist. These pleasant smells are originally from flowers and plants. They were then made into perfume through distillation or essential oil and were used to cover bad odors. Initially these perfumes were only available to the nobility, but today a surprisingly wide range of products on the market contain these fragrances or flavors. They are not expensive yet powerful. For instance, there are products that look colorless and transparent like water, but actually taste like coffee, milk tea, watermelon, or soda.

When did all this happen? How are the smells produced? Do you know the history of these products in fact had a lot to do with colonialism in Taiwan? Tu’s selected artifacts tell the story of how Taiwan becomes what was then called “The Island of Fragrance” and its relations to the colonial history of the island. The artifacts in this collection show the process of how Taiwan became the place where Japan’s emerging fragrance industry consolidated.

Chi Hsuan Wang

Chi-Hsuan (Vita) Wang received her Master of Architecture II degree at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University in May of 2019. With her great interest in fine art and tattoo design; she also works as an illustrator besides her profession as an architectural designer. She believes architecture is an interdisciplinary discourse involving the exploration of poetic reading in space, time and the changing social environment. Taiwan has remained as a nebulous memory since Vita left the country during middle school. Yet, recognizing her hometown as a place full of delicate wonders and unique oddities, she seeks to contextualize these phenomena through weaving together the fine lines and colors that represents the place. Vita acquired her undergraduate degree at the Cooper Union in 2017 and soon continued her study at Harvard GSD the same year. She is currently working as an architect at Richard Meier & Partners in New York.

Artwork Description: 

Statement (Diary Format):


This series captures and resonates my vague memories of Taiwan and its complex characteristics; looking back into childhood memories and glimpses during each of my visit, scenes with specificity slip away without recognition, when the colors and lights quiescently sit behind and become the rudiments of my recollection. Within parts of my deep sensorium, visual memories are preserved as a sequence of vibrating forms, which are fragile and complex, just like the substantialized presentation of our own genetic configurations. Vivid, animated colors engulf these strings of memories, which my recollection of the place has far transcended into pure phenomenological experiences... Yet, despite my vague connection to my hometown Taiwan, whenever I thought of the place I always feel of welcome familiarity. I do not perceive total alienation, nor indifference for this particular country; even though I usually observe this country from far, I am aware of my enhancing interest to understand the place, both politically and culturally, even more after years of absence from the place. Taiwan is a place most memorable of its “color palette” (at least, that is what I remembered of the most). Unfortunately, as the person not particularly proficient with color in nature, I ask myself to be keener on how light and shadow interact with surrounding space and find how color works together as a whole to generate specific ambience. (To which quite frankly speaking, I think this, not being skilled with color, could be why I choose to go down the path as an architect.) The challenge for me, so to speak, becomes how I could pick up these colors from my memories, and from photos taken during the trips, and turn them into my interpretation of the place. Therefore, before actually starting the series, I have spent quite amount of time skimming through photos and collect resources that help me develop my own “color palette” that reflects closer of those to my memory and to my impression of Taiwan.  

These paintings aim to resonate indigenous colors, forms, nature, texture and space I recollected while traveling in Taiwan. Given with magnificent geographical features, the island is resourced with grand mountains and coastal sceneries with great theatricality. From vast natural environment down to exquisite, yet genuine display of local food, everything seems to be tinted with cheerful, animated color and glittered, or even glowing, with wonders. Yet, behind such boldness, the sophisticated history has made Taiwan not as “straightforward” as it visually appears. As I read into the country more each time, I found the country more intricate than expected. Therefore, I want to address the country’s duality, especially within the cultural aspect. The country could be contemporary and well-designed, meanwhile full of primitive and rustic spirits; the culture could be forthright naïve, yet at the same time highly sensible of the country’s political situation. By utilizing and combining a collection of slender, delicate strokes with bold and bright colors, the paintings seeks to visualize and contextualized this kind of duality and multifaceted personality resided within the culture. The combination of wild, vivid colors and careful, detailed application of strokes entail how I recognize the kind of spirits within the country. The straight-out vernacular, uncanny yet benevolent, sophisticated aura of Taiwanese culture has made the place stood out from the rest of Asian countries; the innate characters of the culture have nurtured unpredictable surprises that are so unparallel and exciting to explore.”

You Xue Lin
You-Xue, an independent filmmaker, has started making short documentaries since 2011. His several shorts have been selected for numerous film festivals such as Edinburgh Film Festival in the UK, New Taipei City Documentary Award in Taiwan, Curt Doc in Spain, Faito Doc in Italy, ReFrame Film Festival in Canada and so on, as well as broadcasting at several TV channels or online platforms mainly in Taiwan, like Public TV Service, MOD, CNEX, Daai TV.


Liina Klauss, an artist based in Hong Kong, picks up ocean debris and turns them into colourful installations.  Following her footsteps in Hong Kong, it’s a spontaneous adventure through pollution, art and nature.

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Sammi Chung 
Cambridge, MA
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