Musemble City: An Experiencing Project for Modernity


National Taiwan Museum and Modernity 
National Taiwan Museum has played a significant role in the enlightenment of modern knowledge in Taiwan. The founding of this museum can be traced back to the Meji Reformation in 1868, when Japan transformed itself for western modernization and capitalism. In the world scene, development in industrial production and colonial economy culminated in mid-nineteenth century materialized in Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in 1851 or in Exposition Universelle des Produits de lIndustrie in 1855.  The fashion of worlds fair spread to other countries. After the Yoshima Seido Exposition in Tokyo, the concept of museum promoted in the exhibition became one of the goals of the new Japan Empire in pursuit of modernity. Production expositions became the means to promote and display industrial and agricultural production since the Japanese colonization of Taiwan in 1895. In celebration of the completion of the North-south Railway in 1908, Taiwan Governor-Generals Office (Sotokufu) held a series of events and expositions in order to showcase its colonial governance. The Museum of Bureau of Colonial Production (Shokusankyofu) (now Bo-ai Building of Ministry of Defense) was built on the site for Production Exposition and the Lottery Office building. The founding of the Society of Naturalists in Taiwan and its journal became the precedent of Taiwan Museum in promoting modern knowledge and rationalism. In 1915 the Bureau of Colonial Production moved to other locations and the building used for the Taiwan Governor-General’s Library, It unfortunately destroyed during the World War II.
The current building of Taiwan Museum was dedicated on April 18th, 1915, in honor of the Governor-General Kodama Gentaro and Chief Civilian Administrator Goto Shinpei. Designed by Nomura Ichiro and Araki Eiichi, the building replaced an existing Matzu Temple built 1888 in old town Taipei. In 1933 the Association of Taiwan Museum was founded and the Science of Taiwan magazine was published. After World War II, the museum was renamed Taiwan Provincial Museum. In 1998 the institutional affiliation of the museum moved under Commission of Cultural Affairs and became National Taiwan Museum. In 2005 the Ministry of Culture initiated a museum system project, using Taiwan Museum as center to connect and revitalizing the four historical sites in the old city of Taipei: National Taiwan Museum, Camphor Factory of Monopoly Bureau, Nihon Kangyo Bank, and the Railway Ministry.
The “Musemble” project further expands the network of museum system to include and inquire modern architecture of old town Taipei in order to gather sites of collective memories. Using the exhibition as departure point of Taiwan Museum System, it connects the valuable buildings expressive of modernity in the area in our efforts to formulate a cultural district of the capital city. The 100th year anniversary of the exhibition is a catalyst. Smart-phone app Dream Project further integrates collective memories and historical spaces in its construction of a virtual guide system of the Dream Museum City.
Harnessing the historical fragments to connect different time and space, a museum performs its dual functions of collecting and sharing. People collect their memories and material culture of their times and in turn share with others in their construction of a eternality that transcends space and time. This is what Michel Foucault called “heterotopia,” which exists somewhere between reality and fictional space. It is a representational space of modernity to provoke a dialectical reflection and  to rediscover self. The purpose of the Exhibition of Centennial Anniversary is to connect the memories of museum and urban spaces in order to evoke the reflection on the subjectivity and modernity of the citizens.
I. The Statement: Dream as Mirage, Dream as Maze
Sigmund Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams in November 1899. He regarded dreams as reflecting humanity in real society and therefore enabled the fundamental understanding of cultural subconscious of the twentieth century. Dreams provoke our deep-seated emotion and penetrate our inner most desire and fear. Dreams intoxicate and frighten us, leaving us confused and helpless.
In the dream, there is no clear memory. No memory. No past.
In the dream, there is no clear future. No future. Time stops in eternality.
In the dream, time overlaps with space. Delight and melancholy coexist.
In the dream, there is no past and future, only an isolated self of fragmented memories and images.
Dreams are poems that inform our life. Dreams liberate our bond with the cold-hearted technological rationality and reshape our cultural subjectivity.
Dreams fascinate us since they often point to where reality are vague or inarticulate. Dreams fall between fiction and reality. They are illogical and irrational but cannot be truer.
Dreams are mazes. Time stops in the dream world. All events solidify. This is the zero point of time where all histories converge. You can stay at zero point and experience all events that once happened in different times. The experiences, however, do not constitute one totality but fragmented histories. Past events present themselves in front of you like constellations. The sense of familiarity is mixed with confusion.
Dreams are illusions and mirages that appear and vanish.
Some say there is no image in dreams, only meanings.
Some say there is no color in dreams, only black and white; Some say dreams are colorful
As matter of fact, human is the only species that dreams. Yet one cannot stay in the dream.
A collective city needs collective memories to write the history of the city.
It also takes collective dreams to construct a society.
A place without memory cannot be home. A city without dream is a miserable city.
People find themselves in a strange land and lost their vitality, aging alone in the unfamiliar world. The most worthwhile pursue for urbanites is to rediscover their dreams and subjectivity. Dream comes from the very nature of each of us.
Time and space converge in Taiwan Museum City. Presented here are a hundred-year worth of memories and possibilities of endless memories. In order to return the apathetic cold world to the eternal dream world, a museum of creativity and originality embarks on a experiential project and search for individual and collective dreams.
“All that we see or seen
Is but a dream
within a dream.”
–Edgar Allan Poe
 II.  The Exhibition: Back to the Future 
In order to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of National Taiwan Museum, the exhibition adopts the strategy of a museum city. Using Taiwan Museum as center and old town Taipei as major exhibition ground, it utilizes place of memory as scope of research and focuses on architectural culture. A smart-phone app engages people and provides a hundred dreams for the museum to collect.
1.     Musemble City: Collective Memories and Dreams
The word "musemble" is derived from “musee-ensemble” in French or “muse-ensemble” in English, meaning the fusion of museum and Muses, patron goddesses of literature and arts and keepers of memory. The exhibition concept of musemble is to use National Taiwan Museum as a matrix and old town Taipei as exhibition ground. By integrating places of memory in the vicinity —museums, quasi-museums, historical buildings, etc., it aims to establish spaces of movement for experiential activities. The matrix expands from the central museum and linked by “check-ins” of smart-phone app and establish a spatial system of internet. The virtual system inspires cross-disciplinary dialogues among citizens about literature, arts, and music, and constructs a city dialect (glossolaliadella citta) and narratives of collective memories.
If a city could write, its writings would be the palimpsest of a parchment. If a city could talk, it would speak dialect (glossolalia). However ambiguous its scrapped old text may be, the palimpsest of Taipei harbors gleams of lights inscribed and scattered around the corners. Though not always straightforward, these inscriptions sing loud and clear in dialect for wanderers in the city, revealing our cultural portraits in everyday life.
2. Maze and Mirage: the Confusion of Modernity
National Taiwan Museum is the main site of the Centennial Anniversary Exhibition. It is also the departure point of enlightenment modernity in Taiwan. Therefore it serves as the center of synchronic spatial dialogues. The two flanking wings of the exhibition space accommodate a maze and a mirage respectively. The western wing is the maze. Urban history is often indefensible to the amnesia of its residents. Life in a modern city, in particular, is fragmented and incomplete memories, a vague terrain like labyrinth. In order to present the hundred-year relationship between the museum and urban modernity, we presented six mazes of modernity—Utopian, High Street, Urban Nomads, Knowledge and Disenchantment, Symbols of Authority, and Industrial Productions—that register contradictions and confusions in the dialectics of modernity.
The east-wing of the exhibition space houses the Dreamland, using the image tunnel of the Hundred-year Taiwan Museum and photo streams of collective memories, while the diachronic documentary integrates the historical data of the west-wing maze.
A.    Film
Hundred-year Old Taiwan Museum: the axis of time presents Taiwan Museum in relation to modern architectures of the surrounding area, including the prewar colonial modernity and the postwar vernacular modernity.
1.     Colonial Modernity
The contradiction of modernity under Japanese regime: Historicism (classical or symbolic) and bourgeoisie modernism (Art Deco); on the other hand are the immature social housing such as the State Housing (1912-1941), the Wartime Army Housing (1941-46) and repressed ethnic forms.
2. Vernacular Modernity
The modernity of postwar Taiwan presents four-fold constrictions: neo-traditionalism of postwar Japan, Chinese palatial nationalist buildings, American-aid culture, and Taiwanese vernacularism. Added to these are the phenomena of globalization, nomad culture, nostalgia, idiosyncrasy and alienation after the 1990s.
B. Photo Streams
Collective Memories: The flow of images conveys dialogues of contemporary people with places of memory and reconstructs the bygone memory of places through images collected from the website. The deepening of memory and smart-phone "check-ins" of the visitors reestablish the spatial network between Taiwan Museum and its urban memories.
Rather than a contemplative display of objects, the exhibition exploits the new media and internet to engage with the people with direct linkage and interaction, and therefore opening up the images of the new generation. Eventually, a documentary that records the processes of collecting and constructing a hundred dreams during the time of exhibition will be presented as the birthday present of the hundred-year old museum.
III. Mazes and Memory Places                   
Memories are hard to distinguish from imagination; moreover the two often overlap and blur each other. In order to raise the attention of people to collective memories, the historical massage of the dreamland project rearranges historical fragments and places of memories scattered around old town Taipei and place them along the processes of modernization. The six mazes in our design share these hundred-year old memories in relation to architecture of modernity.
Maze 1: Utopia- an Incomplete Project
The nature of modernity is the perpetual pursuit for change and innovation. People of all ages and genders search for an ideal world of utopia. The first full-fledged modernization of urban space in Taiwan began after the arrival of the Japanese. Chief Civilian Administrator Goto Shinpei understood well that a prerequisite of colonial governance was to build magnificent official buildings and infrastructures for modern city in order to settle the people. The office thus hire English engineer William Burton as consultant engineer and transformed old towns into modern cities through urban improvements. Just as Haussmann said in his transformation of Paris under Napoleon III in 1860s: We need to build new roads and improve the air and light of dense population area. We need to let the sun shine on every corner of the world, just as the light of truth enlightened out mind. Burton suggested a large scale capitalist spatial structure and planning strategy. Through a series of conquering and rational arrangements, his plan adapted urban streets and spaces to the need of modern life more effectively and established large scale projects of urban space, water supply system, sewage system, sanitary and hygiene environment, hospital systems, in order to establish a modern urban space.
However local urban plans are not fixed, planning always changed under different authorities, which tells us the real process for modernity.   
Maze 2: Modern Street- the Iron Cage of Commodity
Modern boulevards and shopping streets are grand illusion of a capitalist city. Commodities are parts of urban landscape and symbolic of social status. Everyone is capable of purchasing and possessing commodity, but the search for fashion is never satisfying. Modern people are confined in the cage of commodity. They like to stroll on the street and enjoy the enchanting world of fashionable commodity in the modern city. The political purpose of the capitalist urban landscape of an empire, like Haussmann in Paris, was to pronounce the authority of the Second Empire in establishing monumental urban landscape. Therefore the necessary means for Japanese government is to rebuild the city. In addition to roundabouts and radial organization of boulevards, grand avenues and department stores also became pilgrim destinations of commodity fetishism and the culmination of capitalist illusions.
Maze 3: Urban Nomad- Drift, Cultivation, and the Search of Self
As a result of urbanization during the processes of capitalist modernization, people flocked to the city in search for opportunities and aspirations. The flows of capital pushed people of all ages and genders around as urban nomads. Urban open spaces became a part of domestic life. The Governor-General’s Office remade the space of flow of a modern city by demolishing the city wall and install boulevards, roundabouts, and radial streets in order to reconnect the three older towns.  Modern citizens acquired new places to stroll, wander, recreate, and exercise in places such as Three-lane Road and urban park systems of Taipei New Park, Grass Hill, and Yuan Shan. National Taiwan Museum was located in the Taipei New Park. In addition to the promotion of knowledge and reason, it also provided such functions of citizen recreation.
In contrast to the ease of movement in the city, security in modern city requires surveillance. Like the dictatorial police state of the French Second Empire, the Governor-Generals Office controlled not only the media, it also set up police stations on every corner to monitor people’s behaviors and, when necessary, to repress the possibility of citizen protests.
As North-south Railway opened in 1908, a modernized railway network effectively transported products from industries of the colony and expanded the new concept of space and time. With flows of capitals and information, the scope of people was open and traveling became means to pursue of dreams. The Japanese government promoted landscape postcards on the one hand and encouraged young people to learn through traveling”—leaving hometown and acquiring knowledge in order to cultivate the self. The urban squares in front of the railway stations thus became new urban centers in Taiwan. Not surprisingly, the Railway Hotel of Omote-cho in front of Taipei Railway Station was one of the most opulent hotels.
Maze 4: Knowledge and Rationality- Disenchantment and Control
For Max Weber, modern society arrived hand in hand with processes of disenchantment. When people acquire knowledge and rationality, the control of the self over the fast-changing world also increases. Education in the modern society becomes means to transform uncultivated self into the modern mind and to construct subjectivity. The popularization of knowledge is fundamental to modern society. Early Japanese regime conceived a secular educational system of public schools, grammar schools of national language, and normal schools.
On the other hand, Japanese regime in early days also exerted instrumental rationality to create state bureaucracy in order to achieve modern rationality and effective control. People became machine under the institutions and unable to reflect on the enlightened subject. The rationality of knowledge was turned into instrumental, technological ends for the society.  The Taiwan Architectural Journal issued between 1929 and 1944 with sixteenth issues promote building technologies. At the founding ceremony Ide Kaoru gave the speech: Architecture and the Mission of Building Technology. He also hosted a radio broadcast program The Beauty in Taiwanese Cities and promoted a mechanized modern city through building of houses, sewage system, electricity, and urban improvements.
Such city is apparently different from Paris, wherein Honore Balzac constructed a aura of public narrative through the everyday life of Parisians and a dialectical modernity. His subtle narratives revealed the mysterious thin veil of a capitalist society that had cloaked the myth of Parisian modernity.
Historically, the society of Taiwan have long marred by excessive bureaucracy. The project of enlightenment —freedom of thoughts and formation of subjectivity— was lost in the instrumentalization of knowledge, one-dimensional education, and ignorance of humanities. In addition to the cult of degrees, licensure and technology, ubiquitous cram schools for various of exams in the city prove that the urban space have not yet been free from the myth of modernity.
Maze 5: Symbols of AuthorityConfusion of Historicism and Modernism
Although Japanese colonization of Taiwan happened mostly in the 20th century, many official buildings resembled French Beaux-Arts buildings of the Second Empire Style, overlooked the social meaning of Modernism. The historicist manner of museums, banks, town halls, city halls and Governor-General’s Office mostly symbolized authority and ignored the European movement of modern architecture.  The Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 and the Chiayi-Tainan Earthquake of 1931 destroyed many load-bearing walls of these buildings and prompted architects to rethink their design approach.
The shift of the regime from a military to administrative role during the 1920s provided a less stringent environment. The 1925 Expo of Industrial Art Deco in Paris emphasized future over historicism and maintained “form follows function” in its advocacy for aesthetic modernity of the machine age. The statement of Art Deco exposition dictated a “ban on imitations and copies of old styles.” With the influence of Ide Kaoru, Art Deco buildings emerged in Taiwan in the 1930s. Many buildings, however, still came from commissions of powerful and wealthy patronage and did not meet the need of the people and industrialization. The torrent of machine age degenerated into mere pursuit of forms and fashion.
Compared to French Art Deco, movements of modern architecture in Netherland and German in the early 20th century valued more on social architecture and regarded labors housing as ideal embodiment of modern dwellings. In Weissenhof Werkbund Project of Sturggart in 1927, Le Corbusier proposed five points of new architecture, that is, piloti, roof garden, free plan, horizontal bands, and free facade. Modernist architects proposed new concept of spatial continuity that contributed to new plasticity of architecture. Moreover, free plan disintegrated the enclosed formal concept of conventional architecture in its opposition to ornaments and formalism that symbolized class and power. Modern architecture also required rationalized, standardized construction while fulfilling economy and practicality in design. These goals can only be achieved through collaboration with the industry.
Very few workers’ housing existed in Taiwan. The city public housing between 1912 and 1941 aimed to provide inexpensive rental houses for middle-class Japanese immigrants. The army housing between 1941 and 1944 during the World War II and the American-aid public housing after 1958 also witnessed the use of standardized dimensions, spaces, and manufacturing.
However many postwar buildings of palace style and nationalism, like Taipei 101 tower, showed the confusion of traditionalism and modernism until this decade.    
Maze 6: Industrial Production- Development and Plunder
Industrial production is almost synonym to modernization. In order to modernize and industrialize the city and to control production, Japanese Governor-General’s Office implemented large scale planning of lands for industrial use near railway transportation and connected capitals to technology. Many large facilities—sugar factory, tobacco plant, winery, camphor factory, etc.—were built near railway stations. The founding of Auxiliary Museum of Governor’s Colonial Production Bureau (the predecessor of National Taiwan Museum) aimed to encourage industrial development under the policy of “revitalizing colonial production.” The museum collection included fauna, flora, mineral, industrial and anthropological materials. The content of display emphasized industries important to the development of Taiwan. The researches also valued investigation of material production and resource. In order to advocate for colonial industries, the Governor-General’s Office hosted the Expo of 40th Anniversary of Colonial Governance in 1935. The first expo ground located in the Public Meeting Hall and the Three-lane Road. The second expo ground was the Taipei New Park, including the Revitalization Hall, Sugar Industry Hall, Electricity Hall and other industrial exhibition halls. (See 3.2 Taipei New Park)
The North-south Railway built between 1899 and 1908 connected the colonial industries of various regions and transformed the space-time relationship of development in Taiwan. Industrial cities along the mountain railway replaced traditional coastal towns. In addition to tourism, the railway also facilitated the transportation of goods and changed the regional landscape of production. As a result, urban patterns of many cities faced unprecedented change. Taipei was no exception. The railway went through the north of old town. The urban improvement plan emphasized industrial spaces along the east-west axis, replacing the north-south axis of port towns along Tamsui River. The construction of underground railways and decline of manufacturing in recent decades have posed another set of crucial issues. The preservation and integration of large historical production sites—such as tobacco and sugar plants, winery, and railway workshop—into contemporary urban fabrics and our collective memories are still imperative.



Venue:National Taiwan Museum