2008年的夏天，臺北市立美術館推出一檔令人印象深刻的建築展覽名為「建築實驗室」，展出的圖面與模型與其說是一個個的精緻的建築作品，不如說是眾多藝術家、理論家及建築師們對於建築、城市、身處時代乃至整個人類文明的態度與宣示。由紀．恩斯特．德博（Guy Ernest Debord）在1957年發表的「巴黎心理地理學指南」亦在展覽當中登場。這一幅作品呈現一張支離破碎、令人狐疑的巴黎地圖，一塊塊破碎的街區搭配一連串的箭頭符號被看似隨意地安置在畫面上。這張不知所云的地圖或許會讓觀者感到莫名其妙，然而它卻精確反映出人們認識城市的方式：對於城市的某處我們很可能瞭如指掌，但是對於另一處卻十分陌生。「巴黎心理地理學指南」反映了我們心裡面所認知的城市模樣，那是一種「由想像、主觀與片段式經驗所重組的空間」。（臺北市立美術館，《建築實驗室》）
認識寶藏巖可以有很多種方法，我們可以選擇自由自在的在聚落裡面的開放區域閒逛，也可以報名導覽以特定的路線繞行村落一圈，當然也可以有意無意的路過──騎腳踏車到大草原野餐、休息，口渴到柑仔店買杯酸梅湯，或是就僅僅像那些公館商圈的上班族，騎著自行車「路過」聚落就是每天的生活日常。生而為人的我們因為擁有相同的生理構造，因此即使每一個人會用自己的方式觀看、解讀一個地方，但是對於「空間」的組成依然存在著一定程度的共識，就像寶藏巖村落的居民長期以來將自己的聚落分為「上村」和「下村」，對於熟悉或不熟悉寶藏巖的讀者而言，我們也可以透過一套輕鬆的描述和示意圖了解寶藏巖的空間構成（見本書所提供的故事 / 發生地對照表）。簡而言之，這一個村落的邊界由小觀音山、新店溪和萬盛溪所圍塑，山下是聚落村民主要生活的場所，包括菜園、柑仔店還有聊天休息聚會的「涼棚」，山上則是藝術村主要的管理範圍，包括各式各樣的藝術家工作室和商店。就歷史來看，供奉觀音菩薩的寶藏廟和寶藏塔則是這個聚落最早的空間核心。
Space as subject matter—A local writing experiment
“As we get to know a space and assign values to it, this formerly chaotic space turns into a place.” --Yi-Fu Tuan Yi-Fu Tuan［1］
In the summer of 2008, Taipei Fine Arts Museum curated a remarkable architecture exhibition named Archilab. To be sure, each drawing and model was a delicate piece of work; however, it would be more apt to see them collectively as an expression of mentality and a statement by a great number of artists, theorists and architects toward architecture, city, their eras, and human civilization in general. Guide psychogéographique de Paris, published by Guy Ernest Debord in 1957, was also part of the exhibition. This piece of work presented a broken and perplexing map of Paris. A series of arrows complemented each broken patch of city block, seemingly arranged in a random manner. While this map may seem unintelligible or bewildering to the viewer, it accurately reflects the way people come to know a city: we may know a corner of the city inside out and be a total stranger to another. Guide psychogéographique de Paris reflects the cityscape in our mind--it is "a space reconstituted by one’s imagination, subjective and segmented experience.” (Archilab , Taipei Fine Arts Museum)
Through this piece of work, Debord tells us that people’s perception of a city is constituted by subjective experience. In the book Space and Place by the humanistic geography scholar Yi-Fu Tuan, he further makes clear the foregoing concept by way of an example:
Long-time residents of Minneapolis know the city. A taxi driver can learn to find his way around the city. An academic studying geography may come to know Minneapolis conceptually through his studies. These are three different experiences. One may become familiar with a place conceptually and realistically, and be able to clearly convey his thoughts. Yet, he cannot express what he knows through senses of touch, taste, smell, hearing, or sight.*
*Translator's note: This is a back translation of a Simplified Chinese edition of Tuan’s book.
The concept proposed by Debord and Tuan goes to show that a “place” familiar to people is, in fact, made up of a series of segmented experiences or shards of memory. Limited by subjective consciousness, each person can only know so much of a place. This applies to even professional experts and scholars committed to studying a place. With the foregoing ideas on space as our starting point, in 2018 we launched Project Treasure Hill: Collecting Memories in Taipei Treasure Hill Artist Village as our reflection on and response to those ideas. With the legal status of a cultural heritage and considered one of the most well-known artist villages in Taiwan, Treasure Hill is an exemplar settlement imitated by other communities. A great deal of academic research and reports on Treasure Hill have already produced plenty of writings. A lot of research on places rely on the so-called “field work” method—researchers visit on-site, make contact with people in the community, obtain local information through interviews, and then form generalizations about the settlement’s history, culture, space, among other information. However, such “fieldwork” usually only serves as a part of the research process. The resulting research reports mostly consist of the researcher’s discourse. With Project Treasure Hill: Collecting Memories, we sought to do things differently. We began to think: why not turn the “stories told by the residents”into the main characters, and let these “local residents” tell us their “local stories”?
Imagine putting together different persons’ segmented descriptions of Treasure Hill in an overlapping manner. There is a chance the “broken piece of Treasure Hill’s map” held within each person’s mind will add up, overlap, and gradually form a more complete picture. In this way, our understanding of Treasure Hill can go beyond the telling of a single person or group, and come closer to a restored, “public” version. If the world exists on the basis of human beings’ understanding, then shouldn’t the version of “Treasure Hill” as told by many come closer to touching upon the essence of this place?
Overlapping of time and space
From 2018 to 2020, we have interviewed dozens of people related to Treasure Hill, including long-time residents, managers of the artist village, resident artists, social welfare workers, stores in nearby business districts, and competent authorities of other agencies. For our memory collection project, we anticipated hearing different versions of “Treasure Hill” as told by different people, but the interview process turned out to be far more interesting. Listening to different interviewees tell their stories, we clearly saw how each person’s perception differed from that of another—not just spatially, but temporally. For instance, two different persons both talked about the Xindian Riverbank. One told us of his childhood memory of playing and swimming there, while the other happily shared her discovery of migratory birds by the river the other day. When we compiled and presented a series of stories derived from different interviewees’ “psychological-geographical maps” in an overlapping manner, we discovered that a place’s collective impression in fact comprises complex perceptions resulting from the overlapping of time and space.
We soon found ourselves facing a problem when going through various interview materials: various remarks about each space had been made at different points in time. Therefore, the chronological order of this book will constantly jump back and forth when one gets to different interviewees’ memories and remarks. This may seem to pose a problem for reading comprehension. But, isn’t this just the way we view a place? There are a number of ways to get to know a place. It could be due to a particular event in the past that you’ve come to fall in love with a place. It could be your day-to-day life in a certain place that gradually allows you to deepen your understanding of that place. In fact, a person’s memory of a space comes from this enormous collective entity called “the past” that he’s experienced, and in a recall he only extracts the segment from this entity of which he has an impression. Therefore, the accumulation of a wide range of Treasure Hill stories is not so much a restoration of the village’s extended life history as a “situational” spatial account. Whether familiar with Treasure Hill or not, readers are welcome to tap into their own understanding and imagination when reading about different figures’ feelings for Treasure Hill, and then re-create your own image of Treasure Hill.
When “spaces” connect
There are many ways to acquaint yourself with Treasure Hill. Go and wander about in the open area of the settlement, apply for a guided tour that will take you on a specific route circling the village, or pass by whenever you feel like it. Ride a bike, visit the lawn and have a picnic there. Get a glass of sour prune soup at the community grocery if you’re thirsty. Commute toward Gongguan business district by bike and you’ll “pass by” the village every day. As human beings, we share more or less the same body constitution. Even if each of us has our own way of viewing and understanding a place, we more or less have a consensus on what constitutes a “space.” The villagers of Treasure Hill have long divided the village into “upper” and “lower” parts. Even if you’re not familiar with the village, the spatial composition of Treasure Hill should be easy to grasp if you refer to the accessible descriptions and diagrams we’ve provided. (See “Stories and Where to Find Them.”) In short, the village borders on Little Guanyin Mountain, Xindian River and Wansheng River. The bottom of the mountain is the main living area of the villagers, including the vegetable farm, community grocery and a shed, where people gather, chat and rest. The top of the mountain is the primary area managed by the artist village; various artist studios and shops are located here. From a historical point of view, Treasure Hill Temple (dedicated to Guanyin Bodhisattva) and Treasure Pagoda comprise the earliest core space of the village.
The stories’ sequence follows the aforesaid spatial structure of the village. There is an invisible walking trail extending across all of the stories: with the Xindian Riverbank as the starting point, you move in the direction of the settlement, pass by the vegetable farm, the shed and the community grocery. Up the stairs, you’ll see the Treasure Hill Temple and entrance to the artist village. Visit each studio, the small plaza, the old banyan tree, and eventually arrive at the square on the top of the hill. So the stories are like dots, one connected after another on this walking trail. Reading all of the stories is equivalent to doing a careful round of the settlement. In our opinion, connecting each story and turning it into a linear space has the effect of anchoring the many stories “taking place at different points in time.” Readers will, step by step, be able to grasp the village’s spatial structure as they read along, and discover the village’s local features. Three pieces of writing about Treasure Hill are inserted in between the stories, two of which are written by artist Hsing Yu LIU and former Treasure Hill Artist Village manager Isis Mingli Lee, respectively. They offer their experience and perspective on how to view Treasure Hill, further expanding the spatial horizon of this book. The third piece of writing was the journal entry left during our Treasure Hill residency in 2019. With “spaces” connecting everything, we have put together a wide variety of stories and perspectives. Ultimately, what kind of a place is Treasure Hill? We leave this question’s answer and interpretation up to the readers.
Outside Treasure Hill
Invited by the Treasure Hill Artist Village in 2019, we settled in the village for a period of four months. This opportunity was an extension of the 2018 Project Treasure Hill: Collecting Memories. The scope of the ensuing fieldwork included not only the settlement but places outside it, including Gongguan business district, the “WenRoTing” region, Taipei Water Park, Taipei City Hakka Cultural Park, and as far as Kishu An Forest of Literature located at the end of Tongan St.; territorially, we got involved in what is generally referred to as the “City South” region. The term is vaguely defined. Some say it includes the area where Guling Street is located, while some say it’s far more expansive, spanning Taipei South Airport, Kinmen St., Xiamen St., and Tongan St. Lucille HAN in her book Taipei City Narrator views “City South” as the street blocks reaching from YongkangSt., Qingtian St. to Longquan St. (namely, the so-called “Kang-Qing-Long” region).
With this vague definition as the premise, we proceeded with our project in an attempt to reevaluate the following question: what kind of spatial network do the Treasure Hill settlement and its environs--also part of “City South,” in broader terms--constitute? How do the spatial maps in the minds of people living outside Treasure Hill look like? After we’ve collected more information from interviews, we noted that another large group of people close to the village has maintained multifaceted and complex relationships with Treasure Hill. For example, when university students close by tire of going to restaurants near the school, they sometimes buy bentos in the village. Decades ago, Taipei Water Park was named a military zone. Nonetheless, children living in the village and Gongguan business district had dared to go there for adventures. What kind of mindset and thinking does the management of Kishu An Forest of Literature (also a cultural heritage like the Treasure Hill settlement) adopt when faced with an ancient structure and residents in the community? To some locals, Treasure Hill can be a recreational place for the elderly, for playing mahjong or cards, or for sports or relaxation. To local intellectuals concerned with such issues as preservation of cultural heritage, housing justice and ecological environment, Treasure Hill serves as a model for imitation, learning, reflection, and even critical judgment.
During the course of our interviews, an interviewee shared with us his experience of working in Kishu An Forest of Literature and later setting up shop in Treasure Hill. Perhaps he was in some way more sensitive than most--he has had inexplicable experiences in both places when newly arrived. “Supernatural experience” wielded some influence on whatever was going on in his life and mind; in retrospect, he had been dealing with some issues of import in his life, and somehow these minor events turned things around for him. He told us that, with the passing of time, he came to sense how daily life, personal ideals and locality “formed a close and ambiguous relationship.” In the words of one well-versed in theories of space, perhaps the “it” he had encountered was the so-called “Genius Loci”--it might have been the local protector deity. Our daily routines, life’s dreams and hobbies cannot be separated from space［2］. If one truly wishes “to know what kind of a place this is,” then you could try to chat with people and to understand the locals’ way of thinking, and at the same time attempt to capture the “space” and stories derived from it that are hidden behind the life, history and memory of these people. Though a slow process, this method is effective. Our endeavor has been a local writing experiment, with space as its subject matter. With this series of stories, we hope to open up your imagination about all kinds of spaces, and renew your understanding of the local significations of Treasure Hill.
In Topophilia Studio, Taipei, 2020 Lin Szu Chun
［1］Author’s note： Quote comes from Yi-Fu Tuan's 1977 book titled Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience, albeit not in the original wording. I cite a Chinese translation of Place: a Short Introduction (p. 16) translated by CHIH-HUNG WANG and another translator.
［2］Author’s note： Genius loci usually refers to a location's distinctive atmosphere. Literally, “Loci” means “place,” while “Genius” means “protective spirit.”