text“ghost/tw” in a project based on a set of old photographs from Hualien, located on the East coast of Taiwan, probably taken between 1930 - 1970. Most of the photos were showing people. Ghosts of the past, whose memories are lost. They disappeared. Their image was removed from the picture. I focused on the buildings in the background and isolated them from the rest of the image. Through an alternative interpretation, a contemporary reconstruction was created, opening new possibilities of reading the photographs.
Architecture is the physical realization of ideas. Over time a building becomes a tangible proof of a historical fact. It becomes a monument to the idea of its creator.
Besides its utilitarian function, architecture is born from the human longing to live forever. A wish which is unachievable for the human body yet proved to be possible in an indirect way, through preserving the thoughts of a deceased person. Even after the physical body dies the spirit can live on. But even thoughts need media if they should live on. The most real, primary medium is another human’s mind. Yet human mind is also one of the most instable and vulnerable carrier. On the other side, there are physical media – starting from the Ten Commandments engraved into stone tablets. Yet physical media do not draw attention to themselves. How many books and paintings were simply forgotten? Only fragments survive. Architecture preserves ideas in the most direct way. It is not a thought thought. It is a lived reality.
The ninetieth and twentieth century gave rise to an immense number of ‘new media’. From chemical (photography), over electromagnetic (television, magnetic tape) to digital (computer). People became obsessed with multiplying their own or their fellowmen’s images – whether alive or dead. Image by image, we became surrounded by ghosts. (Remember the early use of photography as a medium to record paranormal ‘ghost’ phenomena.) Photography, movies, vinyl records, CDs… Dead people from the past – looking at us, talking, singing... Yet most of these ghosts are without any memory. They turned into shadows of the past, peeking at us silently from a distance.
Ideas embodied in architecture live on both through the structure itself and through the life of its tenants. The thoughts of the creator impose movement rules in the delineated space. The structure and shape communicate the social, economic, ideological needs and technical skills of its time. Architecture outlives its creators, its tenants, even its own blueprint.
Taiwan is an island with a complicated past. Its location is in a historical grey zone in-between mutually contradicting categories. It connects to the old civilization of China, yet stays a constant outlier. Its architecture has had a rather short life so far. Most monuments are of a quite recent time. In contemporary times, buildings appear and disappear even faster. Yet still, architecture serves as a point of reference, setting the stage for our lives.