Sunday, October 14, 2007

Treasure Hill

I became the cleaner man in Treasure Hill. There was no garbage bins and the small snaking allies were full of filth. The people were hiding behind their windows but I saw that they were old. In the foot of the hill some three stories of houses had been demolished, bulldozed away and instead of the houses there was green grass. A lawn instead of a settlement because officially now this was a park zone. For nature lawn is the same as concentration camp. It is nothing. It produces a shameful amount of oxygen and is merely the roof of a worm.

Missis Chen - the matriarchal leader of Treasure Hill community of urban farmers.

And these people had been living there for some 50 years and these people were gardeners, I saw the fragments everywhere – village people, growing their own food. City had stepped in and the village people had to go. Same old story.

Tresure Hill badge worn by the urban restoration taskforce C-Laboratory, mainly consisting of volunteers and architecture students from Tamkang and National Taiwan universities.

So I became the cleaner man. The first day the people were hiding and I started to clean and transport trash from their streets down of the hill to be picked up. The next day the same. On the third day there were already some buckets waiting for me and on the fourth day the people were cleaning themselves too. Together with me was also an increasing amount of architecture students from Tamkang University and National Taiwan University.

Soon the little settlement of Treasure Hill was cleaned from the garbage and I started to build up stairs to connect the remained stairways of the torn down houses. By that time Treasure Hill was a dead end and I needed to create a loop for circular movement.

The upper part of the staircase system linking together the existing steps in the ruins of the demolished houses.

In the end of 3 weeks I had 200 students working with me and architect Shieih Yin-Jun had come down from the mountains too.

With Shieih every morning we met and agreed who builds where. I don’t know what language we spoke. In the end the steps were built and even a small parade took place. Treasure Hill could stay and the bulldozing was stopped. In the place of the lawn where once the houses had stood was now a vegetable garden, food and the inhabitants were eager to cultivate the land.

City learned to appreciate this small sustainable settlement – a small urban poem. It helped that the poet Liao was in the charge of the Department of the Cultural Affairs.
Restored vegetable garden, bamboo shade and steps.

Treasure Hill was important for me maybe because I felt that the place was so real and the city around it was so fictive. So many external powers in the city dominating the humanistic energy and in Treasure Hill none.

On the other hand a fire-place in a ruin; on the other hand a high-way bridge above a polluted river.

Now after a couple of years I am happy to see that Treasure Hill still survives. I survived the heat and the construction process partly due Missis Chen, the matriarch of the settlement, who gave me Chinese medicines and feed me fish and a lot of beer.

The gardening is going well of course, since these people know what to do if given a chance.

There is still a lot of lawn, a useless layer of artificial nature which should be a garden too. It is good that the city is injecting new energy to the place by some artists working there but I also felt the danger of the real settlement becoming a background for art pieces. Now when I go there most of the junk laying around the mango trees and water streams are from art works – light stands, posters, pieces or worthless installations etc. If art becomes the junk of Treasure Hill, what is that? People don't have to exploit Treasure Hill or use it for anything, people should just appreciate it. What comes to art or action in a place like Treasure Hill – build another one. Build a new Treasure Hill, the Ultra Village in the hearts of Taipei.


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