Recently, the Flaming Lotus Girls were invited by a Taiwanese group, Dream Community, to create a flame effect for a mobile art installation, for the Dream Community April parade. For this project, we sent Dave X., a founding member of the Flaming Lotus Girls and the Burning Man Performance Safety Team. The project involved sending a member of our group to Taipei for two weeks to live within the Dream Community and collaborate in making fire art.
Furthering our collaboration with the Dream Community Yasi has now joined the to work on a project. We thank the Dream Community another opportunity. We are excited to be back working with them again.
Here is his travel blog of the project and Yasi’s thoughts about her experiences, with the project and the local community
Day One, 06/06/08 –
I arrived in Taipei at 6am local time (about 14 hours ahead of PST). The flight out from SFO was absolutely sardine-packed. All the folks going back to the old country for summer holidays.
I adjusted my watch to local time as soon as I got on the plane, which I think, has helped my body clock adjustment. Jean and her husband P2 picked me up from the airport and we proceeded on the one hour drive to the Dream Community, which is located in Shijie, a town east of Taipei city, in the county of Taipei. We stopped on the way for breakfast at a local street breakfast place in Taoyuan (another town in Taipei county) that consisted of noodles, mushroom sauce, green onions and a fried egg on top. Yum!
We got to the Dream Community at 9am and Jean showed me to my room that is in a “dormitory”, one of three in the community for artists. Then she showed me the “Grain Mill” where they bake bread everyday, some with fresh goat’s milk from the in-house goat, some with cranberries or whatever Shao Yen the baker lady decides to make that day. There is also a mean cuppa joe here, ground and brewed straight into your cup.
There are also two restaurants called the “Tree Cafe” and the “Maple Tree” that I will be eating at during my stay. Jean proceeded to show me her office which was empty since no one gets to work before 10am (it was 9:30am!). She was very surprised when I told her that people in the U.S. go to work at 9am or even 8am.
The office is located in a modern building that also houses one of the dance studios, the artist internet station and a lounge/kitchen area.
Later in the day, I met my host and the man behind the Dream Community – Gordon. He is amazing, so much energy and inspiration. He is like a kid with his happy-go-lucky nature and immense love for creativity, art and fun!
First a little about what the Dream Community is:
The Dream Community is a housing complex that includes apartment buildings and smaller houses, a bakery, hair salon, tea shop, cafe and restaurant. The people that live here pay a little more than market value for their homes to enable the community to organize workshops, classes and above all to invite artists from around the world to come to Taiwan to teach and create their art, mostly puppet-making, float-making, dancing and drumming, for the 50 or so parades they have per year! The artists not only teach and make their art in the workshops located in the Dream Community, but are also “dispatched” to a variety of aboriginal villages throughout the country.
In Taiwan, there are about 11 different aboriginal tribes, each with their own customs, clothing, language and cuisine. Most of the people old enough to work, move to the cities to earn a living, leaving their children behind for the grandparents to take care of. With little to connect the generational gap, this situation engenders a general sense of melancholy, listlessness and despondency in the society. Gordon has come up with a cure for this malady. He brings fun back to the community. He has drums donated to schools, brings in Brazilian drummers to teach the kids how to drum, gets Mexican puppeteers to come out and make puppets with the kids, Samba dancers to teach them how to dance and has a parade!
The children of the town/village show off all that they have learned and the villagers/townspeople come out and join in the party! This is a major boost in confidence, pride and brings the otherwise indifferent community together. It’s amazing the kind of work he is motivating here.
There is an annual “Dream Parade” in October, where all the tribes are bussed out (courtesy of Gordon) to Taipei to have one massive blowout party! For this parade, many of the Dream Community residents get involved. There are in-house puppet and float making workshops and dance classes where residents can participate and create art. Doesn’t sound too bad, ey? Besides you can have fresh goat milk bread everyday!
I am the first artist of my type – a metal sculptor and a woman – coming into this community and introducing longer lasting art that spits fire! They have never had anything made from metal and are very excited to see what the possibilities are. There are many, that’s for sure. I took a look at their workshops or “factories” as they call them here and they have everything: rollers, drill presses, plasma cutters, lathes, welders etc. Indeed, they do not use gloves, respirators, welding hoods or safety glasses in their shops.
The sculpture they have requested is a man that is breathing fire. This is what Gordon physically does at the head of every parade. The “Fire Float” is going to be a metallic rendering of Gordon that breathes fire. Now to determine what type of metal to use for this.
The rust is a major factor here as it is so humid so if I am to use steel the treatment of it is a serious consideration to keep it from going bye bye. We visited a junkyard today (Anders you would drool!) and scoped out four steel barrels that would work well for the body of the man. Now to scavenge some steel pipes and tubing for the limbs…
On the other hand, I have noticed that they use a lot of stainless steel for things here: water tanks, solid stainless steel doors (!), roll up gates, railings…you name it, they got it! In fact, at the junkyard there was an excess of gorgeous stainless steel tubing of a 6-inch diameter that I was drooling over, so….I might go with stainless. In this case, I might have to have the body made with sheet, which shouldn’t prove to be too difficult.
Everyone has been very helpful and friendly so far. Did I mention that the food is great?
Tomorrow, I will be heading to the south of Taiwan to where the Paiwan tribe live, about 5 hours away to attend one of their parades. I will be taking my video camera and filming as much as I can. This is amazing!