ALIEN Art Centre: Looking towards the future from the crossroads of history

Military facilities built in Taiwan during the Cold War have been gradually retired. Some have been transformed into cultural spaces. ALIEN Art Centre in Kaohsiung is an example. Kin-ma Military Hostel is currently run as ALIEN Art Centre. After two years of planning and renovation, it opened its doors to the public as a contemporary art museum.


Editor: Isabelle Kuo

Military facilities built in Taiwan during the Cold War have been gradually retired. Some have been transformed into cultural spaces. The former Air Force Command Headquarters is currently run by Taiwan Living Arts Foundation under the name Taiwan Contemporary Culture Lab (C-LAB), affiliated with the Ministry of Culture. This experimental cultural lab aims to incubate contemporary creativity. ALIEN Art Centre in Kaohsiung is another example. Kin-ma Military Hostel is currently run as ALIEN Art Centre. After two years of planning and renovation, it opened its doors to the public as a contemporary art museum at the end of 2018.

The permanent exhibitions are in three galleries on the ground floor. The first contains Crossing by Hong Kong artist Kingsley Ng. Commissioned by ALIEN Art Centre, Ng spent two years interviewing many veterans, before etching extracts on timepieces made by the artist. Some are left empty for potential new words from the present or future, making the project an ongoing participatory time capsule. It is a contemplative space, inviting the audience to reflect quietly on the instability of the past. Diamond, by James Turrell, is a poetic space generated by light. A third gallery has been transformed into an archive to showcase the history of the site and the institution, curated by Taiwanese documentary director Pu Chen. This combination of permanent installations shows ALIEN Art Centre’s ambition to present the history of the site alongside contemporary art.

Apart from these installations, other exhibitions have included solo exhibitions by photographer Juan I-Jong, Ton Fan Art Group member Hsiao Chin, Gutai artist Shozo Shimamoto, German jewelry designer Franz Bette, and Japanese-German artist and jeweler Jiro Kamata, as well as a group exhibition featuring emerging artists Lo Yi-Chun, Kao Ya-Ting, and Tang Ya-Wen. These exhibitions span disciplines from art to design, geographies from west to east, and periods from mid-century to present, giving voice to the Centre’s unique perspective in appreciating contemporary art from various angles.

For ALIEN Art Centre, being international is not about geographical borders, but rather common values shared across different cultural backgrounds. Yaman Shao, CEO of ALIEN Art, says, “We are not communicating with the world to compete with other local institutions. Instead, we are opening a window, introducing the world to our home, so that our people can be seen by the world and, most importantly, we can see the world from here. It’s a two-way communication. We might not see the results immediately, but eventually we will be recognized.” A detail-oriented approach to execution is evident in the research, planning, installation, and publication of each exhibition since its opening.

Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second city, was once called a cultural desert better known for its manufacturing and shipping industries. In recent years, however, many factories have relocated elsewhere, creating large areas in the city waiting to be developed. Lead by Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts along with Pier 2 Art Center and National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts, the city has consciously strengthened its cultural development. Many artists, some internationally active and many known for their energetic and distinctive styles, have lived in Kaohsiung since before these institutions opened. As a new high-quality private art museum, ALIEN Art Centre brings a broader perspective to the city, as Shao says, “I see opportunities in imperfection, thinking about how we would like our city to be. The aim of art is to bring positive energy to people, so that people can get joy and encouragement out of it.” Local creativity that cannot be seen elsewhere can also be developed here, attracting visitors from all over the world.

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