Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Nov 07 2014

Old department store, etc.

Taiwan’s first modern department store, the Juyuan Department Store, was remodeled into a bank decades ago, but the bank left the building recently. Now the first  floor has been given over to cheap women’s clothing outlet. I walk past that building all the time but I’ve never been inside because I didn’t want to present my suspicious-looking appearance in a bank where I had no business.

This afternoon during my lunch break, however, I walked up to the intersection of Boai and Hengyang Roads and walked inside to have a look around. There weren’t many people there, just a couple of women browsing the tacky clothes on the temporary racks. The entire building’s been redone, of course, but the staircase, which I could spy behind some of the racks, seemed like it might be close to the original tile.

I stood inside what had been the entrance (it’s been blocked up and is now home to a homeless old man who sells chewing gum on the corner) and tried to imagine what it might have been like in its glory days, when people who had never seen the like of this place walked in from the street. Six stories! It must have seemed enormous back then, when every other building around it was at most two stories tall. Now it’s just another faceless structure, alas. The bank remodeling pasted large glass mirror windows over most of it, and nobody could tell its actual age just by looking at it.

In a perfect world, the city government or the culture ministry would have plans to restore it to its former glory, similar to what they did to the Lin Department Store in Tainan, but I don’t have much hope of that. I suppose I should be glad the building has survived this long. It’s somewhat surreal to walk through this city past such structures, like the old recording studios where many a classic was produced, past former bars and embassies and nightclubs that were the height of fashion back in the day, but are now ignored by nearly everyone who walks by them today. Practical concerns take precedence, I suppose, but I wonder what we’re losing when we forget such things. At least we have preserved some of the past, thanks to photography, literature and the Internet. For now, anyway.

In other news: Tomorrow, if all goes according to plan, I should be on a plane with Chenbl and Xiao Guo, winging our way to the other side of the world. Paris, to be specific. Though Burn My Eye has had other exhibits at  MAP in Toulouse and at the Brighton Biennial, Paris seems to have attracted most of us to make the trip. We’re going to meet Carlos there, and Chenbl has of course planned the stuffing out of the trip, with an itinerary full of stuff and things and stuff, but I never pay attention to the details.  All I know is that we’re going to bum around the countryside in Northwestern France for a week and then return to Paris on the 14th for the exhibition, which starts on the 15th, I think. Some of the guys are doing a workshop at some point, but I’ve never done those and really wouldn’t know how. I’d probably just end up yelling at all the “streetogs” in my wake to leave me the hell alone and go get some ice cream or something.

I haven’t been to Paris since my trip with Ray and Gordon in ’09, and then it was only for a few days, so I’m looking forward to this trip, even though it’s going to bankrupt me when I get my credit card bills, I’m sure. I’ll blog when I get time and wifi, I suppose, but no promises on regular updates.

I guess I should pack or something. Isn’t that what people do before trips? Pack?

posted by Poagao at 5:28 pm  

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