Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Li-Chun Sun

Curator and Art critic

Of these five artworks, "Human Layer_Taipei" by Marco Casagrande and Martin Ross was most provocative in nature.

Marco Casagrande mounted on a Trojan Horse in Taipei.

They worked together with students of Tamkang University architecture department to create eight large iron horses. Starting our separately in Taipei County and other various points and traveling along roads toward Taipei City Hall, they attracted looks of interest from pedestrians and passing cars, as the objects (the iron horses) suddenly added a new dimension to Taipei's physical landscape - for example the participation of police authorities.

The army of Trojan Rocking Horses standin in line, waiting for the attack, in the Tamkang University base camp.

The city's residents made curious inquires, and along the road the artists distributed a "Human Layer_Taipei" newspaper, stirring up Taipei's social landscape with these iron horses that invoked the metaphor of the Trojan horse from Greek mythology, and creating a different mapping method - by inciting a response.

This method of mapping the landscape by stirring up a reaction from it was achieved by placing unfamiliar objects in the social landscape, and inciting collisions and contradictions in order to demonstrate the artists' wish to toss out questions and criticisms. The significance of this act of "mapping" comes from the reaction of the "human layer" of the landscape after this "tossing out" has occurred, absorbing a cross section of the social landscape as reflected by citizens from within its different human layers (the opinions of citizens regarding the city government).

Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, now the President of Taiwan (2008-), reading the Trojan Rocking Horse messages.

Thus, the "human layer" is also a part of the social landscape. It presents society's classes and ideologies, the culture of its spaces, the human textures of the city, the interaction of people and their environment, the material world and popular symbols from a variety of angles. Thus, Marco Casagrande's and Martin Ross's "Human Layer_Taipei" stirring up the city's multi-layered cultural landscape, much like turning over or stirring up the layers of a garbage heap, revealing its many layers of rich cultural texture and contents.

Jo Hsiao

Curator and Organizer of Taipei on the Move

Satirizing urban commercialism and industrialized society has been the consistent creative attitude of Marco Casagrande. His works integrate people, landscapes, the environment and action, presenting naked criticism of city spaces and human values. But in the background of his satire and criticism is hidden a limitless consideration of society and concern for humanity.

C-Laboratory Taipei in 2004.

One example is "Organic Layer_Taipei", in which he created a genuinely usable miniature organic city space on Treasure Hill. Continuing on with the creative concept of "Organic Layer_Taipei", Casagrande once again felt the pulse of Taipei, personifying the city's urban space, and delving deeply into its subconscious. He attempted through art and architecture to deconstruct the composition of Taipei's urban society, and to express the hopes and dreams of its inhabitants.

How did Casagrande, acting as psychological counselor, undertake the physical and psychological reconstruction of Taipei City?

Invoking a phrase from the classic film "Metropolis" - "The mediator between the head and the hands must be the heart" - he sought to create and interface in which the people of Taipei exchanged and conveyed information, and directly participated in city planning.

Thus, collaborating with Martin Ross, an artist who works principally with the medium of iron, he created eight "Trojan Rocking Horses". Tamkang University Architecture Department students carried these iron horses in a procession through every corner of Taipei City. The city's residents, intimately familiar with this living environment, wrote down their dreams, memories, thoughts and opinions, and threw them inside the horses.

Martin Ross and Marco Casagrande marching towards the Taipei City Hall.

On November 11, the procession reached its final destination - Taipei City Hall, where Mayor Ma Ying-Jeou was invited to open the Trojan horses, and read aloud the messages coming from people at every level of society.

Mayor Ma Ying-Jeou writing his personal message to the Trojan Rocking Horse.

"Trojan Rocking Horses" invited a large cross-section of the public to participate in a dialogue with the city, exploring a substantive, new perspective of the city centered on human beings, and conveying the outlook of the art project, "The Human Layer_Taipei". Casagrande's Trojan horses symbolized the urban nomadic reality of postindustrial times, serving as a metaphor for the instability of the relationship between modern people and the environment in which they exist.

A Trojan Horse visiting the Taipei Museum of Fine Arts.

At the same time, he transformed the Trojan horses into a "public letterbox", contemplating the partnership relationship between the public and policy-makers, in an attempt to demarcate the boundaries of civic society. Casagrande's method, allowing art to serve public issues, was originally a risky undertaking, but he created a dialogue platform for sharing and exchange (a public letterbox), consciously guiding the public to discuss the current state of their surrounding living environments, and avoiding the trap of art serving the purposes of politics.

Doctor Ai.

In an interactive web site, Marco Casagrande adn his collaborators transmitted information on Taipei residents which they gathered in the various corners of the city, and reported their plan of action. Using the model of Internet dissemination, they introduced Taipei into a network of dialogue among cities around the globe.


Taipei on the Move mapped the human terrain of Taipei City through art. In the human space we wish to create, art is a method, a catalyst, a form of questioning. Adopting such a goal which has no hard and fast destinations, the designs of these five art workshops revealed the views and thoughts of the youth, women, senior citizens and ordinary residents of the city regarding themselves, society, culture and their environment.

Ma Ying-Jeou and Marco Casagrande dressed in the height of fashion.

Unlike most public events or performances, the Taipei on the Move workshops achieved the dual objectives of civic discourse and public pedagogy, becoming a new genre of public art.

This category of public art no longer is merely the expression of a single object or a group of objects within a space. Through the concept of new genre public art, Taipei on the Move has presented alternative ways to explore questions of space, environment, education, ethnicity, gender and local identity.

Taipei on the Move, 2005. Editor Jo Hsiao. Department of Cultural Affairs, Taipei City Government, Taiwan 2005

Marco Casagrande

Martin Ross and Marco Casagrande with a Trojan Rocking Horse in Taipei, 2004. Photo: Nikita Wu.

l was really happy to get invited to Taipei on the Move 2004, and to be able to co-operate with Martin Ross.

The whole process took shape in a rather peculiar way. First of all, I wanted to drive to Taipei from my home in Finland, where also the Alaska-grown Marty lives. Knowing the Huns and Mongolians had ridden to Europe on horses some time ago, I also thought I would need to ride a horse to China and Taiwan. This would take of course too much time and patience, so I chose a motorcycle, which was close enough to a horse.

KTM 640LC4 in Kazakhstan.

Marty agree with my plan and backed me up by taking a Chevy Van across the Eurasian continent. I rode my iron horse to the Chinese border south of Kazakhstan, where we finally faced the Great Wall and had to leave the vehicles there...not this kind of driving in the Mainland yet. So we took a bus to Urumqi and then flew the plane of humiliation to Hong Kong and Taipei.

Here, the horse thing then continued. They said in Tamkang University that my name is Ka Ma Ko and that M means a horse and I understood that my name is something like a dead-end horse. Not a very good name. Fortunately I learned soon that the Mayor of Taipei shares the same destiny: Mister Ma. Dear Brother Horse Sir! Also Martin is a horse: Ma Ti. So the obvious Brotherhood of the Horse started to take shape n the form of an urban planning strategy.

Ma Ying-jeou, Martin Ross, Marco Casagrande.

I wanted to share the heavy burden Mayor Ma carries of trying to understand and develop the city, and to follow the way of Fritz Lang in Metropolis: The Mediator between the Head and the Hands must be the Heart. Mayor Ma is the Head and the Taipei citizens are the Hands. I wanted to create the Mediator.

There was no other way of course than using the Horse as the Mediator. When it comes to city planning, the Trojan Horse is the easy and the obvious example. I agreed with the tactics of the Trojan Horse but wanted to attack the city with positive things.

One of the horses was travelling on water.

As Mayor Ma is in the centre of the Taipei city drama anyway, I decided to symbolically attack the city and then surround him - but instead of demanding the keys to the city, I wanted to hand them to him. I received the keys from the normal people, the Hands.

C-Laboratory lining up outside the Taipei City Hall.

So the Trojan Rocking Horse is an attempt to record the common subconscious of Taipei City, and to work as a public mailbox for the citizens to deliver their dreams, memories or comments about their living environment.

Later of, the data will be analyzed as the base intelligence for urban planning in Taipei, following the Fritz Lang's maxim: "The mediator between the head and the hands must be the heart."

Tuomas Makkonen, Tamkang operators and a citizen.

Human Layer_Taipei

Artists: Marco Casagrande and Martin Ross
Participants: Taipei citizens and the Mayor of Taipei

Martin Ross and Marco Casagrande in Taipei 2004.