Stage Time & Wine origins

Charles Haines, Master of Cups, Artist and dedicated Red Roomer, shares his memory of the Red Room’s creation:

Being part of the first days of Red Room was pretty amazing. It started sitting around a table at Roma’s house. Ayesha, who is the co-founder of Red Room, presented us with her idea for the Red Room platform [at that table]. She had traveled to Taidung and she had met Ping Chu there. They got talking about what she wanted to do, which was create a listening space, and a sharing space. Ping just happened to have a place where we could do this. This partnership, which started during that meeting, led to the creation of the Red Room.

She talked with us about it after that first meeting with Ping. We started throwing around ideas about what we were going to do, and who we were going to invite, and the name of the event. We had the name Red Room, but we wanted a subtitle to give a better- nobody [knew] what Red Room [was], so we needed something to explain [it]. Manav came out of his room and said “Why don’t you call it Stage Time & Wine?” and that was it. He walked back into his room and we didn’t hear from him again. I think he was, like, eighteen at the time. His involvement with the Red Room grew progressively and he used to open each Stage Time & Wine with a poem he wrote.

I wasn’t really very much involved with the organizing of any of the events at that time. I sat in and talked about things, but it was very kind of organic that first one. We were just asking friends to come and play music. At the very first Stage Time & Wine, I worked with Manav at the bar. We had a great time together. I think it was that night that we bonded. I did not know then how much a part of my life he would become and I am so grateful that we worked together at the first Red Room bar.

Since we didn’t know whether it was going to be a onetime thing—one Stagetime & Wine– or six months, or whatever, we didn’t really plan for Red Room to be what it’s become. It’s grown every year. We definitely didn’t know when we were sitting around the table what Red Room would become.

I think, after that first one, a lot of people that were involved were so excited about it. It was their enthusiasm that encouraged Ayesha, and all of us, to do it as a once-a-month event for as long as there was an interest. Ayesha left a few months later and Roma and Manav have run with it and made it what Red Room is today.

14 March 2016

Image: The earliest invitation to Stage Time & Wine, art by Charles Haines.

What is the origin of the name Red Room?

The Red Room was essentially named as a feeling. It turned out the room that I imagined to be ‘red’ was in fact very very ‘green’ … but in my memory there was a warmth, a character somewhat crimson and understated. After coming up with the event name of ‘Stage Time and Wine’, I suppose the wine itself bled into my mind, a seeping stain that could in some way support the activities that would happen within. Why house a single event as a room in a greater space? Perhaps an intuition or a hope of things to come, of more rooms having opportunity to build themselves and nestle within the scaffolding. Stories tend to unfold in red rooms.

Ayesha Mehta, Co-Founder Red Room
Founder Ayama Music
18 July 2017

Image: Co-founder Ayesha at one of the early Stage Time & Wine events.

Meet the Carpenter: Jeff

bed-and-chair

Photos by JJ Chen

Jeff, carpenter and owner of “Any Asshole Can Do It- The Hand Job”, didn’t always run a business with a humorous, double entendre name. He worked in audio production for roughly two decades before turning his attention, and his hands, to woodwork. While the leap from sound engineering to carpentry may seem like a big, it was natural for Jeff who grew up building his own toys and helping his grandfather on the farm. To him, carpentry was just another form of creativity, and it offered its own set of fascinating challenges.

Hard at work

Hard at work Photo by Jeff.

For the past year he has re-purposed, restored, and designed furniture. His projects have ranged from cutting boards to cat castles, from salvaged shelves to rustic boxes for Vinyl records. One of his most recent projects lead him to Red Room after Red Roomers approached him with Khatiyas — Indian beds known for their lightness and their woven wood– and a chair, which desperately needed attention. The Khatiyas were a special challenge, requiring a lot of research, and even more care. On his Facebook page, Jeff describes working with his hands as something “spiritual”, and for Red Roomers the newly restored Khatiyas reflected his hard work and attentiveness.

The chair-- before and after Jeff worked on it.

The chair– before and after Jeff worked on it. Photo by Jeff.

Yet, this dedication is not what makes him distinctive. Underlying his dedication and ingenuity, is a commitment to the environment stemming from his grandfather’s farmer ethos. He’s carried this philosophy of re-using, and re-forming materials his entire life, and it has allowed him to see materials others have disposed of not for what they are, but what they could be. Added to this, Jeff only uses natural stains and polishes, ensuring that his finished pieces are chemical free. Like always, his reasons for mixing these natural stains is part curiosity and part effort to change our world from a disposable one to a sustainable one.

To learn more about Jeff, his work, and his future plans with the Red Room, read the full interview below.
If you have a piece that needs attention, or would like to see more of Jeff’s work, he can be reached via his Facebook page.

When did you start making furniture other pieces?

My grandfather, who raised me, was a farmer. He always built what he needed, as most farmers do. Nothing is thrown away; It’s repaired until it can’t be any more, and then it’s repurposed. Because we were in a very rural area of Nova Scotia, I learned very young to build things to play with. Imagination out of necessity taught me creativity. From there I was moved to live on a hippie commune. Again, I had to create what I wanted to have. It grew from there.

Why and how did you start? What is it you find interesting about it?

I had a career in audio production for 20 some years. For the last 10 I’ve been living in Taiwan and married and I have always been fixing things in our home. When I stopped working in Isaac [with audio production], I started to make more things. I made something for my wife all of her friends loved it, they all wanted me to make [the same thing]. I started a business never really thinking it would take off, however within two or three months it quickly became the majority of my income. Now, at the end of the first year, it is my home job. What I love about it is that it’s never the same, I get the joy of creation just like I did [with audio production], except no one can download my furniture and then tell me they are not stealing from me, they are stealing from the record company. [That] kind of ruined music for me and I needed to find a source for the joy of creation somewhere else. This fit the bill.

How would you describe your work? Do you consider yourself an artist, a craftsman?

I don’t, and I honestly try to avoid that as much as possible. I’m not a wordsmith and I generally find any self inflicted description of one’s work easily falls into painful pretensions, so I let others do that. When I’m forced to I use humour and double entendre to deflect. Artist or craftsman? Neither, I’m a mechanic. I fix things that need to be repaired or I help to bring things that already exist in the material into the light of day.

I noticed much of your work comes from salvaged, repurposed or recycled material. How important is sustainability and the environment in your work?

Incredibly, part of that ethos obviously comes from my grandfather’s farmer ethic of no wasted materials, and part of it comes from my resentment of living in a disposable world. My use of natural stains and finishes is two fold: one my grandfather always wanted to but he did not have access to the internet to research how it was done a thousand years ago, and two I’ve never understood why people wanted to fill their homes with things that slowly leech carcinogens into the air. It’s part of my personal attempt to do less harm and leave a smaller footprint. We use petrochemical based things not because they are better but because they are easy to mass produce and generate huge profits for big industry. We can do better, we did for a long time before petrochemicals exploded in the 19th century , we can do better again.

A piece he salvaged

A piece he salvaged from the side of the road. Photo by Jeff.

I’ve also heard that you do not use chemicals when treating wood. Why is that? What do you use instead and what are the advantages?

Petrochemicals are used in modern woodworking because they are quick and cheap. Humans have created beautiful objects from wood millennia before petrochemicals, I choose to use things that don’t leach carcinogens into our homes because I am not an idiot. We all have the choice.

You said that part of your decision to think about sustainability comes from “your resentment of living in a disposable world”. Could you expand on that? Do you see the world changing at all?You end with saying that “we can do better again”– how do you see that happening?

I don’t know if resentment is the right word, more along the lines of embarrassment or shame. The whole instant gratification of “I want it now” and the dopamine rush of social media likes. We live in this constant cycle of fear and consumption. Media constantly grinds out stories that feed our baser fears , and drives us to buy things we don’t need. We get the warm feeling of accomplishment and security from buying extra whitening teeth strips because a commercial told us we are social failures if our teeth don’t shine like a thousand suns. That kind of baseless gratification and laziness should be an embarrassment to any thinking person. Do I see the world changing? That’s not for me to say. Can I change my world, my impact, my circle of influence? Yes I can .

Copper and pine salvaged from a factory demolition

Copper and pine salvaged from a factory demolition. Photo by Jeff.

What sort of pieces do you most love working on?

The pieces that are most exciting to me are antique restoration and pieces that combine and re-purpose: antiques because I get to extend the life of something, re-purposing because it provides that pure design and invention rush. For instance, recently I made a entryway coat and key hook unit from cast iron singer, sewing tables, and walnut slabs I rescued from a lumber mill scrap pile. The coat hooks were made from railway spikes. That kind of pure rescue reuse and creation is absolute pleasure.

How did you get involved with the Red Room? Why?
I got involved with Red Room because the lovely Roma contacted me and asked if I could do some restoration work. I knew nothing of Red Room at that point but was intrigued.
Could you tell me a bit more about the Khatiyas you restored for the Red Room? What is your restoration process like?

The restoration of the Khatiyas was a series of challenges and a lot of research. When I first got them they were in really bad shape and I needed to stabilize them, to stop further deterioration. They had a profound termite infestation, and were wet, and the wood and sinew were rotting. I needed to identify the wood and then work backwards. The termite and water damage problems were solved with sunshine– weeks and weeks of constant rotation in the sun, making sure all surfaces were exposed to long, direct sun. That actually took almost a month of daily rotations and quick covers during the afternoon rains. Once I had them stabilized I had to remove the damaged material and start building them back up. I used a lot of hardwood pieces hand cut to fit in weakened or broken joints and unfortunately on one I had to resort to adding some epoxy because the structure had been so badly damaged. The last step was to apply a coconut oil and beeswax finish to seal them against further moisture and insect damage.

One of the Khatiyas

One of the Khatiyas. Photo by Jeff.

You said the Khatiyas needed a lot of research. What kind of research did you do? Was it mostly practical?

The research I had to do for the Khatiyas was 90% practical and the rest was curiosity. I needed to find as much info as I could regarding woods commonly used and construction methods, as well as an overall history of the objects. They are utilitarian but they are also so incredibly infused with beauty, one of those rare things that perfectly balances form and function. I just wanted to learn as much as I could about them before I laid out my plans to save them.

Have you since gone to any Red Room events?

I have not gone to many other Red Room events I’ve been to a few, they were lovely. I, however am not a very social person. I spent 20 years touring, playing, socializing and schmoozing as a professional musician. I’m social’ed out. I’d much rather spent quiet time with my wife my wood and my dogs. I lead a very quiet life; I work, I train, I spar, I love; repeat.
Much of what you’ve said in your interview, to me at least, seems like something Red Roomers would be interested in. Do you think you’d ever be willing to hold a workshop at the Red Room?
Roma and I have been talking about doing a workshop at Red Room, it is something that we will probably do in 2017, but right now I’m just trying to build up the business. I’m not at the point where I can refuse work while I establish the name. That keeps me booked up about 4 weeks in advance. A wonderful thing but not very flexible.

What is it about designing and inventing that interests you? Did you find your ability to create new pieces relied on practice? That is, has it become easier since you’ve started? Are there any similarities between your work in sound engineering and you work repurposing and designing new pieces?

It’s pure creation, that place where you can get lost for days. That ability, of course, becomes easier as I master new techniques. Like any other muscle the more you work it, the stronger it becomes. It adds more possibilities to my quiver and more freedom in the work. Sound engineering requires creative problem solving as much as carpentry and re-purposing do. They all rely heavily on your ability to see what something can be, not what it is.

 

Leah List

Photos courtesy of Jeff and JJ Chen.

Interview with Brendon Chen

Painting, singing and dancing are some of the oldest forms of human expression. While each of them can be viewed through an academic lens, only two are considered entertainment in Taiwanese society according to Brendon Chen, founder of the Escape Artist. “Nowadays, in modern society, we still do singing and dancing as entertainment, but most of the people [have forgotten] that painting is fun,” he told me over a cup of coffee. Chen believes he found the solution to this dilemma when he opened the Escape Artist.

The Escape Artist’s slogan “The Art of Paintertainment” is a pithy summary of Chen’s long term vision of reintroducing painting as less an esoteric practice and more a form of every day entertainment. Teaching visitors and customers goes against the Escape Artist philosophy—this isn’t a space where one pays for tutelage, rather it is a space for amateurs and experts to gather with their friends to connect with others, and themselves, through art. To that end, the studio includes a place in the back, filled with rustic benches where friends can gather and drink coffee while their paintings dry.

Chen found that people who painted without pressure or critique, who painted with those whom they felt comfortable around, they would able to realize their own creativity. Too many people deny their own creativity because they view artistry beyond their grasp, but allowing them to come and splash any color they wish on a canvas teaches them that creativity is inborn. Moreover, the creativity that comes from this painting is more than art, more than even entertainment; it is a way to communicate with the self.

It’s unsurprising that someone who seeks to promote such a vision would connect with Red Room. After being introduced to Red Room by co-founder Ping Chu, Chen has continued to attend and support Red Room events, speaking at Red Room’s Aside in 2013 and sponsoring canvases, easels and paint for Red Room’s annual live art events. To Chen, Red Room and the Escape Artist hold similar dreams of people truly expressing and understanding themselves and each other. Both the Escape Artist and Red Room allow people to “enjoy some wine, the company of a friend, and expressing [themselves]” and he hopes more people will find enjoyment in these simple pleasures as the Escape Artist and Red Room become more prevalent.

To learn more about the Escape Artist, and their connection with Red Room, check out the interview below.

What is the philosophy behind the Escape Artist?

We believe that painting is one of the oldest, and most important, forms of entertainment for human beings. Nowadays in modern society, we still sing and dance as entertainment but most people [have forgotten] that painting is fun. They view painting as an academic thing, especially in Taiwan. People here don’t go to museums or galleries to view paintings. They think it has nothing to do with their lives.

We started the Escape Artist not as an art space but as an entertainment place. Just like we go to KTV to sing, we go to night clubs to dance, we come here to paint.

Long term the reason we started the Escape Artist is we want more people to get to know themselves, so they will choose something they like and not something the media tells them they should like.

Painting is very special. It’s a unique form of expression because it’s the only one where you can receive [what you create]. It’s a self-communication process: you get to know yourself better through painting because you can see what you create.
Through painting people will feel more comfortable about themselves; then they will feel more comfortable with their surroundings, too. It’s very important that the people are willing to step out first.

If more people experience painting, I’m sure they’ll appreciate art more. Since art is part of their life there is a bigger change they will go to galleries to enjoy looking at paintings, buy paintings or they might actually create a painting.

I think in a sense you sort of stepped out to start this business. What was that process like and was there a moment when you knew it would work?

I always had faith that it was going to work, but I have to admit that it was harder than I thought it would be, much, much harder.

I still remember the night before all the investors started wiring the money into the account. It was the first time I couldn’t sleep in my life. Before the Escape Artist, I didn’t have any staff or any investors to report to, so it was really a lot of pressure.

In the end, I decided I still wanted to do it. I always had faith it was going to work.

How did you come up with this idea? What was it that sparked your inspiration?

I studied jewelry design in Milan and I was a musical actor so when I came to Taiwan people always introduced me as their artsy, creative friend. I would say “You’re creative, too”. They would say “Trust me I am not.” They have no confidence in their creativity, but arguing with someone whether they are creative or not is like arguing whether they are a ghosts or God. They won’t believe it unless they experience it.

So my ex-girlfriend and I started to seek out a way for them to experience this. We did some research [on painting] and realized it’s entertaining, it’s fun and it’s relaxing.

It’s kind of a social activity because, while you’re waiting for the paint to dry, you get to talk to people and when you’re painting a lot of ideas may come up.
If you’re cooking, if it’s not delicious then it’s not delicious. If you’re making pottery, if it leaks then it leaks. If you’re gardening then the plant might die. In the end no one can fail at painting. Everyone has a different style, no one is better than anyone else.

Is it, to an extent, a cultural thing in Taiwan, this lack of confidence in creativity or this assumption that you have to be trained to be creative? Did you open this, in a sense, to shift the culture? Have you seen any sort of change since you’ve opened this business and if so how?

More than eighty percent of the people who come here the first time don’t believe they can paint. That’s also why most of our customers have been brought by people who’ve already been here.

In Chinese we have this saying “I don’t have an artistic cell in my body”, but the truth is every cell of human beings is artistic. It’s in our genes, so there’s no way anyone is not artistic. Once they start painting they realize that.
There was a girl who came with three of her friends that didn’t believe she could paint, so she insisted on not painting. She sat [at the table], drank coffee and watched them. After two and a half hours– the other three girls had been laughing and splashing paint on each other– she somehow decided she wanted to paint. The other three girls were like “We’re almost done, we’re about to leave.” That girl was like “I don’t care, I want to paint.” So then it was her friends sitting at the table and drinking coffee. After two hours the girl started to scream “I can’t believe I painted this! There’s no way this is my painting. I painted this!” She kept walking away from the painting because she couldn’t believe it. Eventually I had to stop her from falling down the stairs. We don’t teach them here so she knew one hundred that the painting was created by her.

This kind of magic happens every day. I guess that’s the effect we want.

You don’t teach here. Is that explicitly against your philosophy?

The thing is that if someone made a painting and there’s a mountain and a grass field and a sky. Maybe they think the sky is a little bit empty so they ask me “Do you think I should add something to the sky?”. If I say yes then there are two results. First, they like the result and will think “Brendon is the master. He told me to do this and the picture is awesome” so it’s my credit, not theirs.
If they don’t like the result they’ll think “Oh, even though Brendon helped me, I still can’t do it.” When someone has no confidence that’s what they will do. No matter what they still think they can’t do it, but if I don’t have any influence on their painting, they will know one hundred percent it’s from them.
The most important part is we want them to know one hundred percent that everything is from their heart, that they can’t deny that’s their creativity.
Also, if it’s your first time you won’t know your style. If I teach you, you’ll copy my style and probably you will delay the process of finding your own for many years.

You announced at the RR that you were going to open this business?

Yes, when we started it we told them it would happen in the next week

You also spoke at an Aside in 2013.

Yes, we spoke about creativity.

How did you first get involved with the RR? What drew you to it?

The Escape Artist is more a social responsibility for me. I can’t say it’s not a business, it has to be a business in order to keep itself sustainable, but our goal is to have the most influence while making money not making money while having some influence.

We knew Ping Chu [the co-founder of Red Room] for many years. We consulted Ping because he’s a successful businessman and he has a business a good purpose, and that’s what we want to do. So Ping asked us to share it at Red Room and that’s how we go to know Red Room.

Now, when there’s something we can do to help Red Room we try help Red Room too.

After that initial introduction what is it about the RR that made you want to continue the partnership? What is it that you like about the RR?

I like to read a lot and, especially when I’m speaking in Mandarin, in a lot of people’s minds I’m a dreamer. I’m idealistic. People will say “people don’t talk like this anymore”, [but they do at Red Room].

One thing I like about red room is that it encourages people to use poetry. They read poems, they write poems. Around that they have singing, literature and sharing.

After sharing poems and literature and song, Red Room began to involve more art—like at Artists Break the Mold. Of course it has something to do with painting, so we got involved.

Stage Time & Wine’s slogan encourages people to listen to others. When someone is sharing you don’t talk about your thing, you listen to what he’s about to share. That’s also something I think is very important nowadays.

We take different approaches to expose as many people to this kind of atmosphere that’s not so realistic or capitalistic. Not just talk about stuff but also talk about what’s inside of you, what you want to say. It’s not about performance, but about expression. Red Room and the Escape Artist encourage people not to meet someone’s expectations—not their boss, not their frienda, not society’s– but to explore who they are and what they like. That’s why we’ve always worked together.

Is there a memory you have of attending or a time when EA and RR collaborated that really stands out?

Actually the first time I went to Red Room, Manav read a poem he wrote. Itgave me tons of goosebumps. That was the first time I’d heard someone reading a poem to me, usually because I’m the only one who reads poems among my friends, but reading a poem from a book is very different from someone reading it to you. You could tell Manav liked poetry when he read it. I guess it makes a difference, you can feel that he’s passionate about writing and literature.

I don’t say that because he’s one of the leaders of Red Room. The first time I went to Red Room I didn’t know who he was.

I think that’s the kind of influence Red Room can have on a lot of people. Of course I know a lot of people might not feel it because they might not be ready to do it but eventually they’ll join this kind of event more.

That’s why I think Artist Break The Mold and [the upcoming] Artist Bridge The Gap is the kind of big event that can influence more people, just in one day! That might draw other people to RED Room and I think it will change their lives.


Leah List is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan’s Political Science and International Studies program. She is an aspiring writer, researcher, human rights advocate and a believer in the importance of storytelling. She currently resides in Tianmu. In her free time, she can be found at the Red Room where she volunteers.

Meet the Artist: Ale Bara

Born in Guatemala, Ale Bara, a self-described nomad with “itchy feet”, has lived and created art in countries across Europe and North America, and chose to come to Taiwan after leaving Kenya. Formally trained in industrial design, Bara paints not for financial success, but because she likes it. Since her childhood, she has filled sketchbooks with comics and today she paints not only to communicate to the world but also to escape to another one. One she hopes will make her audience smile, just as the people who crossed her path have.

Her first foray into creating art outside of her sketchbooks happened in 2004 when Under Dusken, a Norwegian magazine, hired her to create comic accompaniments for their articles. Today, many of her pieces depict funny characters she’s adapted from real life and depicted in a whimsical, colorful way.

Two attendees pause to take in a view of Bara's artwork at the opening night of Visual Dialogues 3.

Two attendees pause to take in a view of Bara’s artwork at the opening night of Visual Dialogues 3.

Since then Bara has exhibited her art the world over, her itchy feet leading her to discover new techniques, people and lifestyles in each new place which she has integrated. Often her illustrations reflect something idiosyncratic about the country she resides, the comic exhibited at the Red Room depicting a foreign character trying stinky tofu and navigating Taiwan’s motorcycle filled traffic is one example of this.

Bara's umbrellas hung festively across the Red Room's ceiling

Bara’s umbrellas hung festively across the Red Room’s ceiling

The umbrellas that continue to adorn the Red Room are another example of her creative incorporation. Initially created for the Chinese New Year, put together these umbrellas create a giant goat which cares for everyone from its vantage point in the heavens.  Perhaps most inspiring to her about Taiwan is the dedication to artisanship and handcrafts. “Everything in Taiwan is so well done,” she said. “I would love for my work to be like that.” Since coming to Taiwan she has increasingly experimented with different materials from rice baskets to bamboo to giant canvases.

In the interview below, Bara speaks a little bit more about her personal art style and how she became involved with the Red Room.

Bara pictured with several attendees at the opening night of Visual Dialogues 3

Bara pictured with several attendees at the opening night of Visual Dialogues 3

    You developed this world full of these characters that are inspired by the people you see in everyday life. How has your style evolved over the years?

    Well I have moved a lot, so I think it depends on the people who have crossed my path. They make my style different.
    I started doing the noses on the characters I have now when I was in Kenya, because I just saw big noses everywhere. The bald heads also are influenced by Kenya because a lot of people shaved their heads there.
    [Every time I travel I see] the people, the features, the color– everything is different– so I think I just start grabbing things from every culture. [I look at] the way people are, the way people dress and react and I think that’s what changes my style, just traveling.

    Do you think switching from digital to a hand drawn method has made you think more carefully about what you choose to include? 

    Well I think digital work is much easier. Everything is possible. So with painting by hand you have to know how to do a lot of stuff so it takes a while for you to get there. I’m trying to paint by hand, but I don’t have technique, so it’s just lots of color and very, very simple. I hope someday I will develop a technique.
    At the beginning I did think more carefully because when I draw in my sketchbooks I really like them really neat. I started drawing with pencil and erasing and drawing and erasing. Then I thought, well, mistakes can be a beautiful thing, so now I only draw with pen. If I make a mistake I try to think of how to fix it and how to make it part of my piece.
    Now it doesn’t really make me think more, it makes my piece become something different than what I thought at the beginning.

    I noticed on your website that you did an exhibition and the materials were rescued from the recycling bin. What motivated you to do that and how do you feel using those materials, rather than something purchased for the store, changed your art or improved it?

    I think it’s because I’m all about recycling and not spending money if I don’t have to. When I was living in New York I started seeing all these things that people threw out. In New York they just put it on the sidewalk so someone else can take it. You would just be walking and find amazing things that you could paint on.
    It has worked very well and I think it looks really nice. It gives live to something that for someone was dead before.

    What is your favorite thing that you resurrected or transformed? Is there anything that stands out?

    I have painted so many things. I didn’t find it in the street, but I found some bamboo spoons that I really like. So I think I like painting on bamboo—the texture is really cool and the color of the bamboo is really nice.

    A rice basket is one example of the "unusual" material Bara likes to use for her art

    A rice basket is one example of the “unusual” material Bara likes to use for her art

    How did you start developing your characters in 2004?

    When you are an illustrator you have to start developing a style because they hire you based on your style, but I do have different styles like you can see in the exhibition.
    Like the zodiac collection, I had never drawn animals before. I didn’t quite like the result, but that’s what turned out. I just keep experimenting and seeing what I can do.

    How do you deal with and move from art which your unsatisfied? What was your response to the zodiac collection?

    I have the ability to move on quickly and to just let go. It didn’t turn out how I wanted “okay, let’s exhibit and see what people think of it”. Some people liked it even though I didn’t; they bought most of the collection.
    I just put it out and some people like it and some people don’t. You must find a home for whatever you have.

    You mentioned there are moments when you don’t like the end result, but are there moments where you’re uncertain throughout the process but love the results?

    Yeah, most of the time. I think I have a problem because I don’t like doing the same things.
    Everything I do is just an experiment. When I started trying to sell my art some people told me “you know you should just do this style and stick to it because that’s what people like”, but that doesn’t really make me happy. Sometimes you like red and sometimes you like blue, so why always stick with red just to satisfy people?
    Now I don’t care about people that much, unless it’s a commission.  Sometimes it’s really hard to do commissions because sometimes you just don’t want to draw, or you just see something that inspires you and you want to draw exactly that.

    Are there ever moments during a commission where you feel you’ve discovered a part of you that you wouldn’t have otherwise discovered because you were forced to think in another way?

    Sometimes, but very few times, like right now I have a commission with zodiac animals.  I really didn’t want to do them because I didn’t really like the other ones so I really cracked my head and thought about it and sketched. The [end] result was awesome! I really liked it.

    Ultimately the clients have to trust me. I always tell them I have to do my own stuff. I’ve lost clients because they’ve told me to do something else and I’ve refused. I refuse to do something I’m not passionate about.

    What do you hope your art communicates? Does it change with each piece of art you complete or is there a general feeling you hope to evoke in people?

    I just paint because it makes me feel really good. When I’m angry or sad, I paint and everything just goes away. For me, drawing has been an escape from this kind of weird world; that’s why I draw.  That’s the way I communicate. I’m very introverted, so I can make a drawing for you if you want me to say something.
    I describe my art as funny and quirky. I just want to make people smile when they see because they make me smile. That’s it . Very simple.

    How were you approached for Visual Dialogues?

    I’m always willing to participate and give a hand, so Red Room always calls me to see if I’m free to do stuff and I’m always free to do stuff.
    Originally, I wasn’t going to take part in Visual Dialogues because I thought I didn’t have something to share. Then Charles wrote me and asked me to participate. He said I’d be perfect for the last one. It’s mutual participation. They call me and I’m eager to just be there and paint.

    How do you think the Red Room community has affected your art at all? Has being  in the community beyond painting changed anything for you?

    Yeah, actually, I had to paint on a big canvas for Artists Break the Mold and Artists Break the Flood.
    I’d only painted on small things because they take less time and I’m impatient. I thought final piece on the big canvas was awesome. I really like how my characters looked.  Even though I’d done murals, it was  different on the canvas.
    I think that’s how Red Room has helped. They’ve kind of encouraged me to paint on a big scale. The pieces in Visual Dialouges, the big ones, I wouldn’t have decided to do before because I had never experienced it. I experienced it with Red Room.

    [At the Red Room] artists are experiencing mural paintings, big canvas paintings, and other sort of mediums.  Red Room is giving them the opportunity to do that which is just pretty cool.

Meet Our Partners: Research & Development Cocktail Lab

“Hidden and hard to find,” one reviewer, who left a five star rating, says about Research & Development Cocktail Lab. She couples her comment with a picture of the ethanol molecule, R&D’s logo, and instructs others to look for it if lost. It’s true, R&D is more challenging to find than the average bar but, if anything, that adds to its appeal. R&D Cocktail Lab draws its inspiration from speakeasies, which were popular hidden bars during the prohibition era, but it’d be a mistake to only label it a western business.

The founders of R&D opened the lab in 2014 after observing the paucity of Taiwanese ingredients utilized in cocktails around Taiwan.  Accordingly, their drinks are often crafted to highlight the fresh ingredients they purchase from farmers around Taiwan. “We’re supporting a livelihood and we find a lot of passion [in Taiwan],” Spencer Huang, one of the founders said about why buying produce from Taiwan was so important. Huang said it was important to build a relationship with each farmer and make sure they felt respected and part of the process.

“One of my favorite farms is actually a farm that we don’t buy the most product from because he doesn’t have the volume for it,” Huang confessed. The farmer avoids pesticides, which may sound simple, but requires immense dedication. Not only does he make his own fertilizer, but he also must prevent beetles from destroying his crop. This involves ‘de-beetling’ every, single tree two times a week. “When you taste this, the yield is much better…” Huang commented. “It’s people like that, that when you talk to them, they respect their ingredients. They respect their process as much as we respect ours and those are the types of people we want to work with.”

The interior of R&D emulates a Chinese medicine shop, with its many shelves and decorative window screens. While the visual is partly to allow aesthetic pleasing hiding places for tools, the founders also chose it because it reflects, in part, the philosophy of their business. The owner of a Chinese medicine shop must be meticulously familiar with all processes  and products in their shop. Any customer can expect the same level of meticulousness when served one of their ‘built to spec’ drinks. Huang, both enthusiastic and particular about his work, emphasizes that R&D focuses on craftsmanship, which he says emphasizes the desires of the “guest” rather than the tastes of the bartender. The bartender’s tastes are ‘ancillary’; their knowledge is necessary. To ensure patron satisfaction, and because the owners are passionate about their craft, this is one of two rules R&D founders insist upon.

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The other, requiring all employees to speak Taiwanese (and English, which Huang believes is easy to find), has more to do with their desire to “bridge [the] gap between East and West”.  R&D doesn’t intend to serve a solely foreign demographic, nor a solely Taiwanese demographic. Rather, the owners hope for it to be a place for people of all backgrounds to feel comfortable and welcome.

As R&D develops, the owners also hope to continue emphasizing culture-bonding and storytelling. For Huang, his business is not just about crafting drinks, but also creating stories. Every drink, by the time you drink it, has collected many stories—from the stories of those who grew and mixed its ingredients, to those of the bartenders who crafted it. Huang realizes that “we are a story-telling culture” and this is part of the reason, R&D has recently started a partnership with the Red Room which has resulted in a new ‘Red Room’ drink, the 臺Walla (Taiwalla). Read more about the how the partnership started and what R&D and the Red Room have in store for Red Roomers below:


Would you want to talk a little bit about how the partnership with the Red Room started?

If you just go from a product aspect it doesn’t really make sense why Red Room would pair up with R&D. I mean, it’s not a logical partnership when you look at it through a business perspective. So you look back at it and say ‘Let’s just take business out of it’. It’s really about culture building. We at R&D are very, very much interested [in culture building]. We hope to create good bonds with the local Taiwanese, because we want them to know we are proud of them [and of] what Taiwan has to offer. So, really, we should be seeing what the locals really appreciate. What do they really value– especially in the artistic community and in a community where people are finding things really out of the ordinary?

That’s where R&D and Red Room really found their middle ground. The idea behind [臺Walla] would be that Red Room, from the beginning, has always served Chai…that is a core ideal of Red Room. Stone soup and tea really gets the ball rolling and gets people talking together. Then we started thinking “What can we do to that that would really make it special? What is something that would be uniquely theirs, that everyone can look at and say ‘Wow, this seems so familiar, yet is new’. What kind of local ingredients can we find that we can throw in here that would be extremely interesting yet, at the same time, hold these same characteristics that we’re trying to retain?

What are the things that interest Red Room? What are the things that interest people that go to Red Room? What are the types of ingredients that we can use to pair with these types of people?

That right there is a cultural learning experience and that’s really fun. That’s really fun.

What is your impression of Red Room? What is it that you think Red Roomers are searching for? What is it that you hope to provide for them with these new drinks beyond the idea of coming together over a Red Room Chai or 臺Walla ?

[The Taiwan Airforce Base] is where the Red Room has taken a space, a real dedicated space, and turned it into something, and this something is still in flux. They’re still trying to define what that Red Room Space is going to be…but in the future, especially when you look at the Renaissance Fair, you can see how in the future they’re going to grow significantly and they’re going to become very important to the cultural program.

This type of improvement and this type of evolution that they’re on is really going to provide us with a lot of opportunities as well. The types of people that go through Red Room—and we’re talking moguls of aboriginal tribes who have really interesting ways of preparing food. The people who go through Red Room are the people we’d like to meet.

We can help them, provide for their bar and then at the same time they give us a lot of introductions to some really cool people.

I realize that this partnership has started rather recently in its current form, but do you have any stories of people you’ve met from the Red Room that you’d like to share, that you feel contributed to this idea of a cultural bonding or building connections between cultures and sort of understanding them. Is there any story that pops into your head?

I guess there would be two. The first one would be Manav. This is not a partnership that would’ve made sense to most people. It was really Manav that gave us the idea that we could really make this work. This reason is he is an Indian guy who went native. He speaks really great Chinese and he’s been here for a long time. He’s someone who has this sort of third culture kid mentality, but at the same time he’s very down to Earth. He likes sharing what he’s learned, he likes sharing the experiences that are not only fun for him but are also interesting to a lot of people, which is [part of why] why Red Room really works.

Maybe two or three months ago he introduced me to this woman, and she’s an aborigine costume designer, I believe. She brought up some of her friends that are also some local aborigines. They were really interesting for me to talk to, not because they had anything material to offer, but because they had the knowledge and the experience they were telling me about and they were sharing with me that were things that were unbelievably fascinating, things that would give you all sorts of ideas about what you could do.

Those are the types of conversations, and I guess Red Room really is a great place for those conversations. It’s where you go to get more information, where you got to meet people, like you were saying. This would be a prime example of that—both Manav and the woman, and then her friends. If anything ever comes of it, y’know, that would be great, but otherwise it was a great conversation that really gave us, as foreigners in Taipei, a good perspective on what else we’re missing.

Do you want to give people a hint of upcoming projects? Are there any projects that you are really excited by that, perhaps, you don’t want to reveal but you could hint at?

One of the coolest projects is our vessel project. We’re trying to think, well, how would we get Red Room in on this Red Room is full of artists, and that’s why I love it. It’s full of people who come from different backgrounds and different places and they work with different mediums and tools. If you can imagine having a clay vase or a clay bottle, something that you might see in an aboriginal tribe….these are the types of materials that are really fun to work with, to put our product in, not because it’s good for marketing, but because it makes people question.

You know, you walk and you can say “Hey I recognize this, but what’s in it today? What’s in this bottle today?” This bottle is from Red Room, it’s a Red Room and R&D mixture, but I have no idea what’s in it this month; it always changes. That’s something you’ll look for; y’know, you’ll walk in and you’ll look for it.

That in itself is a Red Room-R &D story. Everything that we can do to create these types of vessels, these types of glasses and cups where we don’t use our logo as just as stamp on the bottle, but we incorporate it into the design. Getting the Red Room community involved to help us develop things for the community is going to be really fun.

Meet the Artist: Kate Huang

Artist Kate Huang sits next to the finished painting.

Artist Kate Huang sits next to the finished painting.

“So we’ve talked a little bit about the Red Room and what it means to you. Do you want to talk a little bit about the anniversary and the painting that you did?”

On the 6th Anniversary, I chose to be the artist that captured the event. The location that I chose [was] the second floor, the indoor space. When I was standing there I looked at the space and what was going on and I thought about what I wanted to paint.  So then I came up with this idea: Why don’t I capture the movement and also the energy of the space?

I decided to pick the elements, mostly the color and also do it in a random way, to put some texture on the canvas. I started with all white, created the texture, then I chose the colors of the space. Then I started to invite the audience throughout the day to participate in coloring the painting.

The first participants were kids. I put the color in the paint and showed them how to use the roller to put the color on. The kids were so excited! While I was preparing they kept coming over to say “Can I paint now?” As they were asking, I knew that that was the right decision to invite the audience to participate. When I was ready they lined up together and each of them did one corner. They were great—five years old, four years old, twelve years old—they can all do it. People are amazing when you give them a place to shine. They kids helped me do the base color. Then, in between the shows, I started putting on more details. In the afternoon, I started to invite adults.

A participant chooses colors before having their hand painted (Photo Credit to Julia Kao)

I wanted to capture the energy and the people, to leave not footprints but handprints. I think in our life, all the people and all the events that we encounter, we leave footprints in each other’s hearts. That footprint transforms us; it stays in us. It doesn’t matter if you encounter this person for one second, one minute or one hour, more or less all these people leave footprints and they transform us. So that day, I wanted people to put their handprints to remember that experience. We transformed each other in a way and we will always have each other.

That’s what Red Room is all about, connecting people and creating and sharing moments together. So, that’s my idea of this painting.

“Had you ever done anything like that before? I feel you’ve touched on this, but what did you learn from the experience, besides the idea that we’re all leaving our marks on one another? Are there any interesting stories you have from a particular person or a moment where you realized your perspective on art had changed just by doing this or was it more a culmination of your journey?

Yes, it is definitely a culmination of my journey because I had never done interactive art before. At the beginning, as an observer to myself, I really saw that you have to let go if you want to invite people to participate in something and co-create with you.  You really need to learn to let go and trust—that was the biggest lesson that day. I really wanted to do that but, in the beginning when the kids were doing it, there was a small voice in the back of my head asking “Is this okay?” Of course, I wondered if they’d go a little bit too left or too right and those voices were trying to control everything. Then, at the same time, I told myself that every time I heard that voice I would acknowledge it, smile and let go.

The more I trusted people the more I realized that there were so many times that day that people did it in a way that was beyond my expectation. After the kids took one corner, there were times that I really felt that what they did inspired me and, once they’d finished, I could paint more on the canvas. So, that moment, that learning moment lead me to allow people to do things of their free will and I actually gained more. I gained something from it too because they brought me inspiration.

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What’s going to happen to the painting now?

Originally the idea was to sell it, but I just asked if Red Room would like to create the painting. It was created on the 6th anniversary and it was co-created by the people that were here together. I felt it meant more to keep it in Red Room than to sell it and I don’t see any price that could compare to the moment that we captured.

Red Room decided to keep the painting.

I actually participated in your painting and it was amazing. I thought it was so great that all of these people were gathering together and I saw people watching you. I feel like you opened a door for people to participate and feel they were part of something and part of the community.

Exactly.

Thank you so much for doing that and for making the audience feel more like a community member and not just an audience.

I thank Red Room and the people for being so open to that idea. I was a bit shy in the beginning as well because I didn’t know how people would feel about it, because they’d have to put paint on their hands and then wash them, but people were so supportive. So, to me, I felt like I was the one gaining a lot.

For years I worked on perfecting my skills in drawing in painting, but I think I got the largest emotional reaction from this painting. It made me laugh that I’d spent years trying to draw things I know and draw them in an exact way, but the painting I got the most compliments on is the one with no exact shape or figure.  It’s just purely fun, but people just love it the most. I think perhaps they love it because they participated in it; I think that’s a very important element.

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What do you have to say to people who want to do interactive art like you did? You mentioned in the beginning that you were a little shy, you weren’t sure how it would be received and I feel people always feel that way about art and approaching other people. What would you say to those people who are on the verge of deciding whether to do

You mean they have an idea to pitch?

Yeah, or if you do this participatory art and ask people to get involved with an idea? How do you overcome that shyness? Was it just gaining confidence the more people said ‘yes’? How did you push yourself to put yourself in that position?

I started with people I know.  I think that’s also one of the reasons I went with kids, it’s easier. So, I think just make things easier for yourself. Go with the people you feel most comfortable with. Trust your intuition, because I think doing anything the same. We often try to plan things with our mind, but we shouldn’t ignore that very pure intuition in your heart. I think that’s the simplest guidance. Some people make you feel easy, trust that feeling and then start from there.

Meet our partners: Bai Win Antiques

faye-baiwin-2I am sitting at a small table in Bai Win Antiques situated next to a stately bed overflowing with wrapped Christmas wreaths. Faye Angevine, recovering from surgery, sits across from me in a wheelchair; throughout the interview she rolls back and forth ceaselessly, still not accustomed to holding still. At one point she pauses and looks back at a couple inspecting a recreation of a Taiwanese kitchen. “Do you need help?” She asks them. “I’m being interviewed believe it or not. It doesn’t look like it, I’m eating a sandwich, but I am.”  She is a busy woman. In addition to running Bai Win Antiques, she dedicates a great deal of time to issues she cares about.

Bai Win primarily sells antiques and recreations, but Ms. Angevine also owns a series of small connected rooms packed with clothes, jewelry and art.  “I’m not into clothes,” she confessed to me. “So I had to open the showroom for a purpose.” Consequently, all or most of the money made from sales in the showroom go to a cause. Scattered around the room are demonstrations of her many passions: here information on an animal sanctuary, there jewelry made by women survivors of abuse. On one black table sits a plaque with information on the Red Room.

If you’ve been to the Red Room in recent months, you’ve probably found yourself lounging on the pillow covered dynasty bed, or plucked a book from its shelves. You’ve probably also wandered to the back of the room from time to time, to scoop up a delicious snack from the wooden table with splayed legs. What you may not have realized is both pieces come from Bai Win Antiques, one of the oldest antique stores in Taiwan. Naturally, all the pieces featured in the Red Room from Bai Win are either Taiwanese antiques or recreations and, according to Faye, are a unique and display of Taiwanese culture and skill.

So how does a purveyor of Taiwanese and Chinese antiques come to be involved with a community like the Red Room? “Roma Mehta!” she tells me when I ask her, throwing her hand up in the air with flourish. Roma, she said, had always been there to support her and her passions, and she felt she needed to support Roma’s. When she heard Roma speak about Red Room, she showed up. There she discovered a community which allows “artists to come and perform and create” and quickly concluded it was an “important”, and even necessary, part of society. She’s continued to attend Red Room events over the last half decade.

“Red Room kind of reminds me of my hippie days in the 60s– 60s and 70s,” she laughs before launching to an account of meeting other hitchhikers, playing music, and talking while traveling through Europe. “Wild times, I’m telling ya,” she pauses and looks away, a nostalgic grin on her face. “The Red Room actually reminds me of that era, that period of my life.” I ask her if she has a favorite memory of a Red Room event and she quickly launches into the story of an adventurer she’d once brought to a Red Room event:  “He was in World War II [and], I mean, he invaded Mussolini’s mother’s village. [Now] he had tales to tell.”

Half a decade has afforded her a lot of time to explore the different facets of Red Room and she’s developed a taste for certain Red Room events, particularly StageTime & Juice, for the community’s creativity and enthusiasm; and [email protected] for the polish curated events offer. Faye has been present at many Red Room events, but she’s never been a watcher. So, when Red Room moved to a new space, she gladly provided furniture for Red Room to use and showcase.

Like many others Red Room, for her, is so much more than a space. The Red Room community accepts other communities, Faye declares, and that’s why she plans on joining the Red Room in organizing future events dedicated to animals (another one of her passions). Ultimately, for Faye, most things worth pursuing contribute to the community around them and Red Room does exactly that.

As for the pieces at the Red Room, all of the antiques currently at the Red Room are available for purchase, and she’s assured me that all of them can easily be replaced lest we miss them. If you’d like to hear the story behind the wonderful antiques showcased at the Red Room, or about Faye’s work as a dog rescuer, please visit Bai Win Antiques in Taipei’s Shilin District!

Conversations with Artists: Alex Houghton

You said you were a third culture kid, growing up in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Australia. Why did you grow up in so many different countries? How would you say that shaped you?

My father is an Engineer and a specialist in trains. Hong Kong MTR to Taiwan High Speed Rail were some of his projects, so we travelled with the job. It became the normal, new school, new friends, new languages every few years. Everywhere we went there was a time for exploring and learning the culture, and then there was a time to make it home. It really opened my eyes to cultural perspectives, traditions and every day life. I feel like the  Koi becoming the Dragon, it was a journey that each place left an influence on me.

So your website says you developed a love of photography when you needed resources to design with. Would you say it evolved from there?

I originally picked up my camera in high school and played with film. I always enjoyed the hands on aspect of it and the meticulous process of developing to printing. When I was eighteen had a lot of time to play with a Sony Cyber Shot 3.2 mega pixel camera and I loved it. I would take my photos and make patterns, brushes and play with blending images. Without realizing it, photoshop became my muse. I went to Kenya and a Doctor gave me his DSLR and say try this. I went nuts and my eyes opened up and realized this was the next level. It was ,and still is, an ongoing process of creating, playing, blending and simplifying.  I have chosen to pursue photography and graphic design as my career for 8 years now and the neat thing is, that the photography has taken me far beyond what I expected. It is like a key that has opened many doors and opportunities I never expected.

Part of Alex Houghton's 'Reflected' series

Part of Alex Houghton’s ‘Reflected’ series

I’ve noticed you’re original fascination with blending images and transforming them is highlighted in your mini-series, Reflected. Would you care to talk a little bit about the inspiration behind the series?  

I love temples and I always felt I couldn’t appreciate the detail of the roofs. I started playing with my zoom lens and trying to capture the detail. I would try find stairs, passage ways, what ever I could do to get higher. I went home and started playing and it struck me that if I reflected my creations on themselves the details were more clear to the viewer. I started playing with the patterns, the colors, the symmetry. Next thing I know it is one of my favorite things to do.

How did the artistic process differ there? Does what you’ve done in the mini-series reflect a satisfaction in a different process or is it simply an extension of what you find interesting about photography?

For me the Reflected Series went back to my Graphic Design Roots. My photography has gone thru phases of heavy editing to simple editing. Reflected allowed me to push the boundary that people became fascinated rather than old conversation of too much or too little photoshop. It’s a different state of mind when I go out to capture stuff for reflected, I search for something that stands out, analyze it, imagine it and then photograph it and edit it.

How has your love of photography changed?

My love of photography is apart of who I am. Every day I am playing with photos, taking photos, researching locations, reading about techniques and having fun with it. It hasn’t changed, it has become more intense and in every aspect of my daily life.

 Some people say that art changes the way we see things. How did photography begin changing how you see things?

Playing with perspective, lying on my back in temples, leaning over boats to get the most reflection from the water surface– I love textures, everyday life and the details of makes your local neighbourhood feel so home like. My hope would be that people look at my photos and then go back to there home and see opportunities all round them to photograph. I can’t say it has changed what I see cause a lot of my work was just the way I see it naturally.

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 Why did you choose to feature Taiwan in your first book?

Taiwan is the longest place I have lived combination of 13 years. This is where I learnt everything, made some of the best friendships, kicked off my working career, fell in love, studied and become who I am today. I wanted to celebrate this beautiful country and show people the diversity of what Taiwan has to offer. I want people not to think of a concrete jungle but rather a wild, intriguing, cultural rich island of treasures. Taiwan to me is the Venice of Asia, I try to explore as much as possible and I feel I am still scratching the surface of possibilities.

 I noticed you had different categories: People, animals, mountains, water etc. All in pinyin. How did those categories come about? Why did you choose to write everything in pinyin?

I got organised and laid out all my photos and I saw themes pop out at me, either by colour scheme, lines, and textures and grouped them. By doing that it made the images stronger as a collection to compare and emphasize.

Like my website name is a play on English and Chinese, I wanted my albums to be a play on words.

What do you enjoy shooting most?

Taiwan temples. The detail, history, colours, craftsmanship, the community and peoples all coming for their own reasons. When I enter a temple I imagine how every piece was hand made and put together. The significance of symbols and meanings, the richness of preserving the temple culture and the dedication from the people who maintain it.

What was/is the most challenging part of photography? What advice would you give someone interested in photography?

The challenging part is keeping organised and not ending up with hundreds of photos never edited and sorted. I have tried to slow myself down as we can all go trigger happy especially with digital. The world wants to see photos. so the challenge is getting them  off your computer as a nice background in the hands of people to see your work.

Photography is you stopping to capture a moment in time that stood out to you. There are always photos we wish we took, photos that make us want to know how they did that. No matter what celebrate in your own creativity, don’t analyse but rather appreciate. Whatever cameras you have take it out with you. Document what you like, create a memory and have a photo to reflect on it. Art is about expressing yourself so don’t get discouraged; show the world your point of view!

Red Roomers browse through Houghton's prints and peruse his book at the opening of Red Room's third Visual Dialogues

Red Roomers browse through Houghton’s prints and peruse his book at the opening of Red Room’s third Visual Dialogues

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One of Alex’s photos that have become an iconic visual for Red Room.

When did you first get involved with the Red Room? Why did you choose the Red Room to exhibit your work?

I first came to Red Room 6 years ago when they first opened. I came down with my camera and photographed the layout. 6 years later, 2 of my photos have been used constantly.

Roma  [Mehta] has always been a huge role of support for me. She has encouraged me to show the world my photography. She helped me get published in the Centered magazine my “Sausage Man” photo. That encouragement and friend network/support within the Red Room wanted me to do my exhibit with Red Room.

What is it about the Red Room you feel is special?

The Red Room is a space to be creative without borders; it is a place to explore ideas, collaborations, and network with such a chill vibe. Since returning to Taiwan, I just love what Red Room has become and the development over the last 6 years. This is something special that is very unique.

How would you like to see Red Room transform and grow?

I feel Red Room is such a creative hub as long as the people are behind it, we can take it anywhere. It is a place of no boundaries and constant exploration for creativity. I would love to see Red Room get an established long term base so they can set up and invest in it for the long term. I want to see Red Room keep its personal touch while becoming a part of the creative movement growing in Taiwan.

How would you like to see your photography grow? Do you have any goals for your future? Any places you’d like to capture?

I would love to see my photography in collaboration with tourism. It is a dream that my photos could represent someone’s first impression of where they are going. I am going to India for the first time in 2016 and that’s mind blowing for me and can’t wait. There are too many places I want to go to be honest. I lived in Taiwan for twelve years and I feel I haven’t scratched the surface still! I think rather than saying one place, I’ll go anywhere camera in hand. Sometimes the picture you find is a plane ride away or just round the corner.

By Leah List

Interview with Alex Schmoyer, November 2015

Interview with Alex Schmoyer

alex shmoyer“It is euphoric up there. You feel bliss. Your writing is better spoken out loud.” Alex Schmoyer is a Red Room regular, performing every month since his arrival, a foundation in creating our vibe. In January 2014, being a new, fresh face to Taipei, Schmoyer was eager to find the must go to spots. After a co-worker told him of Red Room, he has assimilated into the community, making Red Room his creative space and poetry platform. This new atmosphere of RR provides for a clear headspace of the power and attention that spoken word deserves, as well as Schmoyer a chance to share.

He has been around poetry his whole life. His father also a poet has been pushing and inspiring his creative energy since he was young. It was not until Schmoyer moved to Taiwan though, that he began writing more prolifically and seriously. It became a part of his everyday. Poetry is fun. Frustrating and difficult, but fun. He finds that it is more manageable than prose, you can wrap your head around it. Poetry isn’t just his creative outlet, but his talent.

A poem can talk about anything: film, news, media, an action, idea, or feeling. Schmoyer likes to explore the accessible, making it more particular, bending it into the absurd or nonsensical. His work oscillates around and through music, film, the sensory, and the cerebral. These inspire him to explore either by trying to capture the feeling of a song by listening to it on repeat for hours or by examining the current news on possible life forms in another galaxy. He will listen to an album or a song on repeat just to capture that feeling you are left with at the end of a beat, lyric or camera shot.

Film is where it all started. Stanley Kubrick got him into film, and actor John Cassavetes, known as the “father of American independent cinema”, as well as Werner Herzog, the eccentric director of Grizzly Man and Aguirre, the Wrath of God, kept him in it. All three men kept him hooked in film and keep him constantly coming back each as a source of creative energy. Schmoyer doesn’t read much poetry. It feels too close to meter and rhyme. Each being characteristics in formal poetry that can put too many constraints on your creative headspace. Schmoyer prefers lyric-less electronic music, Modest Mouse on repeat, or the occasional limitation of a formal haiku as sources of inspiration.

“The hardest part of creating is courage to act. Find what inspires you and just do it.”

Leah List