Formosa Tales 寶島話匣子 at the Cloud Forest
Yes. It was as dreamy as it sounds.
It was cloudy, it was verdant, there were many women (and men!), and artists, amazing food, environmentally-conscious people & practices, and some snazzy latin music.
Let it be known that Red Room knows how to put on a fantastic cultural event.
Nestled in the hills under Yangmingshan, the Cloud Forest Collective has set up a shared art space/gallery next to their pottery studio. It’s a beautiful location, far away from the smelly scooters and honking Hondas.
It’s a space to find peace among artsy individuals and mindful friends. And perhaps make a bowl or two, if it suits you.
The event that took place on March 7th was the opening exhibition of Women Beyond Borders (WBB) Taiwan Chapter, titled Formosa Tales 寶島話匣子. Red Room collaborated with WBB to feature the personal stories of women from a variety of cultural backgrounds, though the physical medium of a box.
WBB is a non-profit, cross-cultural exhibition of women connecting women from all walks of life within and beyond their communities across the globe via a small, wooden box. Women from internationally known artists to women with no prior artistic experience, everywhere from Argentina to Zambia, have transformed these wooden boxes into a repository that contains a story from the artist.
Lorraine Serena is the brains behind WBB, holding the belief that,
“In light of the world situation, we move forward with even greater conviction that women’s voices and visions are a healing force in the world. The arts are a universal and essential language allowing us to look beyond ourselves in order to create a new model of relatedness.”
The women who participated could really do whatever they liked with the box…
… Changing its shape, orientation, color, or texture just to start. What emerged from the boxes were incredible stories of growth, change, heartbreak, tragedy, evolution, power, and more. It was amazing to see how the boundaries of a box could be pushed and stretched.
This is La Benida Hui’s box, broken into balance pieces to create “Her Story, Her Life and Her Lesson”
As with all the Red Room events, I have some sense of “coming home”. Growing up in a hippie household in Vancouver primed me for the things that maybe some others would find surprising about this community in Taiwan.
The sharing circles, jam sessions, and long hugs are indicative of the open-heartedness that is fostered between each person. It’s welcoming to people of any shape, size, color, identity, or other definer us humans can come up with. It’s a community that has grown around the arts.
When I walked into the courtyard entryway of Cloud Forest my ears were greeted by the hand pan and laughter echoing through the open gallery space. I was immediately in love with the set up.
The gallery is set in an old heritage building with a bright, open layout with boxes dotting all the surfaces.
A low-lying stone building to the right was where we found the live music, by the band Ambiente Latino, and an AMAZING spread of vegetarian food, drinks, and dessert. I’ve never been so impressed by the catering at a free event. The food was served on Rose’s plant-based plates and bowls (check out her brand Conscious Good Eats on Facebook).
At the beginning there was a brief talk about the project and some reflections on the planning and execution of such an event. It ain’t easy to pull off this level of awesome.
The women behind the project were Christine Wu, Rose Huang, La Benida Hui, and Roma Mehta, who spent months planning the opening and collecting art projects, setting up and organizing every last detail. And it doesn’t end there.
Formosa Tales 寶島話匣子 is a traveling exhibition that will be moving around the island and showcasing the boxes and stories. Taipei was the first stop on its tour. If you’re interested, keep an eye on Red Room’s page to find out when/where the next exhibition will pop up.
People milled about chatting, laughing and enjoying the space. It was a chill and easy-going atmosphere, which is standard for a Red Room event. My friend Christiaan and I were admiring all the interesting people that passed through, with their feathers and frills and colorful braids.
One thing I love about trying new things is discovering all the different kinds of people that exist outside of your bubble.
Often it feels as though we live inside an echo chamber – hanging out with people who dress like us, think similar things, and hold relatively similar opinions. It’s rare that we go outside and talk to someone who is completely different from ourselves.
I want to make this point because it comes up around the topic of gender and other sensitivities, like race, class, sexual orientation, and so on.
Around the time of women’s day, I attended a few other events and the discussion around gender seemed very “othering”. And by that I mean men were often alienated from the conversation or alternative ideas were shut down.
I think there’s a lack of skill in our society when it comes to having conversations with people you disagree with. It’s incredibly difficult not to get emotions tangled into the narrative, which usually ends up with someone feeling hurt or maybe even an argument.
WBB at Cloud Forest was by far the most relaxing women’s day event I attended this year.
… And maybe we can chalk it up to the lack of a contentious topic being debated. Or maybe there wasn’t any trigger for it.
Or maybe it’s something else. The medium of art and self expression didn’t overtly start pointing any fingers at anyone about this topic. Rather it was an opportunity for everyone to read and understand some personal struggles or stories.
The boxes didn’t confront anyone with statistics or blame or “call for reform now”. They just sat there wide open for anyone to take a look and take in what they said.
It was an invitation to empathize and relate.
Maybe an invitation is what is needed to initiate change. An invitation to listen. To comfort. To stand in someone else’s shoes for a moment.
There are many people out here pushing the borders towards uncharted territory, and they’re doing it without creating more hurt, harm, or suffering in the world. We sure as heck don’t need any more of that.
It’s always a good time to take a moment to pause, reflect, and share with others. See how you can support the peaceful revolution here.