土溝農村美術館,開啟新生活美學

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2013 / 2月

文‧陳歆怡 圖‧莊坤儒


位於台南市最北端的土溝里,面積4.1平方公里,居住人口不到1,000人,其中3成以上為老年人口。

 

這裡乍看只是尋常鄉村,沒有名勝古蹟,沒有公車、鐵路經過,步調悠緩甚至單調,卻在去(2012)年12月中旬驕傲宣稱:全台第一座「農村美術館」正式揭幕!

 

農村哪來的美術?館又設在哪裡?美術館將要如何運作?


土溝農村美術館開館後,從嘉義高鐵站前往土溝的路程上,計程車司機就情不自禁地為旅客導覽起來:「我住隔壁村,很羨慕土溝村的藝術特色,很生活化。他們不靠政府補助,設計及興建全由自己動手!」

果真,一到聚落主街,隨處可見藝術妝點:路邊老伯閒坐抬槓的休憩亭,是利用拆除自家圍牆後得來的狹長空間,鋪上木棧平台、擺上漂流木創作的座椅及植栽,就成為實用的公共空間;社區集會所「鄉情客廳」,由文化學堂、阿嬤的灶腳、咖啡吧台、泡茶區等數個空間串連而成,殘留的低矮紅磚牆,透露出這裡曾是閒置多年的豬舍。

來到開幕當天擠滿人潮的主展場──秋收後的稻田,交錯立著攝影師張良一的巨幅黑白攝影,細看是農人特有安靜而布滿風霜的臉龐。

藝術在我家客廳

「農田就是展場」不是抽象口號,而是希望遊人抱著探索的心情,對照地圖甚至開口問路,費一番勁兒才有幸找到藏身在三合院前庭、閒置空地、路邊圍牆乃至私人倉庫、家屋等17處特別企劃的展場,以及早已融入居民生活中的十多處藝術裝置。

包陳月霞阿嬤的自家客廳即是展場之一,中午時刻,阿嬤門口仍掛著「歡迎參觀」吊牌,她笑笑說:「人客專程來,看到休息中的牌子,會不好意思進來啦,反正我都在家,沒有差!」

4年前,年過八旬、不曾受過正式教育的她在外地藝術家陳淑惠的指導下,開始拿起畫筆畫油畫,筆下盡是鮮活的鄉居情景與牽水牛等童年記憶。

同樣以在地人身分參展的石雕藝術家侯加福,展場是位於田中央的藝術工寮。1951年次的侯加福,原是嘉義人,曾連續3屆獲得嘉義市「石雕戶外創作展」的票選首獎,10年前受邀為土溝村雕刻水牛石像而喜歡上土溝的人情味,夫婦倆就此移居村落,持續投入農村藝術改造運動。

「外人都讚嘆這裡天人合一的寧靜感覺,豈知我這幾年都因訪客太多,難以專心創作。未來可能得規定:『參觀』廁所(可以邊欣賞遠山及稻浪)必須收小費!」侯氏夫婦似在訴苦,又不無驕傲地說。

一天下來,要逛遍所有展場果然不容易,額外收穫卻是問路時接收到的溫暖笑靨。

「逛不完也好,就會想要帶朋友再來。透過口碑效應牽引來的遊客,都是真正支持慢遊精神的人。」策展單位「優雅農夫藝術工廠」執行長黃鼎堯說。

共同發起的「土溝農村文化營造協會」理事長吳冠霖則說,農村美術館的目的不是要推廣觀光,而是希望更多人來發掘農村樸素之美,以及農村的價值。

青春藝工隊報到

土溝里這種「村即美術館」的氣魄與自信從何而來?

故事得回溯至10年前,一群當地居民與台南藝術大學師生的相遇。

1964年次的蘇朝基,擔任土溝農村文化營造協會總幹事多年,身兼義消、神壇問事乩童、木工、農夫多職,是村裡少數沒有離開的青壯輩。「過去由於人口外流,村裡處處是荒廢空屋,路邊常見垃圾堆、雜草叢生,景象衰敗。留下的老年人只求農地不要荒廢,自顧不暇。」

另一位在地的中堅分子廖國雄,年輕時曾在台北當動畫助理,返鄉後在有線電視台擔任地方記者,觀摩過不少社區營造案例,很有感觸。「過去土溝鄉親習慣稱自己是白河人,因為覺得故鄉沒特色、很落魄,也懷疑外人找得到。」幾位在地青壯輩籌組協會的初衷正是:「讓家鄉環境變美好,也要找回人情味與尊嚴感。」

協會成立沒幾年,適逢前台南縣副縣長曾旭正至台南藝術大學建築藝術研究所執教,2002年,他帶著「社區營造組」的學生來土溝實習,其中4位學生與土溝居民特別投緣,三不五時就來村裡泡茶抬槓,漸漸把這裡當家。

復興水牛精神

1983年次的陳昱良,讀研究所時都在土溝租屋居住,只有畢業前3個月回學校趕論文,連當兵休假期間都回來土溝當義工。他回憶最初凝聚眾人力量的源起是:為最後一頭水牛起厝。

由於土溝在四、五十年前極盛時期,全村共養了三百多頭水牛,水牛和農民休戚與共,是農村情感的象徵。2005年,村裡僅剩清秀伯還養著一頭水牛,協會與南藝大學生取得老人家的同意後,號召村民一齊為老牛修復土角厝;在此之前,他們已整理與修復村內僅存的七、八台老農車,舉辦牛車踩街、為水牛祝壽、打造水牛公園等活動。

「過程中幾乎動員了全村人,老人家都自動捲起袖子,一同砍草整地,搬磚種樹,展現水牛精神的務實與擔當,」陳昱良說。

水牛起厝開啟往後一系列空間綠美化乃至藝術裝置計畫。「所有計畫都是在泡茶聊天過程發想成形,且都延續社區雇工購料的傳統,因為重要的不是做出什麼硬體建設,而是凝聚生活感與自主性,」陳昱良說。

以《平安竹仔腳》聚落公共藝術為例,這個計畫獲得前文建會第二屆「公共藝術獎」的「最佳民眾參與獎」,令評審專家跌破眼鏡的是,補助款只有區區台幣65萬元,卻做到了全庄整體環境的提升,藝術裝置則巧妙融合在生活空間中。

其中的〈台灣一蕊花〉,收集村裡阿嬤們年輕時的照片,燒成磁磚鑲嵌在牆面,成為特色紀念物;旁邊磚牆的彩繪大紅花朵,靈感來自冬天裡家家戶戶趁太陽露臉,把棉被攤在牆頭曬太陽的溫馨記憶。

最美是人心

比較「前衛」的作品是由陳昱良以3個月時間,細細琢磨而成的〈坐十分鐘的陶淵明〉,他以鋼筋混凝土和馬賽克為材料,完成造型奇炫、色彩繽紛的兩組茶座,桌腳及椅腳都橫跨在水溝上,一望無際的稻田成為隨季節變換的背景,作品兼具實用與開創性。

此外,一處處經過整理改造後的大樹下空間,水池、花草、石雕造景、桌椅齊備,使用的都是私人土地,慷慨釋出空間者不但不收租金,還保證對外開放至少10年,自己負擔維護責任。

「經過改造,竹仔腳乃至整個土溝里改變最多的,是人心。」協會總幹事蘇朝基說,自掃門前雪的心態不再,村民現在都會自動維護打掃周遭環境,也因為多了美好的休憩空間,大家也更常噓寒問暖,連外地子女返鄉也愛流連在公共空間,對故鄉有更多認同與自豪。

隨著已畢業的4個大男孩先後在土溝創業與成家,土溝里的夢想越做越大。

陳昱良說,土溝經驗讓他們鍛鍊出一身「參與式社區自力營造」的好身手,如今他與黃鼎堯合夥創業,周一到周五專接公部門在其他社區的空間規畫案,除了養活自己,還能雇請1~2名在地員工;晚上及假日則繼續義務投入土溝的社區工作。

他們的學長呂耀中則開設「土牛設計部落」公司,員工約5人,也會利用業餘時間為土溝貢獻心力。

農村的無限可能

「社區營造要長時間與人溝通磨合,得靠自己設計及動手才能節省預算,雖然辛苦,卻能賺到成就感與凝聚力,」陳昱良與黃鼎堯異口同聲說。

農村美術館計畫籌備了近1年,經費全由私人募款,不靠政府補助,實屬不易。實際上這群年輕人是在活動開跑前4個月,才拿著厚厚一本圖文並茂的計畫書,四處參加扶輪社等社團演講,尋覓伯樂。

「標舉民間募款用意是確保自主性,也避免無謂的行政干預。我們抱定主意,募不足額就自己出錢,之後再努力賺回來就好,」陳昱良說。幸好,苦幹的水牛精神,感動了台南企業文化藝術基金會及立賢教育基金會,成為此次展覽的幕後兩大金主。

好玩好逛的農村美術館讓人驚喜連連,接下來的難題仍是:土溝如何面對人口外流的困境,以及復甦農村經濟的大課題?

這群築夢者不約而同表示,農村再生必須透過政策規劃與改革,從根本做起,單一農村無力回春,需要彼此串連形成更大力量。

「土溝農村美術館像是拋出一個愉悅邀請,激勵更多關心農村與農業的工作者,從土地找到力量,相信農村有無限可能,」廖國雄說。

最近由於美術館成立臉書,旅外青年紛紛以臉書為平台談論家鄉事,廖國雄說,「人雖未到,心卻回來了,有一天,新世代終會找到他們與土地的美好關係。」

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近期文章

EN

Tugou Rural Village Art Museum: Revival of a Village

Chen Hsin-yi /photos courtesy of Chuang Kung-ju /tr. by Chris Nelson

Tu­gou Village, at the northernmost end of Tai­nan City, covers only 4.1 square kilometers, with fewer than 1,000 residents, 30% of whom are senior citizens.

 

At first glance it looks like an ordinary village, with nothing of historic interest. No buses or railroads pass through here; it’s slow-paced and even monotonous. But in mid-December 2012, the official opening of Taiwan’s first “rural art museum” was proudly announced!

 

What is rural art? Where is the museum? And how will it be run?


The Tu­gou Rural Village Art Museum had just opened, and on the ride to Tu­gou from the ­Chiayi High Speed Rail station, the cabbie couldn’t resist playing the tour guide for the passengers: “I live in the neighboring town, and I admire Tu­­gou’s artistry. It’s so full of life! And they designed and built it all by themselves, without any government help!”

Sure enough, the village’s main street is festooned with art: a rest spot by the roadside where old men sit and shoot the breeze occupies a narrow space left after garden walls were torn down. A wooden deck, complete with driftwood-built chairs and benches, forms a functional public space. The community gathering spot, Country Parlor, includes a cultural classroom, a traditional old kitchen, and a tea brewing area. The remaining squat redbrick wall makes known that this was once a pig shed.

It’s opening day, and on display in the main exhibition area (namely, post-harvest paddy fields) are huge black-and-white photos by photographer ­Zhang ­Liangyi. A closer look reveals the faces of farmers, tranquil but marked by lives of hardship.

Art in my living room

“The fields are the exhibition area.” This isn’t just an abstract slogan, but a call for visitors to explore, consult maps and even ask the way. With a little effort, a visitor might happen across one of 17 specially planned exhibition areas hidden in sanheyuan courtyards, vacant lots, walls along roads, and even private storehouses and homes, as well as about a dozen art installations that have long been part of the residents’ lives.

The living room of Chen Yue­xia is also an exhibition area. Though it’s the noontime break, a “Welcome” sign still hangs over Grandma Chen’s doorway. She laughs, “If people make the trip all the way out here and see a ‘Closed’ sign, they’ll be disappointed. I might as well just let them come in, because I’m home anyway!”

Chen, an octogenarian who never had a formal education, took up a brush four years ago under the guidance of outside artist Chen Shu­hui and started creating oil paintings of her childhood memories of village scenes and laboring water buffaloes.

The exhibition space of stone carver Hou ­Jiafu is located in an art studio amid the fields. Hou, 61 and originally from ­Chiayi, won first prize at the ­Chiayi City Outdoor Stone Sculpture Exhibition three years in a row. Ten years ago, he was commissioned to carve a water buffalo sculpture for Tu­gou, and falling in love with the human touch of the village, he and his wife moved here. They still contribute to the rural art development movement.

Tu­gou Rural Culture Development Society (TRCDS) chairman Wu Guan­lin says that the purpose of the Rural Village Art Museum isn’t to promote tourism, but so that more people will come to appreciate the beauty and simplicity of country life as well as the value of rural villages.

A team of young artists

Where did the energy and self-assurance of Tugou’s village art museum come from?

The story began a decade ago, when a group of local residents crossed paths with a team of students and faculty from the Tai­nan National University of the Arts (TNNUA).

Su ­Chaoji, 48, who has served as director of the TRCDS for many years, wears multiple hats: he’s a carpenter, a farmer and a volunteer firefighter; he’s also one of the few younger villagers who never left. “In the past, abandoned houses were everywhere in the village, because so many people went away. Garbage heaps and weed growth were common by the roadside, and were becoming an eyesore. And the remaining old folks were too busy tending their farmland to have any energy to beautify the environment,” says Su.

Another pillar of the community, ­Liao Guo­xiong, served as an assistant animator in Tai­pei when young. After coming home he worked as a local correspondent for a cable TV station, where he observed many community development projects. Says ­Liao, “Tu­gou villagers used to tell people they were from the nearby town of ­Baihe, because they felt there was nothing special about their town, and it seemed to have gone to ruin. They wondered if outsiders could even find it.”

The TRCDS had only been running for a few years when former Tai­nan County deputy magistrate Tseng Shu-cheng, who teaches in the Graduate Institute of Architecture at ­TNNUA, brought a team of community development students on an internship to Tu­gou in 2002. Four of the students developed especially good friendships with the Tugou residents, and soon considered the village a second home.

Chen Yu­liang, 29, recalls that the earliest movement to combine everyone’s efforts was the construction of a shed for the last water buffalo.

Tu­gou had its golden age four or five decades ago, when the villagers kept over 300 water buffalo. They were part of the farmers’ lives, and a symbol of rural sentiment. By 2005, only one water buffalo remained, kept by a villager known as Uncle Qing­xiu. After securing the old man’s agreement, the ­TRCDS and the students from ­TNNUA appealed to the villagers to restore an adobe shed for the aging bovine. Before that they had repaired seven or eight old farming vehicles and organized an ox cart parade and other activities in honor of the buffalo.

“In the process we pretty much mobilized all the villagers. The old folks rolled up their sleeves, and together we hacked through the undergrowth, moving bricks and planting trees. We channeled the spirit of the buffalo: steadfastness and a willingness to take on burdens,” says Chen Yu­liang.

After building the buffalo shed, they embarked on a series of beautification and art installation projects. “All the plans were thought up and hammered out through chats over tea. We continued the tradition of local hiring and purchase of local materials. But the important thing wasn’t the structures we built, but the teamwork and autonomy involved,” says Chen.

Consider the public art project called Peaceful Zhu­zai­jiao, which won a “best public participation” prize at the Public Art Awards, staged by the former Council for Cultural Affairs (now the Ministry of Culture). What really blew the judges’ minds was that the subsidy was a trifling NT$650,000, but they still managed to complete an upgrade of the village’s overall environment, with art installations ingeniously incorporated into living areas.

Beautiful minds

A more avant-garde work of art is Tao Yuan­ming Sitting for 10 Minutes, which took Chen Yu­liang three months to complete. Using steel-reinforced concrete and mosaic, he built a gorgeous tea table and chairs of riotous form and color. The legs of the chairs and table straddle a water channel, and rice paddies stretching as far as the eye can see form a backdrop that varies with the seasons. It’s a work that’s both practical and original.

In addition there are refurbished spaces under large trees, complete with pools, plants, and sculpted landscapes, tables and chairs, which are all on private land. The landowners generously provided the spaces rent free, with a guarantee to be open to the public for at least 10 years and maintained at the owners’ expense.

“After the refurbishment, what changed the most in Zhu­zai­jiao and the entire village of Tu­gou was public sentiment,” says ­TRCDS director Su ­Chaoji. With the “every man for himself” mindset gone, the villagers now spontaneously sweep up and maintain the surrounding area. And because there are so many more nice recreation areas, people care about each other’s well-being more, and young people on visits home are drawn back by the new public spaces, taking more pride in their hometown.

After four ­TNNUA graduates opened businesses and made their homes in Tu­gou, the dreams of the village continued to grow.

Chen Yu­liang says that the Tu­gou experience forged in them a drive for self-reliant participatory community development. He and classmate ­Huang Ding­yao started a business, working on weekdays at planning community spaces under government-sponsored projects, which allows them to support themselves while also hiring one or two local workers. During evenings and days off they continue to do community work in Tugou.

Endless possibilities

“Community development requires long-term communication and contact with people, and by designing and implementing projects ourselves we can reduce the budget. Despite the hard work, we’ve earned a sense of accomplishment and cohesion,” says Chen Yu­liang.

The Rural Village Art Museum project was in preparation for almost a year. Privately funded, without government subsidies, it wasn’t an easy task.

“The reason for funding it privately was to ensure autonomy and avoid pointless administrative interference. We pledged to foot the bill for what we couldn’t raise, then work hard later to earn it back,” says Chen. Fortunately, their industrious, persevering manner moved the Tai­nan Enterprise Culture and Arts Foundation and the Shiner Education Foundation, who became the two major patrons behind the scenes of this exhibition.

The next big issue is how Tu­gou will deal with the population drain and revive its rural economy.

These dream-builders agree that the revival of rural villages must be done through policy planning and reform from the ground up. One village alone can’t do it; only by working together can they achieve greater power.

“The Tugou Rural Village Art Museum is like throwing out a cheery invitation, inspiring more workers who care about rural areas and agriculture to find power in the land and to believe the village has unlimited possibilities,” says ­Liao Guo­xiong.

Lately, the art museum has made its own Facebook page, and young villagers working elsewhere have been discussing hometown matters through this platform. Says ­Liao Guo­xiong, “Though they’re not back yet in person, their hearts are. One day, the new generation will finally forge a beautiful relationship with the land.”

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