A handful of Taiwanese artists have reclaimed a large aspect of their national and political history. The concrete loudspeaker, titled Beishan Broadcast Wall, is a prominent structure on the coast of Kinmen Island and once broadcast anti-communist propaganda to the coast of the Chinese mainland. On 26 August 2018, these artists marked the 60th anniversary of the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis with Sonic Territories, turning Beishan Broadcast Wall into an art installation of political significance.
The relationship between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland is a fraught one. In the 1950s, Taiwan had been allied with the US while the Chinese under the Chinese Communist Party aligned itself with communism. The Second Taiwan Strait Crisis saw the mainland’s leaders bombard Kinmen Island – which Taiwan controlled – partly as a test of the US in supporting Taiwan.
During the 1960s, Taiwan built large loudspeakers like Beishan Broadcast Wall in order to blast anti-communist propaganda to the mainland. These were used by Taiwan until the 1970s. Beishan Broadcast Wall is among the loudspeakers that survive and includes 48 military-grade speakers with a range of 15 miles.
Sonic Territories brought the works of both Taiwanese and international artists to Beishan Broadcast Wall. A seven-day workshop preceded the showcase and the idea was to produce works that the loudspeaker then broadcast for the anniversary of the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis; ranging from audio installations to live performances, Sonic Territories aims to “investigate aspects of sonic propaganda and the related histories while exploring imagined territories and soundscapes”, the website notes.
“From what I understand, it was really loud, and for some, disturbingly loud,” Augustin Maurs, who co-curated Sonic Territories, comments on the speaker’s use for propaganda. “They are not necessarily good memories for the people of the island."
With its looming façade, it’s easy to understand these feelings towards Beishan Broadcast Wall. China still views Taiwan as a province, and while Sonic Territories seeks to raise international awareness of Kinmen’s complex history, according to Maurs: “Art doesn’t have to be explicitly political to be political.”
After its sojourn in Taiwan, the show moved to Berlin, Germany, to exhibit from 15 September 2018. For more details, visit: https://bit.ly/2NmD92s.