“A city always accommodates people from everywhere and shoulders all kinds of dreams with no complaints. People and cities are constructed by numerous selves; the heartbeats of people and cities are synchronized and closely connected.”

In the trailer of the exhibition, Wu Nein-jen, with a warm and earnest voice, invites the public to come to the exhibition, “The City, The Flâneur,” of the Chi Po-lin Museum. Chi Po-lin’s photographic works take people flying through mountains “from a bird's-eye view” and traverse cities one after another, while uncovering the hidden heartbeat of hometowns from a novel overlooking view.

A city is where people live together. It is home to distinguished daily lives. Besides the rich collection of works left by Director Chi Po-lin, visitors can also appreciate the collaborative works by Author Joanne Deng, Designer Peter Chang, Photographer Chen Min-jia, and Sociologist Lee Ming-tsung in the exhibition, “The City, The Flâneur,” of the Chi Po-lin Museum. They open up dialogues with Director Chi’s photographic works. Through their own observations and interpretations, they interweave yet another intriguing story.

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Photo Credit: TNL Brand Studio

The texts throughout the latest exhibition, “The City, The Flâneur,” of the Chi Po-lin Museum are written by Joanne Deng. By imagining a conversation with Director Chi, she poetizes and celebrates Chi Po-lin’s photographic works with literature and refers to him as “a person with a bird's-eye view.”
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Photo Credit: Chi Po-lin Foundation

On the right side is the aerial shots by Director Chi, and on the left side is the adapted graphic design by Peter Chang. Designer Peter Chang injects his self-reflection into Director Chi’s pieces, delivering characterized visual images by experimenting with turning real photographs into abstract symbols like color blocks.
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Photographer Chen Min-jia shot at the same location with a red tent where Director Chi crafted his works in the air. He not only paid tribute to Director Chi during his creation, but also extended the clues found in his images. He sought to unfold the passage of time and ponder over the issues of development, damage and co-existence. (Have you found the red tent in the exhibition?)
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Sociologist Lee Ming-tsung took photographs from streets and alleyways. Through observations, he created a close-up perspective that interestingly coincides with the panoramic view from Director Chi’s aerial shots.

Guests take in one image, one word after another created by Director Chi and the four co-creators in the Chi Po-lin Museum. They piece together the city contours of the beautiful island. Guests are amazed by the experience of beauty that rises from this space. With today most people being on their phones and obsessed with the digital virtual world day and night, there are still people supporting and maintaining the Chi Po-lin Museum. Bearing the missions of re-presenting Director Chi’s photography dream, telling the stories of mountains, rivers, seas and cities, awakening people’s awareness towards the land, they move guests with their contagious passion. What has motivated these people to light up the Chi Po-lin Museum in a historic townhouse located on the Tamsui Old Street and keep sparking inspiration for the world?

“When people stop at a photo for a while” – through museum space, the motif is conveyed to guests

“I found that everyone would stop at a photo for a while.”

The story started in 2017 when Director Chi Po-lin passed away in a helicopter crash. Director Chi’s family and friends decided to hold a memorial special exhibition of his photography for people to offer their condolences. Nearly 100 thousand people visited the exhibition in just three weeks. Wan Kuan-li, CEO of Chi Po-lin Foundation, recalled that in the Chi Po-lin memorial special exhibition, many of the visitors would stop at each photographic work for a long time. “I can still remember the look when the visitors watched Chi Po-lin’s works. People saw Taiwan, whether familiar to them or not, in every single work of Chi Po-lin. They were looking for their home.”

Wan Kuan-li proceeded with the origin of the Chi Po-lin Foundation. “A large audience thought that Chi Po-lin was only a director of the movie, Beyond Beauty - TAIWAN FROM ABOVE. The truth is, Chi Po-lin had been an aerial photographer for 25 years. As a firm and steadfast aerial photographer, he had accumulated a massive amount of photographic works that haven’t been disclosed yet. Thus, when he left, we genuinely felt that we should make his works known to more people. What is more significant is to unveil his character that few people noticed – his diligence, enthusiasm, and perseverance with work.”

Chi Po-lin’s unfulfilled vision, “Plead for the land. Speak for the environment,” and boundless enthusiasm about aerial shots for 25 years facilitated the establishment of the Chi Po-lin Foundation. The project even received generous support from 8,052 co-builders that facilitated the construction of the Chi Po-lin Museum. Since its establishment in 2018, the Foundation continued to organize tens of thousands of aerial images left by Chi Po-lin and took on the task of digital archiving. Furthermore, the Foundation has systematically curated spatial exhibitions in different topics with a view to passing on the energy of Chi Po-lin’s images containing profound connotation to the world.

“The place where the person with a bird's-eye view returns” – Chi Po-lin Museum in Tamsui

Many may wonder why the Chi Po-lin Museum is situated in Tamsui. Wan Kuan-li expressed that they were searching for a location with sufficient space, convenient transportation and open for rental. The conditions brought them all the way to the current site on the Tamsui Old Street. Ou Jin-de, Chairman of Chi Po-lin Foundation, revealed that it was such a coincidence that the ancient atmosphere of Tamsui was Chi Po-lin’s favorite local scenery.

“Chi Po-lin said to me that when he was flying back to Taipei from the ocean, what came into sight was this small town of Tamsui. Tamsui was the turning point of each of Chi Po-lin’s return flights to Taipei City.”

“Perhaps it was the place that Chi Po-lin wanted us to be somehow,” said Ou Jin-de to Wan Kuan-li.

Chi Po-lin Museum was finally settled on Tamsui Old Street. When people walk here, they can first see a white wall, “Mountain of Light.” From a far distance, it resembles graded hill ranges of Xueshan; on a closer look, the name of 8,052 donors of the Chi Po-lin Museum Project engraved on the wall can be found. This co-built wall epitomizes the power of people who promised to protect the environment as well as the goal that Chi Po-lin looked to realize.

In the Chi Po-lin Museum, there is another group of people who have been touched by Director Chi and eager to contribute. They are the volunteers of the exhibition. To them, the Chi Po-lin Museum is a place to spread the importance of environmental education and a space for volunteers to contribute to what they believe in and make a difference in the world. For example, volunteer guides, Chou Ming-te and Chen Ching-shueh, shared that Tamsui is a relatively remote area for Taipei citizens or tourists from other cities. Despite the distance, people are still willing to travel a long way to Tamsui and slowly walk around, appreciate and experience the works, out of their admiration of Director Chi’s spirit or love for his aerial works. The magic power of the physical exhibition expands throughout the delicate photographic works and stories vividly told by the volunteers. Only when viewers enter the space in person will they understand.

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Photo Credite: Chi Po-lin Foundation

Volunteer guide Chou Ming-te’s hometown is Taimali Township of Taitung. Every time when he sees photos of his hometown in the exhibition, he is filled with intense emotions. He hopes to try his best to promote Chi Po-lin’s spirit together with the like-minded.
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Photo Credit: Chi Po-lin Foundation

Volunteer guide Chen Ching-shueh specializes in environmental education. She agrees, to a large extent, on fostering non-dogmatic environmental education that uses the power of images. Therefore, people from different backgrounds are more willing to know more about Taiwan after seeing the aerial images.

“Our class name is Chi Po-lin.” – let the seed of environmental education fly to your heart

The Chi Po-lin Museum was launched in April 2019 and already hosted four exhibitions: “View Above Mountains,” “​Above The Coast,” “Reflection of Rivers,” and “The City, The Flâneur.” The context of curation followed the direction of “mountain, ocean, river, city and people” that Chi Po-lin mentioned. The museum intends to officially exhibit his innumerable images in thematic and curative projects, so people can witness the beauty of Taiwan again from multiple viewpoints.

To better utilize images to tell the land’s story, it is not just about displaying images for each exhibition of the Chi Po-lin Museum. The preparatory work is hugely dependent on the digital archive work, followed by selection. This way, every single image can be presented in a systematic and narrative way to communicate specific ideas to guests. The efforts from the curation team have been recognized when “Reflection of Rivers”, the exhibition in 2021, won design awards both at home and abroad, namely Red Dot Design Award from Germany, Good Design Award from Japan, and Golden Pin Design Award from Taiwan.

In addition to the recognition gained from several design awards, businesses are also attracted by the Chi Po-lin Museum’s spirit of environmental sustainability and advocate for it. In the end of 2020, sponsored by FamilyMart’s spare change donation, the Chi Po-lin Foundation initiated the Environmental Education Base Camp project. It was planned to engage 10 thousand students in five years to observe and learn in the museum and lay the foundations of environmental education for the next generation.

In plentiful school groups participating in the project of the Chi Po-lin Museum, what impressed Wan Kuan-li the most was Zhu Guang Junior High School from Hsinchu City. Since the students of the school could name their own class, there was one class that named themselves “Class Chi Po-lin.” Class Chi Po-lin visited the Chi Po-lin Museum, and the class teacher noted that they were especially concentrated during the visit –

“The hustle and bustle of the Tamsui Old Street was enticing. I thought the kids probably wouldn't be able to sit still, but I saw their attention focused on the works, their looks of appreciating the beautiful images, and the frowns when seeing the environment destroyed… That kind of pure and genuine reaction surprised and touched me, which made me even realize the urgency of environmental education. I felt grateful that I brought them to the Chi Po-lin Museum and planted an environmental seed in their heads.”

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Laying the foundation in the next generation and infusing environmental education into the hearts of the youth are the missions of the Chi Po-lin Museum. Recent years have seen the growth of young population and student groups that step into the Chi Po-lin Museum and reconnect with the features of Taiwan through the images.
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The tour guide invited students to look for “MRT stations” in the photo, trying to excite guests through daily scenes.

“Let the space touch you” – from seeing to acting, it ignites Chi Po-lin’s spirit in people’s hearts

The pandemic broke out in 2020 when it has not been a year since the launch of the Chi Po-lin Museum. However, the pandemic did not just come with a crisis but also the possibility of changes. Wan Kuan-li stated that a youtuber published a video about travel in Tamsui, listing the Chi Po-lin Museum as one of the attractions for dates.

We did not expect that the video in turn attracted many young people to visit the museum. The age group that came to the Chi Po-lin Museum had been young adults, but now more younger people are involved. This made Wan Kuan-li understand the efficacy of the combination of digital communication with a physical space. Nevertheless, although the power of digital communication cannot be underestimated, there is still a considerable need to build a physical exhibition space.

“Walking around an exhibition space will truly have an impact on you. The temperature of the physical venue and the overwhelming elements of the image selection will play a role in your sight, mind, and heart. Only through this approach will people take into heart, and act accordingly as the experience resonates.”

Wan Kuan-li considered that providing a space for people to visit, feel, and experience can create an emotional impact that digital media cannot, and further make practice possible. “Hence, the primary purpose of founding the Chi Po-lin Museum is to offer people a space to see, know, understand, and ultimately take action.”

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Photo Credit: Chi Po-lin Foundation

Wan Kuan-li, CEO of Chi Po-lin Foundation, concluded that they hope to systematically exhibit tens of thousands of images left by Director Chi to the public through the physical Chi Po-lin Museum. What is more crucial is to allow viewers to “see, know, understand, act.” She firmly believes that the Chi Po-lin Museum plants the seed of environmental education in many people’s hearts and prompts them to act and learn to care for this land.

For 25 years of aerial photography, Director Chi Po-lin documented the land in a huge body of image assets comprising 100 thousand films, 500 thousand digital photos, and 1 thousand hours of videos. On one hand, the Chi Po-lin Foundation has been committed to carrying out “digital archiving” all those data, which is an extremely demanding task; on the other hand, the Foundation operates the Chi Po-lin Museum for physical exhibitions and environmental education. They are dedicated to continuing Director Chi’s legacy and playing to the images’ strength in order to carry through the missions of sustainability, cultivation, inheritance, and vocation.

Wan Kuan-li described digital archiving as a “sewer project,” an invisible yet critically essential infrastructure. The existence of the Chi Po-lin Museum is to make the digitally archived images “seen.” The organized collection forms a confluence that flows into people’s hearts and strikes a chord, which inspires them to work hard for the environment.

We set out on a voyage through mountains, seas, rivers, and now to cities and the “The City, The Flâneur” exhibition. With the bird-like vision, we fly with Director Chi Po-lin over everything that we take for granted and discover different views of a city like we have never seen before.

Chi Po-lin Foundation “The City, The Flâneur”

  • Exhibition Period: 28th December 2022 to Fall 2023
  • Exhibition Venue: Chi Po-lin Museum (No. 316-1, Zhongzheng Rd., Tamsui Dist., New Taipei City, Taiwan. Housed by the rear building of Douglas Lapraik & Co.)
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“What city we see depends on what home we envision,” by Chi Po-lin.