“Siouguluan River, with its rippling currents and prismatic shimmer, is flowing quietly towards the travelers”—this view marked the welcoming scene of Reflection of Rivers, the third feature exhibition of the Chi Po-lin Museum. As the only image base that enables visitors to see Taiwan from above, the Chi Po-lin Museum has been bringing together Chi Po-lin’s aerial photography and knowledge of environmental education, to curate exhibitions along the thematic thread of “mountain, river, sea, city, people” to systematically guide the public not just to see but to read this island in an in-depth way.
There are more than 110 monitored rivers and countless torrential streams in Taiwan. Rivers have brought fertile soil from mountains, provided water sources that nurture towns and villages, and played a vital role in terms of transportation and metabolism. After View Above Mountains of 2019, and Above The Coast of 2020, the 2021 feature exhibition – Reflection of Rivers, led visitors to move from seeing and chasing towards inner reflection and introspection, using rivers as our mirror to reflect a sustainable future, in which humans and rivers would coexist in harmony.
“Reflection” contains the mystery of photography, and conveys the surprise of images reflected in our eyes. In this exhibition, it indicates the idea of having rivers as a mirror to reflect the human minds, which serves as a reminder for building a sustainable future. In a delicate way, the power of image has indeed flowed and permeated in and through the four major sections of Reflection of Rivers—“Origin of Rivers,” “Immersing in the Flow,” “Our Reflection in Rivers,” and “Chi Po-lin, an Expansive Existence.”
Following the shimmering waves and moving towards the origin, visitors stepped into a gorge-like space flanked by fifteen massive prints of river images taken from a bird’s eye view. Each was one-and-a-half-person tall and slightly tilted, forming an elongated corridor that was narrow at the top and wide at the bottom. In the prints, the cascading Xiao Wulai Waterfall became a prism and reflected rainbow-like glow in the ravine.
The summits of mountains have formed the origin of rivers. This section was specially designed like a ravine so that visitors could perceive the hydrological characteristics of Taiwan—high mountains with torrential rivers. The corridor, resembling a long river, displayed aerial images in an arranged order, namely, “Unique River Landscape,” “Rivers and Hydraulic Facilities,” “Agriculture Nurtured by Rivers,” and “Rivers and Development of Villages,” which collectively revealed changes of rivers from the upstream to the downstream regions, along with the symbiotic relationship between humans and rivers.
The original look of rivers – that pure force of life co-created by high atmospheric vapor and high mountain terrains – unveiled an impressive first scene of this corridor. At its end stood a mirror that reflected the visitors, which aimed to remind us of what Chi Po-lin has documented—the traces of human will that have been left on the surface of rivers.
Several bean bag chairs, soft as clouds, were lined along the walls in the gallery. A video of moving rivers flowing from the wall to the floor was shown. “Immersing in the Flow” presented a cozy space suitable for taking a break and contemplating. Following the narrative thread of “Beauty—Issues—Coexistence,” the six-and-a-half-minute video featuring a cascading waterfall was composed of fifty individual shots, representing the crème de la crème of Chi Po-lin’s nearly a thousand hours of aerial footages.
Constructing an immersive theater with L-shape projection, a feeling of dislocated space like that of the movie, Inception, was created in the gallery room. Reflection of Rivers immersed the audience in a deeper feeling awakened by the motion images, which would then settle and take root in people’s hearts to soon transform into proactive initiatives for safeguarding our homeland. So, take off your shoes, step into the flowing images, and stand onto the dried reservoir.
The slight dizziness brought on by immersing in the images was completely different from sitting on the bean bag chairs to watch the images from a distance, which invited the following question: After seeing the beauty and sorrow of rivers, do we want to keep being bystanders or start taking action?
Rivers connect the view of mountains and the vastness of ocean; they nurture human civilizations, and constitute a giant book that tells the wisdom of life. “Our Reflection in Rivers” contained the largest amount of knowledge in the exhibition, and was the most interactively intriguing section as well. Through “Color Palette,” “Flipping Books,” and the videos of “Our Guides,” the audience were led to explore the beauty and sorrow of rivers.
Chi Po-lin once said, “, I have seen all the colors you see on a color palette on rivers.” A statement as true as truth can be. In Reflection of Rivers, we gathered the river colors captured by Chi, and converted them into a color chart of thirty colors on a touchscreen. When a color was selected, a corresponding river image popped out on the screen. Through the dazzling yet shocking interactive experience of “Color Palette,” we hoped that the audience could consider rivers as they would consider themselves, and started to re-think about the way we have treated rivers.
Like rivers run from high mountains and narrow ravines, creating vast plains, the permanent exhibition section in Reflection of Rivers echoed the idea of “Chi Po-lin in the Expansive Sky,” and revealed an illuminous space. The brightly lit light wall displayed the timeline of Chi Po-lin’s life, his aerial photography equipment, and the gyroscope remnant salvaged from his crash when filming Beyond Beauty—TAIWAN FROM ABOVE II.
Comparing to rivers, human life is like a fleeting moment in time. However, the life enriched by a burning passion will always become a fertile ground, merging with the mountains, rivers, sea, and transforming into a spiritual power that nourishes generations to come. The mission and value of the feature exhibition has been to continue Chi’s unfinished ambition by awakening and connecting more attention to the environment so that such attention could flourish truly and expansively.
We invite you to see Reflection of Rivers. Following the glistening waves of Siouguluan River to start from the origin of rivers and immerse in the flow to perceive the serenity and impact of this interconnection with rivers. Finally, under the expansive sky where Chi Po-lin now resides, we leave our wishes to the earth through an interactive installation of dandelion seeds to look forward to the next blossoming season—a sustainable future of coexistence between humans and rivers.