Down Here, Everything Floats 萬物浮游

Inside Shìlín's subterranean skeleton.
Inside Shìlín's subterranean skeleton.

On my way to an afternoon of pounding the trails in the Yuanshan Scenic Area 圓山風景區, I passed through this photogenic underpass that spans nearby Zhōngshān North Road 中山北路, that positively oozes Cyberpunk atmospherics—the damp, steel-ribbed interior reflecting the light from rows of fluorescent haloes, is akin to what I imagine lies deep within the subcutaneous arteries of Neo Tōkyō—teeming with dark prospects and moral ambiguity.

Just to be clear though, this place wasn’t like that at all, and I’d say it’s much more pleasant and inviting than it’s bare concrete, strip-lit cousins. Shame it’s public art, and as such a one-off really. The official English name is ‘Floating Creatures’, and I will concede that the glowing rings do remind me of bioluminescent jellyfish, but the original Chinese title「萬物浮游」or ‘Everything is Floating’ still appeals to me more—I guess it just has a more poetic ring to it.

Envisaged by architect Wáng Wèihé 王為河 and constructed in 2006, he supposedly took more inspiration from nature than from my dystopic interpretation: The steel-threaded walkways descending down into the tunnel, appear to have been intended to represent the branches of a tree, with the circular lighting symbolising leaves and the “roundness of Yuanshan1; leaving the corridor itself serving as the skeletal trunk connecting everything.

As with anything in the art domain, the description is fairly abstract, and the likely machine-translated plaque that adorns the piece probably doesn’t do it justice—put me down as a fan though. Unlike much of the public art in Taipei, this one is highly functional—something that many people will pass through daily en-route to wherever their lives take them, and hopefully make their journeys just that little bit less mundane.

  1. In Chinese, Yuanshan 圓山 literally translates to ‘round mountain’.