Artist: Li Mingdao
Location: Juifang District, Xinbei City, Taiwan
Year of completion: 2009
Researcher: Hsiangling Lai, Huey-Fen Chu

Houtong Elementary School is located in Houtong Town, which is situated in Xinbei City's Juifang District in Taiwan. Its name is derived from a story about a society of apes that once lived in nearby hill caves. It is known for a gold mining boom that occurred here, and for being the birthplace of Taiwan's coal mining industry. While the mining industries have since moved on the area's scenic landscape has brought a new wave of tourism.

During planning meetings the school emphasized the need for a "home-like" atmosphere for the kids, and for a partner who would be like "family and friend" to accompany the children in their growth. After visiting the local Houtong Elementary School grounds, the area’s former ape habitat, and reflecting on the Pingpu ethnic minority's name for the place, Houtong, artist Li Mingdao chose a monkey to serve as the school children's loyal partner, naming him Hohosan ("Ho" is the Chinese word for "monkey").

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On behalf of the school the artist created a work that combines the ornamental qualities of sculpture with the functional qualities of a playground or tree house, embodying playful innocence, love and good values. The artist came up with an ingenious design, which from a distance looks like a sculpture (or large mascot for civic responsibility) and up close becomes a playground (with slide and tree house). The monkey's head can be used as a tree house lookout, with slides down the front and a ladder with handrails on the tail for kids to cling to. It succeeds in expanding the limited space on the school campus, providing both a useful meeting place for teachers and students and an excellent recreational space.

Li Mingdao has developed a very distinctive style over many years working in the art and design worlds. Early on he designed album covers for pop musicians, mixing a technological sensibility with an old-fashioned visual aesthetic, both avant-garde and retro. More recently he is known for his digital art creations, animations and 3-D sculpture (drawing on his personal collection of old dolls, robots, and all kinds of cars, guns and other toys). He has a keen feel for movements of mass culture. His works most commonly take the form of animals and robots with anthropomorphic expressions of personality, and have achieved rare success in both the commercial and arts domains.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency