By Dr. Huang Hai-Ming, Curatorial consultant of "Landscape of the Tamshui River, The City Encounters the River"
The Framework of the Chu Wei Festival of Art & Environment
The Bamboo Curtain Studio’s “Tanshui River Art Intervention Project” will begin on the 26th Oct. till 24th Nov with a Festival of “Art and Environment at Chu Wei”. This Environmental Art Festival will include an alternative way of presenting open spaces between the Chu Wei township and the riverbank. It is a dialogue between the public spaces and outdoor exhibits, a visual documentation of the application of the concept of art intervention in public space, plus a two-day international conference on the 4th floor of the Taipei Culture Center. Simultaneously, through this environmental festival, there will be a plan to initiate interactive participation from the whole community to experience the benefits of art works that can provide better interpersonal relationship, within their surroundings, to initiate a common sense of environmental esthetics and quality of life in situ.
Jointly organized by the Association for the Art Development in Taiwan, the international conference will have three themes: Art Intervention in Space; Art Intervention in Life, and Art Creates Community; this conference will invite international renowned researcher, curator and author of “ Art. Intervention. Public space”, Dr. Catherine Grout, and Doctor of Philosophy in Art, Dr. Christian Ruby, plus post Kobe earthquake community interaction project artist Ritsuko Taho. These three speakers will present their dissertations on these topics. Then there will be panel discussions with local academics and professionals on the current situation in Taiwan.
“The Festival of Art & Environment” is organized by the director of the Bamboo Curtain Studio, Ms. Margaret Shiu Tan, who is an artist, and has been the chairperson of the Visual Arts Alliance in Taiwan, with long-term endeavors on promotion of public art, international exchange and issues of development of cultural environment. The selection of the artists is curated by Catherine Grout who have chosen Wang Te-yu, Wu Mali and Lin Yi Nian from Taiwan, then Marcel Dinahet, Fabien Lerat from France and Suzuki Akio from Japan.
The Curatorial concept:
Art should not be something difficult to fathom, it should have function in a concrete manner in our daily life, such as arousing our awareness to our environment and open our potential to feel, think and act, so that each individual and each social group can form its own a set of responsibilities.
Increase in productivity and materialism cannot ensure spiritual fulfillment nor guarantee a satisfying life; it is often the reverse and brings with it a deeper inner sense of poverty and ennui. This negative complex comes from a deep sense of loss of what is humane and natural in the relationship between the individual to his/her life within the environment, add in fractured interpersonal relationships, eventually the individual facing the on slot of mega structures, the individual feels totally hopeless towards effective change.
Taiwan is now at the stage of economy of consumerism, with endless spectrum of quality products from all over the world, and be bombarded by the array of stimulating entertainment programs which keeps us on a constant high arousal and hunger for the exotic; many mega exhibitions are now also set as platforms for curiosity, such as the current overused operating procedures of art festivals. These popular presentations at these festivals are a far cry from that of a real relationship between the individual and his surrounding. The real essence of “Public Space” is when it has free interaction and joint participation by all in the process for a concept without harm nor exclusive benefit to anyone. The difference between these two: ‘Festivals” and “Public Art” is an important topic right now in Taiwan.
From the recently translated book of Catherine Grout on “ Having Art in Our Daily Lives: Works of Art in Urban Realm" which has initiated much discourse, she has theorizes on the special qualities of “Public Art”. She mentioned that public space is the site for communal thoughts, where people gather to decide on the future of their urban cluster. Artist can open a unique public realm in that space, as they with their freedom and creativity can initiate an unusual time and space, where people can gather and meet, interact and execute projects and not just a verbal exchange of entertainment but a joint experience within the social identity of their community. This “ Art Intervention Project” is not just a venue of art works in a public space but using elements of artistic qualities plus random time and passersby, to create site specific “Public Space”. This is the essence of “ art in public space,” which is a vital ingredient in the establishment of a civic society.
The name of the artists, the physical material of the artwork is not important. Art is not here to give accolade to great events, but to share unique mutual experiences; these experiences are personal and private, yet shared. She emphasized that public space is not necessarily the center of an open plaza, public space is everywhere that is open to such possibilities of experiences. Public Art is not somewhere that one is made to encounter an art work but that which is found by chance in different corners of our environ via various minute sensibilities within our living surroundings, and requires our participation into its realm with our personal experience and memories to its total essence. “ Public Art” is in fact using art as a mediator to provide that which is specific to the public space.
The last few years we have seen in Taiwan various public and private public art, community regeneration programs and revitalization programs. All with much major investment in cost and labor, but we have seen mostly singular works of art, based sole on esthetics. Some works are indeed a reflection on the surrounding environment but mostly they are but an unnecessary interference to the site. “ Public Art” as it intervenes into a space should be a humble exercise on material and action, to correct that which is neglected in the heaven, earth, that which is natural, and cultural with in the environ. The artists selected by Ms Grout has created works that will show the soft and non “spectacular” way of art intervening into the public domain as a way to realign the whole community by motivation from the core of the heart.
The six artists in the exhibit: Wang Te-Yu “ Kite flying” is a way to make each individual connect in a very delicate way to the sky, water, wind, water and earth itself. Lin Yi-Nian is executing a vegetable garden project whereby she conducts in a playful way, a guided tour by creative story telling along the way to enrich the sensitivity of the tour participants to their surroundings. Wu Mali’s project “ the Barcarola” is her current environmentally sensitive way of asking us to imagine travel back in time and forward in technology on this historical river using solar and wind as source of energy. Marcel Dinahet “ Tamshui Estuary” gives us various unusual perspectives of the river, and Fabien Lerat’s “ Mi Ne” is a reference to the Chinese landscape in a huge form, it is a soft interactive piece that let us vicariously feel the waters of the Tamshui river. Akio Suzuki’s “Otodate Chu Wei” is a way of intervention with noninterference as the motto, looking for sound acoustics of the natural shores long this site. For the most effective spots, he will stamp a pair of ears as his mark.
Following the Interior ministry's plans for new creative country style there are many projects to enliven the shores along this river: the red wood mangrove natural reserve, and the bicycle paths and recreational grounds along this area, plus the natural reserve in Kuan Du plains; all these recent openings are really great offerings to the general public to be reacquainted to the river in its historical, cultural and natural elements in a very educational way. Since the opening of the subway line of Tanshui, there are a lot of Taipei citizens going to these shores; and many artists have settled there and art spaces are stationed along its way providing specialized art intervention g projects. This is indeed an appropriate time for an Art and Environment Festival to highlight the concept of “Public Art- art: intervention: Society”. This is a topic that deserves attention for much is there to be experienced and shared.