Biennale

Nature and Peace at Geumgang Nature Art Biennale by guest blogger Anke Mellin

Geumgang Nature Art Biennale was first held in 2004 and again in 2006 and 2008. This year it is titled “Nature and Peace.” Yatoo was founded almost 30 years ago in Gongju, in the Chungnam Province, 150 km south-west of Seoul. Yatoo, is the name of the Korean Nature Artists Association which organizes the Geumgang Nature Art Biennale and means “Thrown into the field”. The Korean artists use the term “thrown into field,” because, as Koreans, they feel the responsibility for nature is theirs. Why? Korea is a unique country in many ways. As a technically advanced society, it lives collectively in respect for ancient culture and nature. It requires individuals to responsibly share their experiences abroad, to learn from other cultures how to honor nature because many countries have this problem now. This has resulted in Korea being one of the largest Land Art or Nature Art centers in the world.

Within the exhibition’s title, and the rhetoric of the artworks is a reflection of how people could behave so as not to discourage or disrupt other species, the way they have discouraged swallows. How can one live in harmony with the whole of nature? Art gives us advice in finding answers to this sticky question. Trees, water, light, sound and even wind become a part of the artist‘s installations. They will be standing on site for some time and the site will change its form and structure with help form nature itself. The whole process can be observed in the park and at the Geumgang riverbank throughout the year.

The combined rich and diverse histories of this year’s participants guarantees a high level of quality work. We have 15 artists from 13 different countries: Ghana, Cameroon, India, Poland, USA, Germany, Peru, Philippines, Netherlands, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Hungary, Bulgaria and Japan, and 12 artists from the host country, South Korea. The character of each creator’s piece is shaped by the unique culture, history and geography of his or her country of origin. Each piece is also marked by the artist’s specific relationship to nature. It is not surprising that the installations differ from each other to such an extent.

Nereus Patrick Cheo, Cameroon (above), was inspired by debris washed up onto the beach by the Atlantic to create “The Watch Tower Kiosk.” He used found plastic water, beer and soft-drink bottles to make an open structure which talks about a worldwide problem: A great majority of the world’s population consume water and drinks from these bottles but at least half of these bottles are never recycled. His project entailed the construction of a Kiosk-like shape 5m high and 3 x 4m wide. The kiosk is a dome shaped sculpture beautifully created from used bottles woven together with wire on a base of bamboo, wood and nails. Utilising the bottles as an artistic statement, he has given them a new life.The work offers an opportunity for attention, care and open vistas for reflection on how we interact with our environment.

For Roger Tibon, Philippines (above), the watchwords “nature and peace” are a metaphors for a journey uniquely associated with the boat. This is not surprising considering that the Philippines are comprised of more than seven thousand islands. Many of them are inhabited by people who have never left them, and often travel by boat. The boats are more than just a way of movement and communication for them. The boat, with three figures on it, has been installed hanging under one of the cities bridges enabling many people travel over this traveling symbol. Of course the real contemplation begins when we reach a beautiful riverbank and silently, listening to sound of the water and gaze at the sculpture from a distance.

New Zealand artist, Donald Buglass’ Cell (above), relies on the beauty of physics to hold itself up. Cut sections of tree trunk support each other and demonstrate a link between the constructive tendencies of humans and the environment. “Cell” represents the beauty and balance of nature. It is the cells of plants, nucleus of an atom or, perhaps, the rising sun. At the same time it portrays a fundamental shape for shelter (in this case, one we are excluded from) and the peace and security that this might otherwise offer us. His work also has underlying references to the ancient graves at Yeonmisan.

Karen Macher Nesta (above), Peru, is an artist who believes in specific interaction between mother earth and Her inhabitants. In the ancient beliefs of her country, the land must be respected. Consequently people offer gifts to nature: fruit, animal blood, coca leaves etc., asking Her to be more fertile and calm. Earthquakes are also in her nature, and if it comes to this kind of disaster it means that She is angry. The artist used rabbits as a symbol of fertility because of their fast reproduction capacity. The rabbit figures were made from clay, and were designed to last for a short period of time in order to return to the earth where they came from (some cement has been added to extend this period). Over thirty larger-than-life rabbits are located around main path in the Ecological Park. The rabbits will eventually disappear and be absorbed into the forest floor.

The work of Pawel Chlebek Odebek, Poland, refers to central values such as family, love and care. In “The New Generation” (above) the artist points out the mystery of new life and implies its dependence on our care. The art-work is a pine sapling planted in soil between the two large opposing torsos, male and female. Eventually the project will result in the interaction between the carved form and nature’s power (as the growing tree trunk expands). Time is co-creator of this piece.

For these artists, nature and peace are much more than just words.

Facts:

Organizer – Korean Nature Artist Association Yatoo (established 1981)

The year of the first Nature Art Biennale – 2004

Term of exhibition – three months, from 16th September until 15th November 2010

2010 Participants:

Korean: Chunchung Kang, Heejoon Kang, Hyunhie Ko, Soonim Kim, Yongik Kim, Haesim Kim, Bongi Park, Seunghoon Byun, Seunggu Ryu, Eungwoo Ri, Chungyeon Cho, Kang Hur

International: Chintan Upadhyay (India), Donald Buglass (New Zealand), Eizo Sakata (Japan/France), Ichi Ikeda (Japan), Karen Macher Nesta (Peru), Karin van der Molen (Netherlands), Nereus Patrick Cheo (Cameroon), Patrick Tagoe-Turkson (Ghana), Pawel Chlebek Odebek (Poland), Roger Tibon (Philippines), Ryszard Litwiniuk (Canada/Poland), Suzy Sureck (USA), Toni Schaller (Germany), Sandor Vass (Hungary)

The full article will be published in the upcoming second issue of WEAD magazine online soon HERE.

ashdenizen: representing the unrepresentable

In this guest post, Kellie Payne, reports on Bruno Latour's recent talk at the Tate.

The French sociologist Bruno Latour gave the keynote address at this month's Tate Britain’s symposium Beyond the Academy: Research as Exhibition. His address considered the environmental crisis as a particular challenge which would require natural history, art museums and academia to join forces. The challenge, he said, was that “climate change is currently unrepresentable”.

In an effort to address this, Latour has embarked on a number of projects. One is the School of Political Arts at the Sciences Po in Paris. The school, which will be formally launched this year, will bring together young professionals in the social sciences and arts to attempt to represent the political problem of climate change. Latour says the school will “not join science, art and politics together, but rather disassemble them first and, unfamiliar and renewed, take them up again afterwards, but differently.”

Latour is also working on establishing a new type of Biennale in Venice, which will incorporate social scientists into artistic production. By bringing together social scientists and artists, Latour wants to address these issues in new ways. He expressed interest in Avatar, calling it the first ‘Gaia’ film, beginning this task of rethinking the ecological crisis and exploring ways of making it representable.

His engagement with climate change includes his participation in the Nordic Exhibition of the year Rethink: Contemporary Art and Climate Change which was staged in Copenhagen during COP15. He contributed to the Rethink exhibition catalogue with the essay “It's Development, Stupid” Or: How To Modernize Modernization. It is a response to Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, Break Through – From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. In this essay, Latour argues that the separation of the subjective from the real into dichotomies such as 'nature' and 'culture' must end. In order to begin to tackle the challenges we are facing, we must acknowledge just how closely human and nature are entwined. He has given a lecture on ‘Politics and Nature’ at the Rethink The Implicit venue at the Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art.

Latour spent most of his Tate talk discussing two of his previous exhibition projects which combined the talents of artists and social scientists. Both exhibits were produced with Peter Weibel at ZKM Centre for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany. The first, Iconoclash (2002), which brought together a team of curators, including Hans Ulrich Obrist from the Serpentine Gallery, examined how iconoclasts are represented in art, religion and science. The second, Making Things Public, partnered artists with social scientists to create individual exhibits. The exhibition was centred on a number of themes: Assembling or Disassembling; Which Cosmos for which Cosmopolitics; The Problem of Composition; From Objects to Things; From Laboratory to Public Proofs; The Great Pan is Dead!; Reshuffling Religious Assemblies; The Parliaments of Nature. The exhibition sought to materialise the concept of a ‘Parliament of Things’.

Latour conceptualised his exhibitions as thought experiments, but found the exhibitions themselves to be failures, saying that most of the individual projects within the exhibition failed as works of art. The books that accompanied the exhibitions, in particular, Making Things Public, a large book created after the exhibition, were more successful.

This was one of the themes that emerged from the day at Tate: whether certain exhibitions work better as books. Latour said that working on exhibitions has been one of the most interesting parts of his academic life. Exhibitions, he said, have a different rhythm and intensity of work and creating the ‘thing in the space’ adds to intellectual life. But creating an exhibition must be different to writing. When exhibitions merely illustrate a point, no gain is made.

Latour’s interests have now moved towards ecology and the role of the arts in representing our environmental challenges and the need for artists and social scientists to collaborate on these issues. He said he himself is writing a play on climate change.

Kellie Payne is a PhD student in the Geography department at the Open University researching culture and climate change.

via ashdenizen: representing the unrepresentable.