Nature Art

Where art and nature meet: Curator Jane Ingram Allen on the first International Nature Art Curators’ Conference in Korea | Art Radar Asia

For the first time, curators from around the world came together in South Korea to discuss the the art of curating nature. 

The inaugural International Nature Art Curators’ Conference was held in Gongju, South Korea, from 30 September to 5 October 2013. Jane Ingram Allen, Curator of Taiwan’s Cheng Long Wetlands International Environmental Art Project, shares her thoughts on the conference and the symbiosis between art and nature across the world.

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The International Nature Art Curators’ Conference in Korea, the first event of its kind, included presentations by nineteen invited international curators from thirteen different countries, all of whom are doing projects involving art and nature. I was one of the invited curators and I presented information and photos about the Cheng Long Wetlands International Environmental Art Project, which I have been curating in Taiwan each year since 2010.

This project, held in the small fishing village of Cheng Long on the Southwest coast of Taiwan, brings together six artists from different countries to make site-specific sculpture installations, using natural and recycled materials, that focus on different environmental issues each year. The goal of the Cheng Long Art Project is to raise awareness about environmental issues, and we invite artists to create temporary site-specific artworks that can contribute positively to the environment and go back to nature over time. At the Korea conference, I was able to show photos of past installations in Cheng Long and talk about the curatorial concepts for this project.

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What is “nature art”?

Although the conference was focused on nature art, not everyone necessarily defines “nature art” in the same way. Some call this type of art “land art”, others call it “eco-art” and “environmental art.” This conference brought out the many ways that this type of art can be defined, and how in Asia “nature art” has a long history and a unique approach. Man is part of nature and the focus is on living harmoniously with nature, rather than the usual western way of trying to conquer and control nature. Many of the projects and artworks shown by other curators at the conference seem to have no focus on environmental issues, but are more about man’s relationship with the natural world and putting artworks in a natural setting that could be about any subject and using any materials or techniques.

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Sharing the spirit of nature art

The most important benefit of this conference in Korea was the opportunity to meet other curators who are interested in art and nature, and to find out what they are doing in different parts of the world. The first seminar at the conference was called “Sharing the Spirit of Nature Art”, and included a presentation by me about the Cheng Long International Environmental Art Project. Other speakers were:

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At the second seminar, “Moving Nature and Art”, presentations were made by:

  • Clive Adams, Director of the UK Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World
  • John K. Grande, an independent environmental art writer and curator who has curated international nature art exhibitions at botanical gardens in Canada
  • Giacomo Bianchi, President of Arte Sella, a nature art park in Italy with installations by international artists
  • Sue Spaid, environmental art curator now living in Belgium who has curated eco-art exhibitions and directed art centres in the USA.
  • Opening up the discussion 

    One unusual aspect of the conference’s organisation was that pointed questioners were designated for each of the presenters. After the formal presentations the questioners, who were invited speakers and international artists-in-residence in Gongju, asked questions of each speaker. The discussion was also opened up afterwards to questions from the audience, which included local artists, curators, professors and some students from the university. This method of having people designated to ask questions did ensure that there would be some discussion after the speeches, but it seemed a bit awkward and forced to me.

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    The International Nature Art Conference was a great opportunity to exchange ideas about art and nature, and to see new artworks by different artists. As one of the invited curators, Grant Pound, Director of Colorado Art Ranch, USA, put it,

    The major benefit (…) was connecting with people doing projects in other parts of the world and finding those similar to Colorado Art Ranch. This conference was a chance to find new artists and to meet people from other countries doing similar projects.

    The range of projects presented at the conference was amazing, from the large Arte Sella project in Italy, which includes hundreds of artworks by well-known international artists and a sizeable budget with thousands of visitors each year, to small projects such as the Oranki Art Project in Lapland, Finland, started by a young artist couple,Tuomas and Ninni Korkalo.

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    On the third day of the conference we also had presentations by other curators invited to this conference, such as Anni Snyman (South Africa), Director of international land art project Site Specific, Rumen Dmitrov (Bulgaria), Founder of Nature Art Symposium Gabrotski bringing international nature artists to Bulgaria to create site-specific works, and Lynn Bennet-McKenzie (Scotland), Director of nature art programme Ceangal bringing artists to the Scottish highlands to create site-specific nature art. The presentations also included those by other artist groups in Korea that are interested in art and nature, such as Magmamnews, Alternative Art Space Sonahmoo, International Baggat Art Exhibition and of course, Yatoo, the organiser of this conference.

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    The artists in Yatoo have been doing “nature art” since a handful of young artists founded the group in 1981. The group has presented the Geumgang Nature Art Biennale since 2004, an event that invites many Korean and foreign artists to Gongju every two years to create site-specific installations in a beautiful area along the Geum River. As conference participants, we toured this nature area and saw many interesting artworks by foreign and Korean artists.

    One of the most interesting works we saw was by artist Ko Seung-hyan: an interactive, stylised traditional Korean musical instrument, the artwork is created from a huge tree trunk whose branches act as amplifiers for the sound when visitors play the instrument. Ko is one of the founding members of Yatoo and one of the organisers of the conference along with Mr. Jeon Won-gil, Director of the Yatoo International Project and chief organiser of the International Nature Art Curator’s Conference 2013.

    Another sculpture installation, created for a previous biennale, was a series of metal rings installed under a bridge by Yatoo artist Ri Eung-woo. This sculpture, whose metal rings are arranged in a pattern to represent the notes of a traditional Korean folk song, examines ways to represent sound visually.

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    Nature art goes nomadic 

    Many hours at this first conference were spent discussing what the Yatoo organisers call the Global Nomadic Project. The organisers’ idea is to bring nature art on the road and travel to many different countries around the world from 2015 to 2018, sharing their art and interacting with colleagues in different countries. One disappointment for me about this conference was that the focus tended to be more about Yatoo’s Global Nomadic Project and not so much the broader idea of moving nature art forward. I expected the conference to focus more on networking and exchanging ideas about international nature art or environmental art around the world. The Yatoo conference organisers assured us that artists from other countries would also be able to join the Global Nomadic Project and travel with them to other countries making their works. However, it was not clear how the other artists would be selected or how they would be supported, since Yatoo expects to get funding for the Global Nomadic Project from the South Korean government’s art council. Some funds may be available to help fund foreign consulting curators and administrative expenses in other countries.

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    International networks must be strengthened 

    I also was a little disappointed to see that I was the only one attending this conference that represented a project in an Asian country. It seems that Yatoo does need some help to reach out to other like-minded organisations and artists in other countries, particularly in Asia. There was one organisation from Africa, but none from South America or Australia.

    However, the conference did result in the publication of a book that lists the international nature art organisations known to Yatoo, with photos and contact information. This is a great resource and should be expanded to include more organisations around the world that do land art, nature art or environmental/eco-art. I realise that funding was limited and all those who applied could not attend. The Yatoo organisers did ask the curators attending the conference to help to expand the list of nature art organisations around the world. I hope that this first conference of nature art curators can foster more meetings of international groups interested in the environment and art, and spread this movement to more countries.

    Jane Ingram Allen

    Via Art Radar Asia.

    YATOO-i nature art in Iran

    This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

    From Yatoo-i newsletter:

    Ko, Seung-Hyun, Hur Kang and Jeon, Won-gil (YATOO-i members) and other Korean artists Ryu, Shin-jung(Installation) Yu, Zie-sook (Vedio), musician An, Jung-hee (Gemoongo) participated in ‘Iran Nomadic Residence Program’ supporting Arts Council Korea from 19th 11 to 5th 12. 2011. We joined 12 Iraian Artists and work together in Masouleh in Iran and had an exhibition in artist’s house in Teheran.

    There are images of artists projects and exhibition on the Yatoo-i website. 

    ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.

    It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.
    Go to EcoArtScotland

    Approaches to Arts-based Environmental Education by Jan van Boeckel

    Image from Nature Art Education site

    This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

    The Shorelines Symposium which took place at Rozelle Maclaurin included presentations by two keynotes Ian McGilchrist (author of The Master and his Emissary), Chris Drury (artist) as well as a number of others.

    The Symposium was organised in conjunction with Alison Bell and Cathy Treadaway‘s exhibition Shorelines currently at in the Maclaurin Galleries.  It was great that a Symposium of this quality took place in Ayr.  We need more of this quality of thinking and discussion.

    Jan van Boeckel of the Nature – Art – Education research group at Aalto University, School of Art and Design, Helsinki, gave a short paper entitled Angels talking back and new organs of perception: Art making and intentionality in nature experience.  He has provided the abstract and link to the full paper.

    ABSTRACT

    This article is about the role of artistic process in connecting to the natural environment. In my research I have explored what participants experienced and learned when they engage in different types of arts-based environmental education (AEE) practices that I have facilitated. The premise of AEE is that efforts to learn about our (natural) environment can effectively take their starting point in an artistic activity, usually conducted in groups.

    I found that, on the whole, two major orientations can be distinguished. One starts from the point of aesthetic sensibility: the tuning in with the senses, or with “a new organ of perception” (Goethe), in order to perceive “the more than human” with fresh new eyes. This tradition can be traced back to (but is by no means limited) to the Romantic Movement. Art in this context may help to amplify the receptivity of the senses and strengthen a sense of connectedness to the natural world.

    The other major orientation in seeking bridges between nature and art builds on a view of artistic process as leading to unexpected outcomes and “emergent properties.” The fundamentally singular experience of making a work of art may evoke an aesthetic object that becomes a “self-sufficient, spiritually breathing subject” (Kadinsky). The art work can be spontaneously generative and multi-layered with meanings, some of which even ambiguous and paradoxical. But perhaps more importantly: it can catch the participant of an AEE activity by surprise; overwhelm him or her as “coming from behind one’s back.” The element of improvisation, of taking in the new and unanticipated and accommodating for it, is the core quality here.

    These two orientations, when practiced as part of AEE, have implications to how we relate to nature through art. In the closing of this article I address the question whether it is possible to bridge the dualism between the two orientations.

    ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.

    It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.
    Go to EcoArtScotland

    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.

    Emulating Genius: learn how to do it in under 2 hours

    Many thanks to everyone who came to the event, ran around forming adaptive eco-systems and generated new design possibilities. (And sorry to those who couldn’t get in because the event sold out).

    Biomimicry is a new discipline that consciously emulates life’s genius.

    It’s a design principle based on the genius of nature. The idea is not simply to utilise the natural world, but to learn from the exceptional aspects of its design.

    It is the most radical approach to problem solving I have heard of.

    And when architect Michael Pawlyn (FRSA) told me about it, I thought: ‘ Hmmm, it’d be good to learn how that works – not just ‘hear about it’ as something interesting – it would be great to understand the principles of it, then find ways to apply it.’ Then I drifted off into a daydream about the possibility of applying biomimicry in the arts….

    So Michael has been developing games that can teach the principles of how biomimicry works – and we g0t to try them out with him and ecologist Dusty Gedge (FRSA).

    The event is part of the Barbican exhibition Radical Nature – Art and Architecture for a Changing Planet 1969–2009.

    The genius behind the genius of biomimicry is Janine Benyus – she is an Ada Lovelace for the 21st century. If you want to see a short introduction to Benyus’s work, her latest TED talk is now online.

    Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

    No Really Now.

    Really. It’s a common blip for the wordpress theme to get all aggressively defaulty, but hopefully now it is fixed. We hope. We are hoping. ‘Cause the blips and farts are really exhausting.

    In the meantime, some really awesome stuff has been going on.

    In Seattle, artist Mandy Greer has just unveiled the installation Mater Matrix Mother and Medium at Camp Long in Seattle, Washington. It’s a lot of yarn. A lot of yarn in deep dark to bright lights blues, twisting and spazzing and coughing its way through a series of urban trees. Water. On its opening night it danced with performer Zoe Scofield.

    Trees are growing sideways in the exhibition Radical Nature: Art and Architecture for a Changing Planet 1969-2009, on display at the Barbican Art Gallery in London. They’re part of a massive retrospective of environmental artwork, ranging from Beuys to Smithson to mounds of grass. Trees also paraded through London to celebrate the opening of the exhibit.   William Shaw gives an excellent overview on the RSA Arts & Ecology blog: there’s a video of the exhibition from them below. Monumental, both in the comprehensive gathering of significant artworks, and in the diverse reactions from the critics.

    And sadly, the environmental art gallery Collectively Grasp will be closing its San Francisco doors in August. For those of you in the area: they’re having a closing party August 15th. Check it out.

    The Bay Area Air is alternately hot, stale, and rich and creamy like ice cream. Here’s RSA Arts and Ecology’s video of Radical Nature. Enjoy.

    Radical Nature | Barbican 2009 from RSA Arts & Ecology on Vimeo.

    Go to the Green Museum

    Radical Nature Comes to the Art Gallery : TreeHugger

    Radical Nature, Art and Architecture for a Changing Planet is an exhibition that examines how nature has inspired artists and architects. The show takes a historical look at strange and experimental buildings since the 60s that have changed the way we see the world.

    via Radical Nature Comes to the Art Gallery : TreeHugger.