Many artists have asked questions about what we are looking for this year in the proposals from artists.
For the 2011 art project, we are looking for some artists who can create artworks in the water or near the water in the Cheng Long Wetlands. There is not much dry land, and the paths out into the wetlands are narrow and sometimes even covered by water. We would like to see some ideas that could be floating platforms or built from the land in the shallow parts of the wetlands. I am copying below part of my Curator Essay from the catalog of the art project in 2010, and this contains a description of the wetlands and how they were formed.
“When I first visited the Cheng Long Wetlands at the invitation of Chao-mei Wang of the Kuan Shu Educational Foundation, I was struck with the strange beauty yet tragic undertones of these wetlands that once were farmlands and now had the tops of houses, temples, tombs and dead trees peeking up above the water. I also toured Cheng Long Village and the Cheng Long Elementary School that day. The small village impressed me as very poor and far-removed from the modern urban life of most parts of Taiwan. The village people were friendly and very curious about me as a foreigner. I met the village mayor and the principal of the local elementary school. The school was a lively and inviting place with a dynamic learning environment and enthusiastic students. There were many artworks created by the students inside and outside the school building, and they had a computer room and a large library plus a room dedicated to environmental learning where they worked with educators from the Kuan Shu Foundation. The idea for the Cheng Long Wetlands International Environmental Art Project -Children and Artists Celebrate the Wetlands” grew out of this initial visit. I wanted to bring international artists and Taiwanese artists from other regions here to experience this unique place and its traditional lifestyle as well as interact with the community people and especially the school children…
It is hoped that this art exhibition can bring more attention to the human and natural causes of this wetland and raise public awareness about the importance of preserving and conserving this area as a wetland to make a positive contribution to the environment. Cheng Long Wetlands was created because of human errors and natural disasters. The human errors such as the over-pumping and draining of the underground water caused the land to sink, and water from heavy rains and typhoons began to cover what had once been village farmlands. Some people also say that the government of Taiwan at that time thought too much about industrial development and not so much about the environmental problems. It was difficult to solve the problem, and there are many different points of view about the environmental consequences of damming rivers and building reservoirs. This area of Taiwan has also seen many severe typhoons and heavy rain in recent times, causing more flooding. Some scientists also say that global warming may be contributing to the weather change. The ocean water is rising along the western coast of Taiwan, coming further inland each year.
At any rate the Cheng Long Wetland has been a part of the local landscape for over twenty years, and now it is the home for various types of interesting wildlife including many migrating and local water birds. The Wetlands have become an excellent spot for bird watching and wildlife education. The government and private foundations are trying to turn a negative into a positive, a disaster into a new habitat for sheltering wildlife and raising environmental awareness in rural Taiwan. Art is one way to bring attention to these wetlands and raise public awareness about their unique beauty and potential for positive change in the community. People must learn to live with rising waters, and this problem is not unique to Cheng Long, as global warming is global in its impact. Perhaps this community can be an example for others that are struggling to come to terms with rising waters and the creation of new wetlands. This art project brought fresh energy to the local community and perhaps helped the people realize that there is some value in having these wetlands and this art in their midst. “
Now the Cheng Long Wetlands are home to many migrating birds for several months each year and to many fish, animals and birds that stay all year round. However, there are not many plants in the wetlands – only some reeds and almost no trees or shade. The level of water in the wetlands varies from very shallow to over your head in some parts that were originally dug out for fish farms. The water is mostly salty, and it is difficult for plants to grow there because the soil is also salty. We expect to have some expert advice from the Taiwan Forestry Bureau to help the artists who want to use living plants in their works.
We are looking forward to seeing some creative ideas that can improve the habitat of the wetlands and benefit the fishes and birds. Be sure to get your proposal in by the February 11 deadline. See the Call for Proposals for details about what you need to send.