It is just a few days since the artists and volunteers all left Cheng Long, and the exhibition remains there in the Wetlands. When I returned to Cheng Long on Monday, May 9, just 8 days after the exhibition opening, the village seemed very quiet and the wetlands peaceful, but the artworks proclaim this as a place for attention. I brought my son Chris and his wife Rebecca visiting from Boston to see the show. This experience gave me a chance to see the exhibition with fresh eyes and also see how the works are faring over time. Most of the art installations this year incorporate growing plants or include some elements that are meant to change over time. With the theme of “greener wetlands” it is natural to use green plants, but some artworks interpret the word “green” in a broader sense to mean anything that is good for the environment. It was great to have artists this year that understood the importance of using only natural materials and techniques that would not harm the environment of the wetlands nature preserve and help to improve the habitat for the wildlife.
Karen Macher’s “Floating Garden” is an excellent example of making the wetlands greener by including many different kinds of plants growing in the 22 planter baskets incorporated in her installation. I like that Karen was able to use mostly the recycled bamboo from old oyster platforms that we collected on a nearby beach. For some of the bamboo structure used to form the large circles of the construction, Karen used fresh bamboo and learned to bend it using heat from a torch.
Some of the plants that Karen used are tall reeds and others more vine-like ground cover plants. It seems that the taller plants are already beginning to get battered by the wind and rain that is just the beginning of the rainy season in South Taiwan. I think the plants will continue to grow and hopefully thrive there, but only time will tell. Karen’s installation is in a great place for viewing from the bridge that goes across to another village and expands the artworks this year into a new area of the Wetlands.
Rumen Dimitrov used plants too in his “Flying Boats” installation, and this element of growing plants inside the boats really adds to his work and softens and lightens the bulk of the driftwood and bamboo structures. Rumen also made use of recycled bamboo as well as driftwood pieces that he found at a nearby beach. The weathered grey color of the driftwood and recycled bamboo contributes to the surrealistic feeling of boats flying above the waters of the wetlands.
Like all of the artists this year, Rumen made his construction using no metal and only natural materials. For the “green” in his installation, Rumen used wetlands grasses and other plants that are vine-like, and he hopes that some plants will soon begin to cascade down from the boats suspended above the water of the wetlands. I also really like the reflections in the water cast by his boats. It is great that he was able to make nine boats for his installation although he had only proposed to create five. In fact, all of the artists made their works larger than they had proposed. When they got to Cheng Long Wetlands and saw that vast expanse of water, they realized that the art needed to be very large in order to make an impact.
Hsin-yu Huang created a total of 30 “nests” for her installation “Let’s Nest,” even though her initial sketch proposed about 9 nests! The mass of nests of various sizes and placed on poles at different heights creates a big impact artwork that can be seen well from the highway going past Cheng Long . It is great to have such a large visible work as this that can attract people to stop and see the Wetlands.
Hsin-yu’s installation also provides much visual interest at closer views, and visitors can walk out closer to the installation. The reflections in the water on a still day are great, and it is wonderful to see that birds are already beginning to investigate these human-made nests! We took some photos of Hsin-yu’s installation from the nearby highway overpass, but unfortunately it was foggy and rainy that morning. We will try to get more photos of the artworks from afar on a bright and sunny day.
Julie Chou’s installation titled “Returning to the Sea” also presents a great view from the highway going by Cheng Long. This work also grew much larger than the original concept sketch. Julie decided to make the three starfish forms larger after coming to Cheng Long and seeing the vast stretches of water and deciding where she wanted to put her work. The starfish are placed with the largest one closest to shore and then decreasing in size with the smallest one far out in the water going toward the setting sun. After we all went back home, Chao-mei was able to take some photos of Julie’s work one day as the sun was setting . Julie lined up the starfish so that they go towards the setting sun in the West and in the direction of the ocean.
I also liked Julie’s use of the oyster shells on her installation to connect it to the tradition of oyster farming in this region of Taiwan. The shining white of the oyster shells makes the forms stand out against the color of the water. Her artwork may even grow some oysters too! It is also amazing how well the forms float. This was a concern we all had as Karen and Julie were building floating artworks…..would it really float??? Bamboo is an amazing material, and everything floats well with no plastic supports and only natural materials used.
Firman Djamil’s installation titled “Cheng Long Spiral” is an amazing sight as it starts out on the land and goes out into the water getting progressively lower until it sinks into the Wetlands. The Cheng Long Spiral goes in the opposite direction from Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty” that was made in the Great Salt Lake in Utah, USA in 1970. Firman’s spiral seems to be moving upward to the sky. Firman constructed it all with bamboo using no metal, making slots and tying it all together with natural rope.
印尼藝術家Firman的作品「迴轉成龍」從陸地一直緩緩地沒入水裡，很有可看性。這件作品和美國藝術家Robert Smithson在1970年於美國猶他州大鹽湖的知名創作Spiral Jetty（迴轉防波堤）的螺旋轉向相反，Firman的螺旋作品看起來有升向天際的感覺。整件作品完全沒有鐵釘，Firman用卡榫和麻繩固定所有的竹子。
Part of the spiral has earth from the wetlands on its bamboo floor, and Firman planted tomato seeds and seeds from a native flowering vine to grow on the spiral. Firman’s work also has many fish forms hanging from the spiral structure that were made by the local children using bamboo and oyster shells. Maybe some oysters will grow here! The structure also provides habitat and resting places for birds and other wildlife.
Keep checking back to this Blog to see how the artworks for 2011 continue to change over the months of the exhibition. The exhibition is on view through July 30, but probably most of these artworks will remain until next year’s Cheng Long Wetlands International Art Project. Thanks again to all the artists and the volunteers as well as the children and the community for making this year’s art project such a big success.