My name is Isabelle Garbani, and I was fortunate enough to be one of the artists selected in 2012. I am originally from France, but now live and work in New York City. My trip to Cheng Long was the first time I attended an artist residency and the first time I traveled to Asia. The excitement level was understandably pretty high when I arrived there!
My stay at Cheng Long Wetlands International Artist Residency made me feel like an art star. For the first time in my life, I had no distractions so I could focus solely on my art project, and I had an incredible supportive team around me: the curator Jane Ingram who is one of the nicest people I know makes every effort to help with the completion of the project; Chao-mei and everyone working for the education foundation tirelessly find solutions for the artists (finding tools and local help, materials, organizing cultural events, and documenting the residency); the Taiwanese volunteers help the artists not only with completing their artwork but also serve as interpreters, cultural guides and friends; the school children are the cheerleaders because they are so enthusiastic about participating in the art projects; and the villagers who are curious about why we do what we do and try to help in anyway they can.
My artwork mainly focuses on the impact and significance of plastic, and my project for Cheng Long was crocheted plastic kudzu leaves “invading” one of the village houses. I had collected plastic bags and made some of the artwork in the US during the winter. Jane, who was still living in Taiwan at the time, collected bags from friends and neighbors so all my materials needs for the project were taken care of upon my arrival in Taiwan. The foundation took us for the first few days on several day trips, first to ease the jet lag and learn about the local culture, and second to find free art materials for the artists’ projects. We visited the local recycling center that has everything you can imagine that can be recycled (clothes, plastics, metal, cardboard, light bulbs!), and we visited the sea shore for used bamboo and driftwood which can have very interesting colors. The area also abounds with oyster and clam shells which a lot of artists end up using.
My studio was set up in the local bird watching area which protected us from the rain and the sun: rainstorms can be very intense, and 2012 was brutally hot even in April. It is good to keep in mind and follow what the locals wear to protect your skin. I was sunburned before I decided to be smart and buy a large sun hat and protective sleeves that are readily available at the local markets.
I had two volunteers working with me, Sing and Ta-Ta who became very good friends by the end of my stay. Ta-Ta is an artist and Sing was preparing to go to London to study art management, so I was very lucky to have two people with me who were interested in art. This is not always the case, so it is better to be prepared to do a lot of the work on one’s own. Ta-Ta did a lot of crochet leaves, but Sing could not latch on to that process as easily, and ended up managing the project for me which was fantastic: she found ways for the children to help, and organized a lot of their work-flow.
The schedule can be pretty tight because it takes a little bit of time to gather tools and materials and find a good working set-up, and also because some of the days are spent teaching the local children about art and the environment. I kept a schedule for myself and my volunteers so we could easily see if we were falling behind. Everyone in the red house, where I stayed with most of the volunteers, helped with the project, and I will forever be grateful for the enthusiasm and dedication of the staff, volunteers and villagers.
Life in Cheng Long was an extraordinary experience for me, and yes, the staff will provide you with coffee, and yes, there is a washing machine at the red house so there is no need to bring your entire apartment with you, and yes, the food is absolutely fantastic. Chao-mei and her staff will also make frequent trips to local events so you can get a good sense of life in Taiwan… and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to go to a rice field for a morning and get a mud bath as you are planting rice!
More stories about Isabelle’s experience in Chenglong, please check this link:
更多有關Isabelle在成龍經歷的故事，請參考連結 : https://artproject4wetland.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/e68890e9be8de5b088e5888a-isabelle.pdf
The theme of the 2015 art project is “Fragile- Handle with care“, the deadline of proposals is January, 16, 2015. Looking forward to seeing your proposals soon!