house

Coral Island

I've just returned home after taking part in a project on Ikei Island in Okinawa. Organised by Yoshiko Machida (we're classmates), it was called Coral Island Art Project. It's a type of collaboration and cultural exchange between Taiwanese and Okinawan based artists, and Yoshiko has curated an exhibition here in Taipei and in Okinawa with work thematically linked with a response to coral. We lived on Ikei Island for a week, slowly and surely installing. Such a surreal place, unlike anywhere I've been. Surreal probably isn't the right word, it's the word an outsider would use. It's actually very real, people live here (only about 250), the village is made up of traditional Japanese houses with some newer buildings scattered here and there. We slept on the ground underneath a mosquito net, in a home inhabited by the ancestors of the owner, who doesn't live there. 'Heartbreak Island' my friend called it. She was speaking personally, but I also understand - we all felt something. Such heartbreaking beauty, and a quietness I'm not used to anymore coming from Taipei. No phone, no internet, but a quietness punctuated by such turbulent and sudden weather!

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I installed my work in a home inhabited by an ancestor. It's such a relief to install outside of the gallery for a change. To be sure the space presents it's own challenges and problems, but I would love to find a way to work in a space like this again.

This piece was called 93%. Here is a little something I wrote to accompany it:

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is one of the county’s most significant and iconic national landmarks. Beach culture is central to Australian life, the reef’s beauty is perhaps the most tangible evidence as to why. The most comprehensive survey of the reefs that comprise the Great Barrier Reef was completed in April, finding that 93 percent have been hit by coral bleaching. Coral bleaching occurs when the ocean water warms, sending the coral into distress and eventual death. The mass bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef comes amid a global bleaching crises that's only getting worse as the oceans continue to warm.

The installation piece ‘93%’ is made up of one hundred individual, coral shaped, pieces. Ninety-three shapes are cut from white board, the remaining seven are painted. It’s a desperate response aimed at articulating the dread and protest I’ve felt about this issue, an issue largely ignored by Australia’s media and political establishment. Australia is currently in an election year, the results of which could decide the fate of the reef. This work is as much an attempt to raise awareness of this time sensitive issue as it is a response to the loss of a treasure and the degradation of the environment. In responding to these new figures, I’ve also begun to question the social function of art, acknowledging that work like this too often lacks the audience and vocabulary to truly affect change. Rather, art becomes the object of memorial to something of value lost. A kitch monument to a  loss we cumulatively preside over, and do nothing.

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The Okinawan culture I saw on Ikei was unlike anything I've seen before. How can I get back there? I only got such a small glimpse inside something very special and I want to know more. Is there a way to return to Ikei? Maybe for longer with a more engaged, ongoing project? I think in spite of the gentle difficulties of the trip, that's something I'd really like to do. For the first time I'm filled with the urge to learn Japanese, spend time there to better understand the country.

Well let's not get ahead of things, I'm about to graduate (post coming soon) after which I hope to stay on and get serious about Chinese learning. It's the next stage, I feel a vitality and importance attached to the act of language learning that I used to only associated with art making. So yes, Chinese first. But I still hope to return to Ikei in the future, with some new project I don't yet know about.

 

 

raining.

It feels like we are only a slight distance from the cold weather. At home in bed the house sounds like it might fall down. The rain is so heavy, the walls are so fragile. We are barely protected. But the house still protects me, and I'm very happy and very safe. "So Moomintroll went down the stairs, step by step, holding the lamp tightly. and reached the muddy floor at the bottom of the lighthouse. The door creaked as usual and it felt very heavy. He stood outside on the rock in the cold unreal moonlight. 'Isn't life exiting!' Moomintroll thought. 'Everything can change all of a sudden, and for no reason at all! The staircase is suddenly quite beautiful and the glade I don't want to think about any more.' Breathlessly, he walked over the rock, through the heather, through the little copse of aspens. They were motionless and quiet now, there wasn't breath of wind. He walked slowly, listening. The beach was quite quiet. 'I've frightened them,' Moomintroll thought, and bent down to turn off the lamp. "Whatever it is that comes here at night must be very shy. An island by night can be very scared.' Now the lamp was out and immediately the island seemed to come much nearer. He could feel it very close to him as it lay there motionless in the moonlight. He wasn't at all frightened, but just sat there listening. There it was; the sound of prancing steps in the sand somewhere behind the aspens. Backwards and forwards they went, down the beach and into the water; splashing about and making the foam fly. It was them. The sea-horses, his sea-horses. Now he understood everything. The silver shoe he had found in the sand, the calender with the moon dipping it's feet in the morning wave, the call he had heard while he was asleep. Moomintroll stood in the trees and watched the sea horses dance."

from Moominpappa at Sea by Tove Janson

Louise's House

"I've returned to the room I picked for myself. Picked is not exactly the right word; it's not that I'm especially relaxed here, or feel comfortable, or even feel at home. Instead, I think it's the colours that drew me, snaring me like a bird. The dense clutter of objects, even those that bother me when I lie down or sleep, bizarrely makes me want to stay here, touching, laughing, sometimes giving myself a fright. There's no bed but I don't mind lying on the floor, especially since the few other beds in the house are either too hard or already occupied. Apart from the red forearm-inflated like a balloon and placed on a kind of chopping block-nothing really frightens me. I can go up to everything and even touch: I can unwind a bobbin of thread, but not too far, and then carefully wind it back again so no one will notice; or play with the little case; or cradle the dog's head like a doll. Or I can climb the little red ladder like a fireman in case the house catches fire, or even blow gusts of wind on the hurricane lamp. But I don't look at the hourglasses. They're too shiny, they look like candy floss, sweets, caramel-but I'm sure they'll feel pulpy, and I don't want to think about them. In other rooms, I confess I hesitate to touch things sometimes. I'm afraid my finger will get stuck in something hairy or moist, that my nails will be caked with pulp, with the flesh of parts unknown. I have to rouse myself, start walking. I have to invent new pathways to reach rooms. Sometimes I think it's either the house or me."