Art as Environment—A Cultural Action at the Plum Tree Creek proposes the idea of “mending the broken land with water.” Water is essential to life, and it has the ability to cross borders, connecting and gathering people who are concerned about the land we live on, as well as issues of urban development and boundless expansion. Thus this project invites an envisioning of ecology-focused planning for urban villages.
Through interdisciplinary collaboration among professionals in different fields and artists spanning a variety of media, Art as Environment initiates a diverse set of actions. The project aims to generate a dialogue between local residents and the public sector, and put the theoretical aspects of critical pedagogy into practice. Working in cooperation with local primary schools, secondary schools, and universities, the program hopes to implement the idea of a “classroom of the future” that will transmit local knowledge and adapt it into the content and methods for the classroom.
Five activity programs include public breakfast gatherings held at different sites along Plum Tree Creek, a mobile museum, artist residencies, study of and field research on plant life and aquatic ecosystems, as well as a community theater.
WU Mali & Bamboo Curtain Studio
Curator WU Mali serves as Associate Professor and Chair in the Graduate Institute of Interdisciplinary Art at National Kaohsiung Normal University. Bamboo Curtain Studio aims to foster the development of local art and culture by providing working artists with workspaces and performance venues, as well as professional networks to conduct research at home and abroad. It aims to promote the dialogue between art and civil society, to strengthen the core value of art as a means of social development.
The Environmental Art Movement at Plum Tree Creek is a cultural movement led by the artist WU Mali that combines the efforts of local residents, shops, schools and people working in the cultural history, urban planning, ecology resources and other sectors. For many years, Wu has focused her efforts on cultural movements and public issues. In addition to introducing books on cultural movements and new types of public art, she is also actively involved in artistic practices. Through ex-situ events like the Environmental Art Movement at Plum Tree Creek, that lasted 18 months, the Artists Community Breakfast Club, social theatre, mobile museums, inter-disciplinary art education, green living, etc., Wu has rekindled the local residents’ concern about the environment and their lives as well as ponder the meaning of art in social participation. Committee member:LAI Hsiang-Ling
Art as Environment – A Cultural Action at the Plum Tree Creek has been nominated for and received the 11th Taishin Arts Award as it demonstrates an outstanding example of the exploration of social issues through artistic practice, addressing sustainable development, environmental protection and encouraging community participation. Initiated by the senior artist WU Mali and Margaret SHIU, director of Bamboo Curtain Studio, the project endeavored to investigate the potential of cultural action and thus generated a new genre of public art through interdisciplinary collaboration in dialogue with local residents, the public sector and professionals in the field. Through extended activities, such as breakfast gatherings, trekking around the creek, and community theatre, the long-term project has awaken the memories and environmental consciousness about a river that has been severely polluted, distorted and covered up. In addition, the project also produced a well-researched catalogue, documenting its various phases and complexities. The fact that the project has already aroused attentions from various governmental agencies also proves its potential to become an encouraging case study for other practitioners and communities that confront similar conditions. The jury therefore unanimously selected “Art as Environment – A Cultural Action at the Plum Tree Creek” as the recipient of the 11th Taishin Arts Award. Committee member:LIN Chi-Ming, CHIANG Po-Shin, Sunjung Kim, Ute Meta Bauer
The Plum Tree Creek originates from the Datun Mountains. In the early days, native plum trees grew prosperously along the banks of the creek. But then the plum trees were cut down in mass for firewood; five years ago, artist WU Mali and the Bamboo Curtain Studio found the Creek a waste water drain, which had to be covered with cement lids to obscure the odor. And thus was the Art as Environment— A Cultural Action at the Plum Tree Creek initiated.
To Restore the Plum Tree Creek
Art as Environment— A Cultural Action at the Plum Tree Creek is a public movement designed for the community with new public art ideals. WU Mali uses art to bring together the residents along the Creek, cooperating with the local elementary, middle school and university, to open up conversations with community members and public sectors, and create a new form of landscape art that includes the improvement of the environment.
The Cultural Action began in 2009, working to restore the environment of the Plum Tree Creek to fit its name, and depicting a vision for the Creek. The Action was awarded the Curatorial Practice in Exhibitions Project grant subsidized by the National Culture and Arts Foundation, and included a series of educational and community programs. Local regions have gradually lost their distinguishing features to inappropriate developments, and the environment and people’s life quality have continued to deteriorate. Under the circumstances, these projects explore how to gain new perspective through learning and actions of art, to outline a new, ideal blueprint of life.
Bringing Back Memories of the Creek through Community Activities
To collect more stories about the Plum Tree Creek, WU Mali began holding breakfast meetings at locations along the creek side, inviting experts of different fields to engage in dialogue. Residents upstream and downstream came together, and collective consciousness of the community began to form. The residents discussed public issues on the water and the environment, and began planning an ideal environment for future living.
Next, WU Mali and the Bamboo Curtain Studio went on to plan four sub-projects: Shaping of a Village: Nomadic Museum Project, conducted by the Department of Architecture, Tamkang University; There Is a Creek In Front of My School Gate, which invited artists expert in visual art, dance, music and other fields of art, to help the children at Zhu Wei Elementary School experience again the environment around them with their senses; Local Eco Life: Colorful Affairs with Plants cooperated with Zhu Wei Junior High School, so the students can learn about the plants, water, and green lifestyle in local Zhu Wei; Food Theater: Community in Action invited residents to re-acquaint themselves with the Plum Tree Creek through theater.
The Art as Environment— A Cultural Action at the Plum Tree Creek was supported with long-term efforts of many artists. Including learning about the local culture, to conversing with local communities, the Action goes beyond politic agendas, to redefine the potential and profundity of art.