Taiwanese artist Wu Mali on role of art in communities – Asia Art Archive

ART AND COMMUNITY TAIWANESE ARTIST INTERVIEW

Collaboration with communities has been an ongoing significance in Wu Mali’s works for a decade now. As she explains, dealing with socially-engaged practice through art presents a learning experience of its own. In an interview with Asia Art Archive which we summarise below, Wu explains her work and why she thinks community collaboration is so important for art practice.

Click here to read the original Asia Art Archive interview with Wu Mali.

It started in the year 2000, where she developed community-based projects with Taipei Awakening Association, an organisation focusing on developing women’s awareness and promotion of their status in society, and through the “Textile Playing Workshop” (玩布工作坊) where interaction with housewives over the course of four years produced Awake in Your Skin (從你的皮膚裡甦醒) . She has developed multifarious art projects with divergent communities ever since.

Documentation of "Textile Playing Sisters" participating in Wu Mali's ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ in 2004. Image courtesy of the artist.

Documentation of "Textile Playing Sisters" participating in Wu Mali's ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ in 2004. Image courtesy of the artist.

Going through an intricate process in generating ideas from raising criticism and working with the community as an artist, Wu explains her realisation about stimulating change through her artworks:

It was in this setting, [“Textile Playing Workshop”, that]  I realised that change cannot happen by ME coming to change YOU, but through opportunities of interactivity and communication, presenting my perspective in a language they are familiar with in order to gain understanding; change will then be self-initiated. This is the reason for my increasing involvement with community movements.

Wu also has ongoing involvement with environmental issues. After By the River, On the River, Of the River (淡水河溯河行動) in 2006, where she worked with communities living along northern Taiwan’s Danshui River, Wu developed Taipei Tomorrow As Lake Again. This work was shown in the 2008 Taipei Biennale as a criticism of the Flora Expo, especially with regard to the large amount of pesticides being used at the expo and the effect that it could have on the environment. The Flora expo is an international gardening exposition which Taipei is hosting this year.

Wu Mali's 'Taipei Tomorrow As A Lake Again' (2008) was an installation made for the 2008 Taipei Biennial as a reaction to Taiwan's Flora Expo. Image courtesy of the artist.

Wu Mali's 'Taipei Tomorrow As A Lake Again' (2008) was an installation made for the 2008 Taipei Biennial as a reaction to Taiwan's Flora Expo. Image courtesy of the artist.

Speaking about the role of art in environmental issues she explains,

I think art stimulates the mind, but I wouldn’t compare an artist to an environmentalist. They have different focuses in their roles, but one can simultaneously be an artist and an environmentalist. Environmentalists are focused in making changes; artists, on the other hand, tell the same story with a different medium, they also give the mind an alternative suggestion – this, I think, is the only difference between the two.

About Wu Mali

Born in 1957 in Taiwan, Wu Mali currently lives and works in Kaohsiung and Taipei, Taiwan. She is a graduate of Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Germany. Wu participated in “Parallel Reality”, the Fukuoka Asian Art Triennial, in 2005 and exhibited in “Re-Thread” in 2006 – a project produced with the support of South Asian immigrant textile workers at BBC Radio Lancashire, Blackburn, England. This year her work featured at the “YES TAIWAN: 2010 Taiwan Biennial” and “Going Green: New Environmental Art from Taiwan“.

MS/KN/HH

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