Taiwan eco-art exhibition Going Green tours America – curator interview


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Environmental art in Asia is not a subject we’ve touched on much here at Art Radar. So when we heard about “Going Green”, an environmental art exhibition that took Taiwanese artists and their art to America, we decided to interview curator Jane Ingram Allen to find out more.

Chien-hua Huang's 'Rhinoceros' (2006) from his "Beasts" series. This photograph was exhibited as part of the 2010 exhibition "Going Green". Image courtesy of the artist.

Chien-hua Huang's 'Rhinoceros' (2006) from his "Beasts" series. This photograph was exhibited as part of the 2010 exhibition "Going Green". Image courtesy of the artist.

Going Green: New Environmental Art From Taiwan” is the brainchild of American-born Taiwan-based paper artist, curator and arts writer Jane Ingram Allen. Allen has been living in Taiwan since 2004 and during this time has been involved in a huge number of public and community-based art programmes, the most recent being the 2010 ChengLong Wetlands International Environmental Art Project. She is also the founder of the Guandu International Outdoor Sculpture Festival and was the event’s curator between 2006 and 2009.

“Going Green” began in June 2010 and wound-up in November of the same year. During this time it travelled to five different venues in four different parts of the U.S.: Queens Botanical Garden (Flushing, NY), The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education and Asian Arts Initiative (Philadelphia, PA), Accident Gallery (Eureka, CA), and The A.D. Gallery at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (Pembroke, NC). Of the sixteen artists whose work was exhibited as part of “Going Green”, eight artists travelled to America to create site-specific works.

In this interview, Allen tells us a little about the environmental art movement as it exists in Taiwan and internationally as well as offering insight into the running of this somewhat unique touring exhibition. It is a must-read for curators and art event organisers, as well as for anyone interested in contemporary environmental art.

Why did you decide to call the exhibition “Going Green: New Environmental Art From Taiwan”?

Well, I used the word ‘going’ to indicate that it is happening now. Environmental art in Taiwan is, I think, a very new movement. … I think it’s something that some [Taiwanese artists] haven’t heard of until the last ten years. … It’s really difficult for most artists [in Taiwan] to find a place to do this kind of work if they are interested in it.

‘Going Green’ [is] also a catchy title and when you’re creating a show, you always [want] something in the title that will catch people’s attention and be easy to remember.

Jane Ingram Allen, curator of 2010's "Going Green: New Environmental Art From Taiwan".

Jane Ingram Allen, curator of 2010's "Going Green: New Environmental Art From Taiwan".

When I thought of the title, since I’m a visual person, I had the … image of a beautiful green rice field [and] that’s the essence of Taiwanese culture, or at least the traditional culture. Of course, you know that Formosa means ‘beautiful island’. The Portuguese called [Taiwan] Formosa because they saw it as this green jewel in the ocean.

I thought of the subtitle, ‘New Environmental Art From Taiwan’, [because the show contains] recent work. I think the oldest piece in the show [was made in] maybe 2006 and most of these artists have only been doing this kind of work for the last four years. It’s not something that they have a long history of doing [even though] most of them are established artists in Taiwan.

So does the title “Going Green” embody a certain message?

I wanted to show to the world that there are artists in Taiwan that are thinking about environmental issues and that are presenting a different viewpoint. It’s not the same viewpoint as [the West] has of environmental art. Their work is, of course, coming from their [own] background and experience as all art does.

When I was going around with the exhibition to the four different places in the U.S., one thing that people would always say to me was, ‘Wow! Thanks so much for bringing this here. This is really different.’

You know there are Taiwanese-Americans in many … cities in America. Usually [these communities] stay in the major metropolitan areas like New York City. But then other parts of America, like Pembroke, North Carolina, where we had the fourth show, [the community there] has probably never met any people from Taiwan or even any people from Asia.

Did that influence you in your choice of venue? Did you want to take “Going Green” to places where people would find the work surprising?

Absolutely. I wanted to [show in] four places in America and I wanted them to be very different….

Venue One (Flushing, NY)

One [venue was] a botanical garden … in Queens, Flushing. You get off the subway in and … all the signs are in Chinese. There are markets on the street just like in Taipei. You walk up the main street and you’re in the botanical garden. It’s just a wonderful world of nature right in the middle of the city. I’d been to that botanical garden as an artist-in-residence myself … so I was very familiar with the place and knew the people there. … They have a very international audience.

Queens Botanical Garden is also known for it’s green administration building. It’s just a great place for environmental art because they do have that emphasis. They have a very small gallery space, it’s part of their lobby, and they have a big multipurpose room [that] they put a lot of the art in [for ‘Going Green’]…. I knew they had great spaces for outdoor sculptures. Part of this show, which is kind of unusual, is that I bring two artists from Taiwan to each place to make site-specific installations.

Venues Two and Three (Philidelphia, PA)

For the second venue I picked Philadelphia … [which] has a long history and is the place where the constitution was signed. You’ve got the Liberty Bell and then you’ve also got very good art institutions there.

I [was] in Philadelphia many years ago as an artist-in-residence at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education and I thought that venue would be perfect for a show about environmental art. I also knew that Philadelphia had a Taiwanese or Chinese-American community and that we could make some connections there and actually we did cooperate with the Asian Arts Initiative.

[The Asian Arts Initiative is] a great place. They’ve just got a new building that’s in downtown, the center of Philadelphia, and then the Schuylkill Center is kind of out in the Roxbury area in the northeast. So the site-specific pieces where at the Schuylkill Center, which is a nature center, and then the other part of the show, the gallery part, was in Asian Arts Initiative. It was the first time those two organisations had worked together or even knew about each other.

Yu Wen-fu's 'Changes of Bamboo' was created for the 2006 Guandu International Outdoor Sculpture Festival. Documentation of the installation was shown as part of "Going Green" in 2010.

Yu Wen-fu's 'Changes of Bamboo' was created for the 2006 Guandu International Outdoor Sculpture Festival. Documentation of the installation was shown as part of "Going Green" in 2010.

Did the Schuylkill Center and Asian Arts Initiative attract different audiences to “Going Green”?

They were totally different. You had all these nature-oriented people at the Schuylkill Center and then you had all these inner-city people and art professionals at Asian Arts Initiatives. I think that’s what environmental art does in some ways, it brings together the environmental scientists, the nature-lovers and the art people.

I think more and more people in the art world are also becoming aware … [that] the environment is in trouble and that art should be saying something about it or helping to raise awareness about it.

Venue Four (Eureka, CA)

The third place [we took ‘Going Green’ to] was Eureka, California. I definitely wanted to have some place on the West Coast and get the show out of the Eastern seaboard, get this art seen somewhere else in America.

I knew about Eureka because I have an artist friend who lives there and we’ve cooperated on shows before in New York, so I just wrote her an email and she contacted … Accident Gallery. She was also on the public art committee for the city of Eureka and she arranged that we could do [one of the] site-specific pieces outdoors along the [city’s] boardwalk. [So] we had a piece of public art that brought more attention to this show. The opening [of the show] was a big celebration in the city….

It seems that your choice of venues for “Going Green” were somewhat dependent on the American art industry contacts that you already had.

The [venue choices] were just spontaneous in a way because there were people that I knew in each place. The whole problem sometimes in dealing with Taiwanese [organisations] is they cannot plan very far in advance. I knew I wanted to do the show and I actually started researching before I even knew it was funded. But I only had about three months to actually confirm everything and then it opened in July [2010].

How do you work around this challenge of only having a short time to prepare for an exhibition? Do you think it changes the project at all?

It’s amazing that it did work out very well. I think it was because I had done a lot of pre-planning and had alerted all these people and they had said, ‘Yes we will do it.’ But it would’ve been very bad if we’d had to back out at the last minute. In America, most galleries plan two years in advance at least. So these people where doing me a big favour…. It’s very scary as a curator and an organiser that you cannot confirm [your show]. All the artists had already said ‘Yes, we’ll do it’ and I had arranged for them to send their work. [But] that’s the way things work here. I have never been anywhere where you can walk into a museum and say ‘Here’s my work – I would like to have a show here’ and they’ll say ‘Can you do it in three months?’

Do you think this method of art event planning is disorganised? Or do you think it’s just a different way of doing things?

It’s just a different way of doing things. For art professionals from the West it’s difficult because we are so used to having this two-year time frame and planning everything carefully. But if you can be spontaneous you can take advantage of that. And maybe sometimes you get fresher art shows and newer artists. You’re not tied to the calendar and this set-in-stone planning that the West is used to.

Let’s get back to the venues. Where and what was the fourth venue you chose to exhibit “Going Green” at?

Venue Five (Pembroke, NC)

I wanted to exhibit at some place in the southern part of the country. I had met two professors from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke because they had been Fulbright Scholars in Taiwan a couple years after I was. So when I was doing the show I [asked them if they could] contact the gallery there on campus and see if they would be interested in exhibiting ‘Going Green’. [The professors] were very supportive of Taiwanese art. They worked in digital art [and] the Taiwanese are [very strong in digital art], so I thought it would be a great place for the exhibition. [The exhibition] connects with [the university’s] curriculum in many different ways.

Su-chen Hung's 'Tree with Arteries' (2009) was inspired by a dead tree the artist saw lying in a park. Says Hung, "Trees have arteries; they can feel the pain when we human beings are killing them." Image courtesy of the artist.

Su-chen Hung's 'Tree with Arteries' (2009) was inspired by a dead tree the artist saw lying in a park. Says Hung, "Trees have arteries; they can feel the pain when we human beings are killing them." Image courtesy of the artist.

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke [is located in] a very small town that was totally different from the other places that the show had been in; most of the town is the campus.

So did you want to hold “Going Green” there because it was such a small isolated town? Because there wasn’t so much direct exposure for the students to art produced overseas?

Yes, I wanted to do it there because it was a small town [and] because it was in the south, and also because it’s an area that is very Native American. I thought that would be very interesting for the Taiwanese artists. You know, during my time in Taiwan I’ve explored the aboriginal culture here and learned a little bit about it and I think there’s a definite similarity between Native American culture and aboriginal Taiwanese culture.

Are any of the artists in the show from an aboriginal Taiwanese background? Do any of them work with aboriginal communities or with aboriginal ideas?

Some of [the artists] have done some work in aboriginal communities and some are very interested in that area. And I think in general for people in Taiwan, Native American civilisation and culture is very interesting.

I also thought it was very important to do it at a university. [Pembroke] was the only place we got into anything like a political discussion about the future of Taiwan. It was with an Asian history class and it was fascinating.

And then, also, North Carolina at Pembroke is in a very agricultural area. I picked Chuan-chu Lin for North Carolina because I knew his work had a great connection to agriculture and I knew that the Carolinas had grown rice in the very early days of colonial America. We cooperated with a local farmer and he gave us [some] hay bales for the site-specific installation that Lin made. This farmer was fascinated by it. He had never thought of hay bales as art material [and] now he is thinking about doing some field art….

The other artist, Chin Chih Yang, is a performance and video artist and I picked him because I knew that [Pembroke] had a strong video or new media [art] department. He wanted to make his piece, Coughing Earth, in the gallery but he also wanted to make it roving…. He used a wheel chair as a symbol of a sick earth, put projectors on it, decorated it with some tree branches and projected images of … rising water and fish on all the campus buildings.

So his main problem was trying to figure out how could he make this projector [portable]…. He had heard from somebody that maybe he could use a car battery. So we were going around to all of the auto part stores in Pembroke [and] finally we found this one guy that … got a battery out of an old truck and just gave it to the artist. You know, he had never met anybody from Taiwan [before].

It was just another example of the way that people responded to these foreign artists who were there to make this art. [‘Going Green’] was about the environment and involving the community.

That’s nice. Did you find that the local community was as responsive at every other venue “Going Green” travelled to?

In all of the places [the community response] was just amazing. Of course, in New York and Philadelphia it wasn’t such a big deal. But still, they were very nice people and very helpful.

One thing that I think is really important about this show is that it brought two artists from Taiwan to each venue, so the local community had personal contact with the artists and with Taiwanese culture. Usually when a show is traveling around you don’t even see the artist and it’s very impersonal. I thought that was really important when I was designing and curating ‘Going Green’; I wanted to have that personal contact. And for environmental art it’s very important to be site-specific. You should connect with the place [you are exhibiting in].

Documentation of Ya-chu Kang's installation 'Skeletons' (2009), made of non-biodegradable garbage for the 2009 exhibition "Turning the Tide", was shown as part of "Going Green" in 2010. Image courtesy of the artist.

Documentation of Ya-chu Kang's installation 'Skeletons' (2009), made of non-biodegradable garbage for the 2009 exhibition "Turning the Tide", was shown as part of "Going Green" in 2010. Image courtesy of the artist.

Why is it so important for environmental art to connect with the place it’s made in?

Environmental art is about the place it is made. It can be more general, it can be about the world environment in general, but usually if it is site-specific it relates to that particular place and [the audience] can see it’s made from [local] materials. [The site-specific work in ‘Going Green’] has something to do with something that is happening in [the local] community as well as what is happening in Taiwan.

Did the artists who went out to each venue plan their site-specific works before they left Taiwan for America or was the work created spontaneously?

I picked sixteen artists [for the show] and we could only afford to send two to each place. That meant half of them … were just going to send their work. And some preferred that because they were too busy or didn’t really do site-specific work. I asked [the artists who wanted to do site-specific works] … to send me a proposal of something they would like to do. After I saw [the proposals] I was able to pick because I knew each of these places in America.

For Eureka I picked garbage and then I picked an artist that works with trees, Su-Chen Hung, because Northern California is where they have a big logging industry, the problem with clear-cutting and the redwoods [there] are in danger because of climate change. In Pembroke, I wanted one piece that used new technology and then we had one piece that was related to farming. In Philadelphia, I had an artist who was much more in tune with nature. One of the artists that went there, Chao-chang Lee, is very much into meditation. People were totally fascinated [with] his piece, called Everything is Buddha. It was a huge earth work, like a drawing on the earth, made with pine straw.

Watch a video of Chao-chang Lee’s Everything is Buddha performance on Vimeo.

Were there any artists that you asked to go to certain places that declined the offer?

Yes, there were. Because of their schedules and that sort of thing.

I want to travel this show in Asia in 2011. I think I’ll keep the same artists, I might add a few more, but I might pick different artists to do site-specific pieces if they are available because I think it is such an opportunity for the artist. It stretches them. First of all, they have to go somewhere and be in a different culture and find their materials, and it gives them an opportunity to make a big piece that maybe they would never make [otherwise]. And, of course, it is good for the venue. They have a piece that … fits their place.

Sure, sure. Were each of the venues receptive towards “Going Green” when you first contacted them or did you have to do a bit of convincing?

I had to do a bit of convincing, of course, [but] because I had some personal connections with the places it was kind of easy.

You know the Taiwanese government and the Taipei Cultural Center were very generous in supporting this. They paid me as the curator, they paid for a catalogue essay, they paid for the travel of the artist, they paid for the shipping of the art works and they paid for the catalogue, the posters and the promotional materials. So the show was essentially free. But we wanted to make it a cooperative thing [with the American organisations involved]. They had to provide a place for the exhibition, a place for two site-specific pieces and they had to provide accommodation in each place for the artists.

The artists [also got] a small fee. I insist that the artists get a fee [with all the exhibitions I organise] because I’m an artist myself and I know how it is. You have to live. So even the artists who didn’t go to America got a very small fee to pack their work up or print it out or whatever they had to do. Many of these pieces in the show are documentation so maybe the artist didn’t have a big photograph of their work and would have to get that printed. The site-specific artists [got] … a higher fee.

What kind of accommodation was usually provided by the host organisation for the artists travelling with “Going Green”?

Usually it worked out that we stayed with the director. The only place we had to have a hotel was in Queens, Flushing. It gave the artists much more of an experience of America to stay in a home. [The cross-culture experience] is really important for this show,… to give this kind of cross-cultural exchange for the Taiwanese artists as well as the people in America.

Is cross-cultural exchange also an important part of environmental art creation?

If you start looking at environmental artists, many of them are oriented toward public art and community involvement and making participatory pieces. [For ‘Going Green’] I picked artists [that work in this way] because … I naturally gravitate toward artists that have the attitude that art is just not in museums but it’s something that is related to life in general. Of course, I wanted really good art and good artists but I also wanted art that ordinary people could relate to in some way. There are always different [ways] of understanding contemporary art and that’s one thing that makes it exciting. I think environmental art is much more viewer-friendly than most contemporary art.

Historically I think environmental art has [always] been outdoors and in public. In the U.S. in the 60s and the 70s, when artists were doing earth art and land art, they would put their work in very remote places, like out in the desert. There wasn’t a big audience there.

Chao-chang Lee's site-specific artwork 'Everything is Buddha', created in 2010 at The Schuylkill Centre for Environmental Education in Philidelphia for the environmental exhibition "Going Green". Image courtesy of the artist.

Chao-chang Lee's site-specific artwork 'Everything is Buddha', created in 2010 at The Schuylkill Centre for Environmental Education in Philidelphia for the environmental exhibition "Going Green". Image courtesy of the artist.

Why would these early American environmental artists create their work in the desert?

I don’t know. I think that was just because that was where the space was. And then they would photograph it and bring it into the gallery that way. But I think now environmental art is much more connected to communities and to people and audiences. A lot of the work is participatory and in public spaces.

Mali Wu, one of the artists in this show, made a huge vegetable garden in the courtyard of the [Taipei Fine Arts] Museum [for the 2008 Taipei Biennial] and involved a whole lot of people. I think that’s one of the really interesting huge pieces of environmental art that is also very public art from Taiwan. It’s a new thing for everybody to have that much of a participatory [aspect to] their art.

Were there any artists in “Going Green” that moved away from their usual method of making?

I think [the exhibition experience] definitely had an influence on a lot of [the artists], especially those who did the site-specific pieces.

Were all of the artists selected to do site-specific pieces experienced in creating large-scale public pieces of art using natural materials?

They have had some site-specific experience. I didn’t want to take anybody that had never done this before because it’s too risky. Most of them had some international experience, too.

I think [the artists] will think more about what they are using as materials and how their work interacts with the environment. Some of them, frankly, had never really thought about this [before].

Did most of the artists in “Going Green” focus specifically on environmental issues or did you pick them because you saw the environmental aspects of their work?

I picked them because I saw the environmental side. Sometimes [the artist] didn’t even see it and that was very interesting to me.

Did you expect them, because they were making work that you saw as environmentally-focussed, to see their work as environmental art?

I thought they would. Like the artist Chien-hua Huang who did the big photo of the rhino, [Rhinoceros from his “Beasts” series]…. I think it’s fantastic but I don’t think he really saw his work as making some sort of environmental statement.

I had the artists write [an artist] statement and send it to me with their pictures and I wanted the statement, of course, to have something to do with the environment. But many times it had nothing to do with it. Now, I don’t know if it was just an English problem or not but I really think it’s just that they had never really thought of their work in the context of being environmental. So I think this will have an influence on them, being in this show, and they will start to say, ‘I need to think about this.’

Do you see an environmental art scene developing in Taiwan?

I think that there are more artists that are getting interested in it. More and more are finding out that there are ways that you can engage the environment in your work because of opportunities like ‘Going Green’. I think because the environment is becoming such a pressing issue everywhere. Taiwan, because it is a smaller island, is going to be more affected because it is very crowded and very urbanised. I think even artists are starting to see this and think that it may be an important issue for them to make art about.

Fay Ku's 'Invasive Species' is just one of several works on paper by the artist exhibited as part of 2010's "Going Green" exhibition. Image courtesy of the artist.

Fay Ku's 'Invasive Species' (2010) is one of four works on paper by the artist exhibited as part of 2010's "Going Green" exhibition. Image courtesy of the artist.

You said some of the artists that exhibited art in “Going Green” didn’t realise that their work could be interpreted as being environmentally-focussed. Do you think that there are any Taiwanese artists that consciously create art that talks about environmental issues?

There are very few and most of them have had a Western education. It would never come out of China. And I think that is one way Chinese and Taiwanese artists are different. There are some artists in Taiwan, from this show, that are definitely making art with the intention of improving or raising awareness about environmental issues. Like Chin Chih Yang, all of his work is about global warming and the human causes of this phenomenon. And Mali Wu, she’s very focused on the community.

Do you think it is the place of art to talk about environment-related issues? Do you think that art can help raise awareness of these issues?

I don’t think that art can change the world but I do think that art can raise awareness and present things from a different point of view. Scientists can tell us about global warming, that it’s caused by this, this and this, but sometimes that doesn’t have the same effect as the more indirect approach an artist may take. I don’t like art that is too preachy, that crosses the line to become propaganda. I want it first to be art and about aesthetic issues, as well as about the environment. I think there is a fine line there.

Is that what you tried to do with “Going Green”?

That is what I tried to do, to go for those artists that created work that was still art but that did have something to say about the environment.

Why is that important to you, as a curator and as the organiser of “Going Green”? Why is the aesthetic nature of the art so important?

Well, it’s an art show. It’s not meant to just push the environment. I think you can see in the art world there are some shows that almost cross that line. It’s interesting as an artist and a curator to think about that: How is art about the environment different from other approaches? And it’s really a hard thing to define. All of these artists are artists, that’s where they come from. They are not environmental scientists.

Do you think many of the artists in “Going Green” would call themselves environmental artists?

Not particularly.

Do you think many artists internationally call themselves environmental artists?

I don’t think many people call themselves environmental artists because they do many things and this is just one aspect of their work. And I think that’s good. I don’t think that will change. You know, I think artists are always engaged with what’s happening in their time, or they should be. For so many years in Taiwan it was ‘What is it to be Taiwanese?’ and ‘How can we deal with that?’ It is very slowly evolving away from that concern, but I think that is still a very important issue for Taiwanese artists.

And I suppose, in some ways, speaking about local environmental issues is talking about your country, your society.

It definitely is and you can definitely see it in the work in ‘Going Green’. It’s definitely talking about local problems that become global.

You know, when I was trying to find artists for this show, a lot of them I knew from previous shows that I had done. But a lot of them I didn’t know and I would just have to say to an artist that I did know, ‘Do you have any friends who are doing some stuff that might be connected with nature or the environment … in some way?’ They would send me some names and I would ask for more material if it looked at all interesting.

Did you follow a specific selection criteria when selecting artists for “Going Green”? Did you find yourself drawn to what you, as and artist and curator, found interesting, or did you look for what you thought would be interesting for your audience?

Well both, I think. I have to think, as a curator, what the potential audience might think about it but, first of all, it has to interest me. If it doesn’t interest me, I don’t think it’s going to interest anybody else much.

Ping-Yu Pan's 'An Unapproachable Shore' was exhibited in 2007 at Guandu Nature Park. She created a site-specific installation called 'Ark for Plants' as part of 2010's "Going Green: New Environmental Art From Taiwan". Image courtesy of the artist.

Ping-Yu Pan's 'An Unapproachable Shore' was exhibited in 2007 at Guandu Nature Park. She created a site-specific installation called 'Ark for Plants' as part of 2010's "Going Green: New Environmental Art From Taiwan". Image courtesy of the artist.

Do you find that you are interested in a broad range of media or do you zone in on specific mediums?

I’ve become very interested in photography and new media since I’ve been in Taiwan because you see more of [it] here. And I really like things that have natural materials. I think that’s from my own background. I grew up in Alabama and my father was a farmer. I was trained as a painter and … got into sculpture after that. I’m very interested in 3-dimensional and time-based art and I’ve even become very interested in performance art.

A broad range of interests! Do you believe that artists and curators need to be open to many different forms of art?

I think artists and curators need to have that kind of mind. And I think I wouldn’t be here [in Taiwan] unless I had that kind of mind. I would still be in Alabama.

You mentioned earlier that you want to tour “Going Green” through the Asian region in 2011?

I want to tour Asia. I want to see if we could raise some conversation about how Taiwanese art is different from other Asian art and find out if there are any other Asian countries that are interested in [art that focusses on] environmental issues. I’ve found a few [artists] in Japan and in Korea but I don’t think [there is any environmental art made] in mainland China or that there’s any concept of it [there], nor in places like Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand,… maybe in Thailand. I’ve had a few good proposals from Indian artists. And, of course, it would be less expensive [to tour the exhibition through Asia]. Shipping might be a little easier.

You talk here about using “Going Green” to start up a dialogue about environmental art in Asia. Was this generation of conversation also a focus for the American exhibition?

That happened in all of the places [in America]. We had gallery drops and open studios so ordinary people could walk in and see the artists doing what they were doing and then in some places we had panel discussions and…

I’ve done much more than a curator would ordinarily do. A curator ordinarily would just pick the work, write the essay and do the concept and then not get involved in anything else. But [the sponsoring organisations] would have never been able to do this without me doing everything.

Have you enjoyed being so heavily involved in the organisation of “Going Green”?

It’s more than I ever thought I would do when I agreed to do this show. I didn’t really envisage going to each of the four places [in America] but I think it would have been very difficult for the travelling artists to handle everything. It’s very funny. I don’t speak very much Chinese at all but I found myself being a translator.

It may have been difficult to foster connections between the Taiwanese artists and the local community without your input…

And good relationships and also just finding materials [for the site-specific works] would’ve been a big problem. Also, I gave a talk at each venue as did the two artists. The artists were not comfortable speaking English, especially to a big group. I would tell them to just show a lot of pictures … and then we would always have the audience ask questions and that really helps. [It’s easier] to answer a question than just make a speech.

Overall, do you think “Going Green” was a successful exhibition?

I’m happy with it. I had [the artists] write a report about their experience and we’re putting that in with the final paperwork for the CCA [Council for Cultural Affairs, Taiwan]. Their experiences have been very good and they mentioned how they have a different appreciation for American culture and the opportunity to do this kind of exhibit. I think it’s been a very successful exhibit and probably got more promotion for Taiwan than any government-organised exhibit that went to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco or Buffalo because this had many more public elements and … contact with difference parts of America.

We thought we just had to take this exhibit to the [Taipei] Cultural Center in the middle of Manhattan but then we decided that no, we would do it all over America, and I thought that was very adventurous of the Cultural Centre, really forward-thinking. They have exhibits in New York City and you get the same audience there. … But to really get new people coming [to an exhibit], you have to make some real stretches. I think this was very different for them to do, even for the Council of Cultural Affairs to sponsor this.

More on “Going Green: New Environmental Art From Taiwan”

Below is a slideshow made up of images taken at the five American venues during the course of “Going Green”. Watch it below or on our YouTube channel.

The sixteen artists involved in “Going Green: New Environmental Art From Taiwan” were: Li-shan Chang, Chung-ho Cheng, Kuo-chun Chiu, Julie Chou, Aihua Hsia, Chien-hua Huang, Su-chen Hung, Ya-chu Kang, Fay Ku, Chao-chang Lee, Chuan-chu Lin, Chia-ping Lu, Ping-yu Pan, Mali Wu, Chin Chih Yang and Wen-fu Yu.

Eight of these artists travelled to America to create site-specific works at four of the five venues: Queens Botanical Garden hosted Cheng-ho Cheng (Quaver) and Chia-ping Lu (Wish), Su-Chen Hung (Baby Green) and Ya-chu Kang (Hero) went to Eureka, Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education hosted Chao-chang Lee (Everything is Buddha) and Ping-Yu Pan (Ark for Plants), and Chuan-chu Lin (Wishing Well) and Chin Chih Yang (Coughing Earth) went to The A.D. Gallery in Pembroke.

Watch a video of Ping-Yu Pan’s site-specific installation Ark for Plants on Vimeo.

An informative gift!

Jane Ingram Allen has kindly gifted you, our readers, with a downloadable PDF of a list of significant environmental art exhibitions and symposia in Taiwan since 2003 as it was printed in the “Going Green” exhibition catalogue. This list was compiled by Patricia Watts (founder of ecoartspace at www.ecoartspace.org) with additions by Jane Ingram Allen and should not be reprinted without notifying and crediting the authors.

Click here to download or view the free PDF list of Taiwanese environmental art events.


Related Topics: environmental art, Taiwanese artists, interviews

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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