Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Paisan on Art in the Midori Forest, Japan 2001

Paisan Plienbangchang, ‘Art in a Pine Forest 2,’ in the Silpa Wattanatham column of Siam Rath Weekly News magazine, 14 – 20 Sept., Yr.48, Vol. 16, 2001

When we talk about Japan, what comes to mind is commerce and the way the country rebuilt itself after defeat at the end of World War II. We think of tall buildings piercing the heavens, and the capital city of Tokyo where everyone is work, work, working. As for the children of the new generation, the youth, they dress strangely with clothes out of this world, as if from another galaxy.

From another angle, we might think of the old forms of Japanese art and culture which they have preserved for so long, even though they move so fast today as leaders of technology that who can keep up with them? The picture has contrasting cuts of opposites, side by side. Still, it is undeniable that they have created something distinctive which is harmonious in their lives. So it is not strange that buildings pierce the sky side by side old temples whose interiors have also been modernized.

And about nature, Japan has natural areas like other countries, but the image of ‘otherness’ masks and hides this. There really are bamboo forests, as we have seen, but there are other kinds of forests as well, different from those we see in other parts of Asia.

The artists taking part in this event – The Creation and Voice of Wood, 2001 - had questions about the forests of different countries. All forests and natural environments differentiate themselves, especially the hot, damp forests near the equator. Further south in the Philippines, the characteristics of the geography differ from Japan and Korea. How humans should use and develop a natural area without destroying the environment is a matter of debate.

Among early generations, the forests and nature were always integral to life. This was true for many ages. People benefited from nature from birth to old age and to the day they died. The folk in Thailand’s mountainous northern region and the people in the high forests of the Philippines, their ceremonies, domestic architecture, and way of life are intimately connected with their forests and mountains. Their traditions and beliefs help them survive. They are linked to the forest, to nature, and to the vital culture and art, very visible and distinctive, that supports them.

The city gains a great deal from these things, but how much do we conserve and how much destroy? Thinking of what one has done, along with everyone else, and looking back at the way things have been done, it is clear that each person has his own different point of view. The city may have a different view of nature, protecting nature in its own way.

Many times the people [in the Japanese town] have taken part in green and brown art festivals about nature and the environment. I had some questions about the artists and people and their feelings about things happening nowadays. There are knotty problems between people and environment, people and people, destroying each other. We have to learn how to be together in harmony. Or do we need to control and stand over and above others? We often look at nature as romantic and sweet and create works like people who never felt or realized that there is another side to all this. Here, for example, how could we understand the real state of things in order to make our works –including artists, students, poets and developers -come out well?

This ought to be something we can debate and exchange opinions on. Personally, in this matter, I see that we should look at things that happen in nature and the world today. What is going on? What problems have been glossed over? Who created, who destroyed? We need to clarify and understand for sure. Our former beliefs about beauty should also play a part: both sides should be reflected.

Each day in this community forest, the Midori Pine Forest, there are many different artists working, showing their ideas and skills. Each has his or her own working space, for example, building a forest path which connects a hill from one side to the other, compact, balanced, and intimate. The Singaporean artist, Abdul Rashid, used dried branches tied together in a row, with white lines thrown up as a long path of 100 meters. If anyone wants to walk this path, they must walk carefully and not encroach past the lines. The children think it is great fun and treat it all as play.

Ree Eung Wu, an artist from Korea who has joined this festival many times, knows the area very well. Ree is impressed with two trees which stand side by side. He is reminded of things which ornament, protect, and care for each other; of lovers who live together with understanding. Ree weaves bamboo together as a wall round the two trees, as if he is giving them a space, sharing a sense of harmony and unity. Ree says he wants to marry these two trees to make their union truly lasting.

Artists can also be inspired by accidents. Ko Cheng Yoon from Korea, before coming here, was stung by many bees because he accidentally disturbed their hive. He brought his feelings about the beehive to share [in his artwork].

The nest was made of natural materials wrapped in leaves. Inside are bee ‘eggs.’ When bees smell these ‘eggs,’ they fly in and make the place their home; they may think it is their own.

Another work by the Korean artist Kang Hee Joon uses small pieces of bamboo to create sculpture in shapes like human eyes. He hangs them deep in the forest, expressing the idea of watching out for, looking after or standing guard over something – as we might take care of the beauty hidden there. The work of these Korean artists is always consonant with nature and the environment. They have been working together for 10 years, and have organized not less than five art festivals about nature and the environment in their home country. They are an important group in the Korean artworld.

Along similar lines, Kim Hei Chim and Akasuki Harada worked together to make a form resembling a bed. Kim used bamboo with leaves laid inside as if awaiting people who would come in and lie down. Harada put pine wood together as a bed. The figure of a person is cut deep into the wood, suggesting that someone has been sleeping within the tree for a very long time.

Most of the works of Hayakawa Mayuko, a Japanese artist of the younger generation, are inspired by water. This time she has imagined the forest as a sea. Throughout her space, she hangs dozens of gold fish made of patterned red cloth, turning it into an ‘undersea world’ with fish swimming through it.

As for me, I thought of all the life in and around that forest – in the trees, the little animals, and the people who have lived and died there. So I created “SPERM JUNGLE” as a symbol of those feelings.

A very distinctive work was created by a Filipino artist. It suggested an old ceremony in harmony with the land and with the nature of mountain forests like the Midori. In this country there are many stories, beliefs and feelings [about forests] tied up with their culture and history.
All the works reflected the individual artist’s views about ‘nature’ and ‘people’.

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