The National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium (國立海洋生物博物館) in Pingtung County is hosting a rather unusual art exhibit through Jan. 10, one that focuses as much on human beings and their impact on the environment as it does on ocean life.
Although the exhibit is titled Turning the Tide, turning the tables would perhaps more apt, since the three installations seek to help visitors see the world through the eyes of the denizens of the sea.
This is the first time the nine-year-old museum has hosted an exhibition of environmental art. As American artist Jane Ingram Allen, who curated the show, tells it, the project came together very quickly.
“It was a sort of very quick competition. I asked artists I knew and thought would do it. I sent invites out to 80 and got 57 proposals back,” Allen said in a telephone interview. “We began working on the show in October and the artists came on Nov. 25, so there was only a month to get it together.”
Allen chose one Taiwanese artist — Kang Ya-chu (康雅筑) of Taipei — and two Europeans, Karin van der Molen from the Netherlands and Frenchman Thierry Godet, who now lives in Germany.
Godet’s work, Fishing Basket, is a structure in the shape of a fish made of bamboo and driftwood, with a large opening at the tail and a smaller exit at the mouth of the trap, forcing people to bend down to get out. He wanted to make people think about the problem of over-fishing.
The original idea was to erect the piece outdoors, but the windy weather in Pingtung and other considerations quickly ruled that plan out.
“They have an outdoor space but they wouldn’t let us use it for security issues ... so it ended up that the Waters of the World pavilion was the only space we could use. But it turned out to be the best place,” Allen said. “It’s really funny. There are several entrances to the pavilion but everyone has been choosing to enter through the trap. You really have to bend down to get out. I saw some kids are doing the limbo, people with strollers trying to get through, it was really crazy.”
“Then the first thing they are confronted by is the huge net by Karen. It’s four or five floors up, really big, but it had to be big to fill the space,” Allen said.
Van der Molen’s net, titled The Trap, was woven of sisal and other natural rope materials and is connected to a container of seawater on the floor so that salt crystals will form on it over time. The idea is to show what humans have done to the oceans through careless pollution.
Hanging from the ceiling is Kang’s Skeletons, made from driftwood, plastic bottles and other garbage, all encased in plastic sheeting to resemble the exoskeletons of marine creatures. Kang wanted to draw attention both to endangered sealife and the problem of human garbage in the oceans.
“Kang’s is a soft sculpture. We went to a nearby beach where there was a shipwreck to collect garbage. We got plastic waste from the ship, from the beach, everything, even flip-flops,” Allen said.
“We had six student volunteers from Tainan National University [of the Arts]. They came for two days and were really wonderful, really dedicated,” Allen said. “The artists did much bigger works than they had originally planned because of the space and the volunteers’ help.”
WHAT: Turning the Tide
WHEN: Until Jan. 10. Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 9am to 5pm
WHERE: National Museum of Marine Biology and
Aquarium (國立海洋生物博物館), 2 Houwan Rd, Checheng Township, Pingtung County
(屏東縣車城鄉後灣村後灣路2號). Tel: (08) 882-500
ADMISSION: NT$450 for adults, NT$250 for children, students and senior citizens
ON THE NET:www.nmmba.gov.tw
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