Sun, Nov 25, 2012 - Page 12 News List

Art diplomacy

Taiwan’s 921 earthquake inspired Vincent Huang to devote himself to environmental and climate-related issues on a global scale. This week he travels to Qatar to attend a major UN climate conference in Doha

By Dan Bloom  /  Contributing reporter

“My 2010 eco-art project in Tuvalu helped connect me with governmental ministers there, and those connections enabled me to go there again this fall,” he said.

“It took me about 10 months of communicating back and forth via email with Tuvaluan officials and our Taiwanese embassy. Unfortunately, I don’t always succeed with art diplomacy like this, as the government of China tries to interfere.”

Huang was born in 1971 in the small town of Shuili (水里) in Nantou County (南投). When recently asked what led him to pursue the winding path of an artist, Huang said that what really got him going as a young man was the devastating earthquake of September 21, 1999, noting: “The 921 quake destroyed a lot of buildings and homes in Nantou and other counties — and my home, too, was destroyed.

The earthquake made me start to think hard about the relationships between man and nature. As an art major, as a man who wanted to become an artist, I decided I needed to say something about the destructive power of nature through my work.”

Waking people up

When asked whether he considers himself a climate activist or an eco-artist, Huang said he wasn’t looking for a label. “An artist who has an awareness and a sense of responsibility about social or environmental issues takes action to intervene and wake up the world, to act as a bridge on global issues and to offer people a way to see beyond what they normally see in everyday life. I see my job as being to remind people that we are all global citizens who should be aware of and responsible for current and future environmental problems.”

In Tuvalu, Huang set up an installation art piece on a beach that consisted of a fuel truck nozzle tied in a knot. The 4m by 2m artwork also featured an image of a polar bear relaxing in a hammock, symbolizing “the end of the world’s reliance on oil and a move back toward a life of simplicity,” he said.

An earlier project, The Modern Atlantis Project, featured an aquarium installation and revealed his concerns about the excessive use of fossil fuels.

“The closed aquarium symbolized the Earth, our Earth, from which human beings in the name of ‘civilization’ and ‘capitalism’ consume nature freely and limitlessly, and as my project showed, the aquarium itself will gradually be consumed, too,” he said.

Huang said he wanted to present viewers with the idea that our world is doomed if we go on consuming limited natural resources as if there were no tomorrow, greedily and without regard for what life on Earth is all about.

“I’m not a scientist. I’m an artist, so I can’t predict the future in any real way,” he said. “But as an artist who cares about climate change and its impact, I think we need some new approaches to wake people up.”

Vincent Huang’s work will be exhibited at the Doha Exposition Center as part of the Qatar Sustainability Expo from tomorrow until Dec. 7. On the Net: www.qatarsustainability.com

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