As the first session of “Drifting Realities: The Archipelago of Discourses” the panel discussion “Under the Trees, Above the Soil” starts from the question of the soil on which we are stand, by focusing on art and community practice related to food issues. As a loose and miniscule medium of porosity, soil can supply crops with nutrients and provide storage space for water resources, while also serving as an immense habitat for the activities of all people. Whether we consider coexistence with nature through an awe-filled animal perspective, or observe sustainable relationships between humans and nature from a scientific standpoint, the soil/land remains an essential natural resource and the basis of all food production and planting. It becomes inseparable from all aspects of planting, farming, community gardening, land occupation, and ecology, and serves as a key entry point to the understanding of wider politico-economic and social issues. How does planting become a social and artistic practice with the meaning of sharing and reflection? How can the symbiosis between man and nature be truly respected and maintained through concrete practices? What is real country life like? What are the genealogies of foods and their varieties?
In this online session, we have invited artists Antje Majewski, Po-Chih Huang, Lo Lai Lai Natalie, and Xu Tan as guest panelists to discuss topics including land, planting, food supply, and community practice. Topics to be covered range from Antje Majewski’s projects “Apple. An Introduction. (Over and Over again)” (2014-2018) and “Forest” (2019), in which she revealed the closed-loop of global production chains and criticized this phenomenon from an eco-feminist position, to Xu Tan’s reflections on the historical evolution of nature, farming, food production, starting from the concept of diet (shi, understood both as eating and food), and his long-term commitment to “social botanic studies,” Po-Chih Huang’s methodology combining planting, research, writing, and wine-making in his projects Five Hundred Lemon Trees and Dream Inspired Millet Wine, evoking cultural production in the narrative-making of dreams, and the farming practice of Lo Lai Lai Natalie, which brings together casual community management, unexpectedly held artistic events, and an exploration of an alternative lifestyle. The panel talk will focus on the research methods of the four art practitioners, and present their thoughts on issues including land, planting, food supply, and community practice.
15:00-15:10 Introduction by Moderator
15:10-15:55 Antje Majewski: Of Trees and People
15:55-16:25 Xu Tan: Mother Earth and Diet
16:35-16:55 Huang Po-Chih: If Dreams were Plants
16:55-17:30 Lo Lai Lai Natalie: From Nature towards a Field of Unknown
17:30-17:45 Open Discussion
Antje Majewski (Artist)
Antje Majewski (b. 1968, Marl, Germany) is an artist and curator. She currently lives and works in Berlin and Himmelpfort. From 2006 to 2011 she taught at Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee and has been a professor of painting at Muthesius Kunsthochschule in Kiel since 2011.
Antje Majewski’s practice is based largely on anthropological and philosophical research, with her figurative painting, photography and video work exploring the social roles that objects play. Following years of intensively tracing the histories of seven objects in an investigation that took her across continents and yielded both paintings and video works (“The World of Gimel,” Kunsthaus Graz, 2011), she shifted her focus to biodiversity and its interface with both historical and modern apple varieties. Her exhibition project “Apple. An Introduction. (Over and Over again)” comprises paintings, objects and a documentary film that bring the complex relationship between the global food industry and technological progress to the forefront.
Often acting as an intermediary for collaborative thought, Majewski gives ecology an aesthetic and social dimension while also lending it a sense of time, place and pertinence. For a period of three years, Majewski was a member of feminist group ff. She then went on to found E.F.A. (Eco-Feminist Anarchism). In her series “E.F.A. im Garten,” she documented nature’s reclamation of a community garden in Berlin that was cleared by investors, framing this restoration as an act of anarchistic freedom. In 2018, Majewski’s interdisciplinary, collaborative exhibition project entitled “How to talk with birds, trees, fish, shells, snakes, bulls and lions” opened at Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin. She invited artists from Brazil, China, France, Colombia, Cameroon, Poland, Senegal, and Hungary to contribute works to this exhibition that poetically explored the reciprocal relationships between humans and other lifeforms.
Majewski’s work also investigates objects transported from their places of origin and separated from their contexts for exhibition abroad—a practice that has become increasingly common since the beginning of European colonialism of Africa. She investigated this concept further in group exhibitions on the concept of art and craft at Gropius Bau Berlin and Kunsthaus Graz (2019), probing the transformation of meaning, function and value that cultural objects undergo upon being archived, conserved, and exhibited.
Xu Tan (Artist)
Xu Tan (b. 1957, Wuhan) currently lives in the Pearl River Delta region and the United Sates. He was a member of the “Big Tail Elephant Working Group,” an early experimental artistic collective in China. Xu Tan maintains a “wandering” way of life, sensitive to changes in social and cultural lives, and constantly in pursuits of the limits of contemporary art. His research-based methods explore possibilities of how to unite social research and artistic practice in order to carry out social knowledge production. He has participated in numerous international exhibitions including at the 53rd and 50th Venice Biennales (2003, 2009), the Berlin Biennale (2001), the Guangzhou Triennial (2002) and the Gwangju Biennale (2002), amongst others.
Lo Lai Lai Natalie (Artist)
Lo Lai Lai Natalie was born in 1983 in Hong Kong. She graduated from the Faculty of Art in The Chinese University of Hong Kong (Major in Fine Arts, Minor in Japanese Studies) in 2006. She received her Master of Fine Arts from the Department of Fine Arts, The Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2017. Lai Lai is a former travel journalist. She is interested in the development and the construction of nature. She is a learner at the collective organic farm Sangwoodgoon (Hong Kong) where she also explores the lifestyle of “Half-Farming, Half-X”, a practice that seeks alternatives and autonomy as an artist and Hong-Konger. Lai Lai founded the Slow-so TV channel, with a focus on food, farming, fermentation, slow-driving, surveillance, and meditation. Her artworks are mostly moving images, photography, mixed media and installation. (Located in Tse Uk Tsuen, Kam Sheung Road, Sangwoodgoon is a laboratory aiming at exploring and practicing values of new life. It is currently a perma-farming production base. Sangwoodgoon organizes Sangwoodgoon Food and Farming Film Festival, presents screenings of agriculture and food documentaries from around the world, and encourages discussions on related topics.)
Po-Chih Huang (Artist)
Po-Chih Huang graduated from the Taipei National University of the Arts with a Master’s degree from the Department of New Media Art, School of Film and New Media. His diverse artistic practice revolves around the circumstances and history of his family, which enables him to investigate issues including agriculture, manufacturing, production, consumption, and more. Since 2013, exhibitions of his continuous art project “Five Hundred Lemon Trees” have been transformed into a crowd-funding platform allowing the appropriation of artistic resources for developing an agricultural brand, activating fallow farmland, and growing lemon trees for lemon liquor. Simultaneously, the project has connected his family members, local farmers, and consumers to make new social relationships possible. In 2013 he also published his first collection of essays, Blue Skin–All About My Mother, an account of the personal history of his mother’s life, which reflects Taiwan’s agriculture economic reform and social change over the past fifty years. Through micro-level observations of his own family history, the work evokes society in Taiwan as a whole.
Yan Fang (Curator of Public Programs, UCCA)
Yan Fang is an art critic and curator of public programs at UCCA Center for Contemporary Art. She graduated from University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne with a Master’s degree in History of Art: History of Art and Philosophy, and has previously worked at the Musée national d’Art moderne/Centre Pompidou.