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October was a busy month working on a challenging sculpture project with 18 impressive artists in Wudi, Shandong. This post will look at my work for this project.
Lets talk about it, Niamh Cunningham , 50x 230 x300 cm , 150 x 190 x300cm. Steel, Concrete, Steel Alloy.
I was very eager to participate in this project as I have had a long interest in environmental issues. (Some of my work was installed in the headquarters of Emirates Environmental Group Dubai 2008.) The International Land Art Museum is located at Wudi. Di QiuCun Ecological Park is engaged in land reclamation (irrigating the alkaline soil with water from the Yellow River) , use of natural fertiliser, and solar powered insect control and other eco friendly management .
My installation is of two seated figures facing each other in conversation. Each figure extends 3m with the base containing Chinese English text. The work is titled ‘Lets Talk about it ‘ (the translation is considerably cooler ). The words on the supporting plinths include educational environmental slogans and lines from the greatest nature poets in Chinese and English language including Tao ming Yuan, Li Qingzhao ,Liúyǔxi Seamus Heaney, Patrick Kavanagh (my personal favourite) ,WB Yeats and Robert Frost.
The Chinese text also includes the 24 lunar terms which were used as an agricultural guide for millennia. Some of these terms have such magical resonance for example “the awakening of insects”( 惊蛰 jingzhi). This occurs in early March when hibernating animals are shaken from their slumber with the surrounding earth beginning to move with increased insects due to the rise in temperature and rainfall.
Figure One :
The figures have a contemporary appearance as it is only the hoods that take the shape of the head , instead of the missing face and head there is the space for dialogue. However I discovered this is read differently by viewers. Two people told me they saw not empty hoods but huge mouths. One was a journalist who came to the closing ceremony on Oct 29th and the other was a 5 year old boy called Zhou/Joe who sat next to me the train on my way back home to Beijing. We were playing with bits of paper when I showed him phone photos of my work back in Shangdong, he opened his mouth really wide to show me how he understood the photos.
The figures aim to be universal in that they could be a male and female figure, they could be a Chinese person and a Western person, they could be an ageless people of the countryside from another era or perhaps two ‘hoodie’ teenagers sitting on a park wall. The phrases and poetry are punctuated by the ancient lunar terms for which there is a renewed interest and these terms are now considered cultural heritage terms and being retaught in schools.
A big thank you to curator QuiTian and Art Director JiTianJi for all the support and vision, patience and calm they invested in this project, to camera man and translator Lee XiNa . To my team Mr Bu Yun Di, Meng de Yi, Mr Li , Mr Wang Yu lin, and Mr He Fa Zheng, also to the steel cutting team Ms Chun Yan and Mr Zhang.
Especial thanks extends to all the leaders and directors who support the program , Qiu Jing Zuo, Wang Xiu Li, Fu Zong, Li Yu Rong , Bu Zong .