Unsuspecting visitors to Cheng Long, a small fishing village in southwest Taiwan, might feel the need to blink and rub their eyes. Is there really a giant bowl and chopsticks sinking into the wetlands? What are those brightly colored things growing all over that abandoned house?
They're not apparitions, but art installations -- made of recycled and natural materials and focusing on environmental themes related to food.
'What's For Dinner?'
Curator Jane Ingram Allen selected six proposals from more than 180 submitted by artists from 60 countries for the 2012 Cheng Long Wetlands International Environmental Art Project, titled "What's for Dinner."
"Since seafood production is the main livelihood of the community, we wanted to emphasize environmental issues related to seafood for this 3rd year of the art project in Cheng Long," Allen said in her curator's statement.
Transition From Rice Fields To Wetlands
Indian artist Prashant Jogdand's "The Food Bowl," made from recycled found bamboo and rope, reflects the area's transition from rice fields to wetlands, a source of fish and other aquatic animals to eat. "If we don't take care of the environment, this place might become incapable of producing any kind of food," Allen wrote in the exhibition brochure.
The piece "Food Chain" by Markuz Wernli and Madoka Yoshitomi, artists from Switzerland and Japan, invited the community "to create a large mosaic mural using many recycled clam shells," as clams are among the most important food products of the Cheng Long area. The mural "illustrates the cycle of seafood, from its origins in the sea to being eaten by humans, and then the empty shells left as waste to go back into the earth."
France/U.S.-based artist Isabelle Garbani's "Invasive Species" uses old plastic shopping bags -- made into crocheted "leaves" with the help of local children and other volunteers -- to represent the dangerous spread both of non-native plants and animals and of plastic trash.
Other artworks reflect how seafood is produced, traditional family meals, and natural life cycles. The exhibition, which opened last weekend and will stay on view in the village through next year, was installed over the past month by the artists and local volunteers, who braved rain and unseasonably high temperatures to bring it to fruition. Wrote Allen:
"We hope that the artworks and the energy created by the artists will enrich the lives of the people and encourage them to conserve the environment as they continue producing the seafood we love to eat."