The Art Outside of The Art

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Going through family history on Megijima (photo: Suhee Kang)

The installation in Megi House
The installation in Megi House
We created a physical installation here in Megijima, and next week that installation will move to Nagoya for the Aichi Triennale, which, I suppose makes it ‘art’ in some official sense.

But this end result and official ‘institutional’ categorization is hardly the thing we came here to accomplish.

Suhee and I both feel that the process of creating this project, how we interact with the people, the positive energy we give and receive, our actions of compassion and genuine interest in the stories of those on Megijima, all of this is the ‘meat’ of the [HUMAN:NATURE] project. Along with the raw meat, our core team of Suhee Kang, Johann Barbie, and Songyi Lee, all¬†worked hard to harvest the veggies, to make a bun — this project is not on the no-carb diet — and to convey the experience in the form of an interactive-cultural-ecological-geography-kind-of-documentary.

For visitors to the Megi House gallery, this end product in a gallery provides a glimpse into the people, their stories, and their connections with nature and their family units. But for our team, the path was also at least as important as the end result.

Suhee with volunteers and Megijima locals, who shared their delicious food with us!
Suhee with volunteers and Megijima locals, who shared their delicious food with us!

It’s an important way to think when undertaking large projects — in particular, this project required involvement with three institutions, and the coordination of and interactions with no less than 100 people over the course of a month and a half. So especially here, with the inevitable snags, miscommunications, and re-routing that happens when you’re a foreign artist group that can’t communicate in a straightforward way with the ‘cast’ of your project, we couldn’t simply stick to our pre-conceived ending, or we would easily loose sight of the importance of the path itself.

Releasing ourselves from the thinking that there must be some end result, especially one which comes to life exactly how we planned it, allows us to enjoy, engage, and expand our view during the process of creating.

Sometimes that meant being insanely flexible with our schedule and resources… sometimes it meant taking a break to play with the local kids — especially given that there are only three local kids on the entire island, boy, do they enjoy having buddies!

Patrick, Entertaining the children on Megijima (photo: Suhee Kang)
Patrick, Entertaining (or being entertained by?) the children on Megijima (photo: Suhee Kang)

To be sure, our goal didn’t change dramatically during our time here, but the way we went about accomplishing it did. Rather than sticking to a short interview format, we began to open up and explore more than just the direct human-nature connection. Much of this came about naturally, due to our inability to directly steer the interviews. As a result, however, our interactions with the community in Megijima were more far-reaching for us than we ever expected.

Going through family history on Megijima (photo: Suhee Kang)
Going through family history on Megijima (photo: Suhee Kang)

The ability to engage with their oral history, and to embrace their warm character was so positive for us, and it also seemed very positive for them… for retired people living alone, for elderly farmers whose children have vacated this island, for city-dwellers who came to find peace and perhaps got more of it than they bargained for. These few months were — just as much of life is when you are in the right mindset — a beautiful experience for us; we hope that in return, for all of the beautiful people on Megijima, we’ve also left something here which transcends our physical project.

Suhee and Songe doing a photo session with the Megijima kids
Suhee and Songe doing a photo session with the Megijima kids

And we hope our stay in Megijima brought some happiness, some positive activity, some new ideas, and a feeling of genuine compassion to the people here.

That, too, is art. Isn’t it?

What’s Next?
We’re moving on to Nagoya for a week and the show will be up for the Aichi Triennale from August 26 — September 27. More details to come.

The Path to [HUMAN:NATURE] Photo Gallery

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