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Taiwanese artist takes on climate change issues at Venice Biennale

2013/06/05 13:14:13

This aquarium tank holding replicas of world-famous sculptures is one of J. F. Haung's works displayed in the Tuvalu Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. (Photo courtesy of J. F. Huang)

Taipei, June 5 (CNA) Taiwanese artist Vincent J.F. Huang, representing Tuvalu at the Venice Biennale this year, is showcasing his latest works at the South Pacific country's first national pavilion at the major international art exhibition.

Having visited Tuvalu twice to set up eco-art projects aimed at drawing more attention to the country's vulnerability to global warming, Huang is now continuing his campaign at the exhibition in Venice.

Titled "Destiny Intertwined," the Tuvalu pavilion highlights the idea that the fate of developing countries, such as Tuvalu, is closely connected with that of developed countries, the 42-year-old told CNA recently.

One of his works at the event is a six-meter-tall interactive installation that combines a pump jack (the pump used to get oil out of the ground), a fuel nozzle, a turtle and a bull, he said.

Turtles are an important species in Tuvalu, while "the bull is a symbol of New York, as there is a famous bull statue on Wall Street," Huang explained.

When visitors press the nozzle, the turtle is guillotined with the bull hanging from the head of the pump jack.

Huang uses the animal victims to convey the idea that the endless pursuit of economic development and continued exploitation of natural resources will not only devastate the ecosystems of developing countries such as Tuvalu, but also have consequences for developed countries.

"Tuvalu is a tiny, relatively unknown island that has been forgotten by the First World, yet it will be one of the first to disappear due to rising sea levels and climate change," he said.

In an earlier interview with CNA, Huang said the work was also inspired by Hurricane Sandy, which battered the east coast of the United States, including New York, in late October 2012.

After seeing how easily a hurricane could wreak havoc in New York, it was clear that "Tuvalu is not the only victim of global warming. The fate of all the people in the world is intertwined," he said.

Other exhibits in the Tuvalu Pavilion include an aquarium tank holding replicas of world-famous sculptures, which symbolized museum collections submerged under a rising sea caused by global warming.

The Venice biennale runs from June 1-Nov. 24.

This latest collaboration with the Tuvalu government comes after the country and Huang worked together at an official exhibition held in conjunction with the United Nations climate summit in Qatar in late 2012.

His "Animal Delegates," depicting some of the creatures that could be the first victims of global warming such as penguins and turtles, were used to highlight the environmental crisis in Tuvalu, one of Taiwan's 23 diplomatic allies.

Concerned about the peril of rising sea levels faced by the South Pacific nation, Huang visited the island country in 2010 and 2012, setting up art installations in a bid to draw attention to the crisis.

(By Elaine Hou)