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Taiwanese artist aims to draw attention to Tuvalu amid global warming

2012/09/11 18:20:31

Taipei, Sept. 11 (CNA) For Taiwanese Vincent Huang, art has been a tool to take on serious issues, and his latest artistic offensive is a mission to draw the world's attention to Tuvalu, a Pacific island country at risk of rising sea levels amid global warming.

Huang set out Tuesday to the small Pacific country to undertake an eco-art project aimed at highlighting the crisis facing Tuvalu, one of Taiwan's 23 diplomatic allies.

In an interview with CNA in Taipei on the eve of his departure, Huang said his planned eco-art projects will underline the importance of protecting the environment to save Tuvalu from being submerged under the rising sea.

One project, involving setting up installation artworks in waters off the island country's coastline, will feature images of polar bears squeezed into oil drums, a concept inspired by oil giant Royal Dutch Shell's plan to drill for oil in the Arctic.

Huang said he wanted to raise awareness that such oil exploration could further damage the environment, exacerbate global warming and put Tuvalu in an even more precarious situation.

Another goal of the mission will be to "enhance Taiwan's image through the arts," said Huang, who is leading a four-member team to set up the artworks later this week.

His visit will coincide with a visit to Tuvalu by Britain's Prince William and his wife.

The 41-year-old Taiwanese artist said he wanted to take advantage of the arrival of British royalty to increase international coverage of Taiwan's efforts to warn of the danger looming over Tuvalu.

As part of their Asian-Pacific tour, the royals are scheduled to visit Tuvalu, also a member of the Commonwealth, next week to mark the 60th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II, according to media reports.

Another of Huang's eco-arts projects is a fuel truck nozzle tied in a knot.

The work, expected to be 170 centimeters high and four meters long, will feature an image of a polar bear relaxing on a hammock and will symbolize the end of the world's reliance on oil and a move back toward a life of simplicity, Huang said.

The artist previously visited Tuvalu in 2010 on a similar mission. During that trip, he waded out to a reef on the country's main island and erected a small sculpture of a desiccated mermaid made of dried coconut shells and pieces of palm trees.

Swimming children then circled the piece wearing fake shark fins.

The figure of the dried Little Mermaid represented the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit in late 2009, while the sharks were a metaphor for the big powers, Huang said.

Through his art, Huang said he also expects to help Taiwan's bid to participate in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, an international treaty aimed at stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations and preventing their interference with the global climate system.

Having spent some 10 years in eco art, Huang has been dedicated to the issue of global warming. Several of his creations have received widespread international media coverage.

One of those high-profile projects featured penguins, likely to be among the first victims of global warming.

Huang exhibited the work, called "Naked Penguins," in Hanover, Taipei and London to spread the message that the environment has simply turned too hot for them.

It was followed by the "Suicide Penguins" project in which penguins "hung themselves" from the Millennium Bridge in London. It was a form of "street guerrilla art" to show how the warming of the environment has harmed penguins, he explained.

"An artist should use his or her artwork to create a eye-catching image to attract media attention," Huang said. "This will in turn help to get the message across" and make a difference.

(By Elaine Hou)