In 2017-2018 Feral Studio visited Asia to research ways in which artists, arts organisations and community projects are addressing challenges faced by rural communities. Findings revealed a pertinence to the rural context in the South West include ageing rural populations, the decline of farming, the connection between urban and rural contexts and community engagement.
During the research period we connected with organisations and projects in Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand and Taiwan. These include Yoshino Cedar House, Jatiwangi Art Factory, Kamiyama AIR, Sangwoodgoon, Satoyami Mirai and The Land Foundation.
The research trip was part funded by the Arts Council's Artists' International Development Fund and forms part of wider research into international rural practice that has been conducted by Feral Studio over the last few years.
We are grateful for support from the following contributors:
Arief Yudi Rahman, Loranita Damayanti, Arie Syarifuddin, Ismal Muntaha, Ayako Oki, Rei Maeda, Fram Kitagawa, Keiko Kudo, Kazuhiro Takeuchi, Ayumi Kawano, Eri Takasu, Ikuko Miyatani-Axiak, Mitsuyasu Omotani, Teruichi Ishibashi, Natalie Lo Lai Lai, Sedhapong Kirativongkamchon, Pisithpong Siraphisut, Po-Chih Huang, Maureen.
Po-Chih Huang's artistic practice is rooted in the countryside of Hsinchu County in Taiwan, away from the creative nexus of Taipei. As with a number of his other works, his ongoing project 500 Lemon Trees, is a response to Taiwan's economic agricultural reform and its correlating social change.
The project responds to the decline in hill farming by aiming to regenerate three abandoned hill farms in Guanyin, Xinpu and Guanxi. It requests donations of 500 New Taiwan Dollars (just over £12) to fund the planting of a lemon tree.
In exchange for their contributions the donors each receive a wine label which after two years is exchanged, during a performance and toasting in a gallery setting, for a bottle of Limoncello made by Po-Chih, his family members and the migrant workers he employs.
By presenting his work in galleries, relying on 'patrons' and in staging the final performance, (the presentation of Limoncello to the donors) Po-Chih utilises the flow of resources between artist, curator, museum, exhibition and audience. In doing so he highlights the plight of farmers, their narratives, neglected fallow farmland and the techniques that are being lost and connects this to a gallery audience. Po-Chih's work is an enterprise as art and the artist as a connector – between farmer and purchaser.
Although in 2010 he hadn’t yet started farming he was already engaged with agriculture and issues of production and the trade of produce. In his work Fair Trade Ice Pop (2010) Po-Chih collaborated with Spring Trading Company to promote organic farming and fair trade by upgrading the packaging of agricultural goods with text and images describing the damaging effects on Taiwan’s agricultural industry through various harmful policies; the loss of Taiwan’s technological branding, the flooding of Taiwanese markets by lower-priced mainland Chinese goods, and the disappearing agricultural land, the insufficient production and delivery systems and the low rate of sustainable food production. Fair Trade Ice Pop proposed an alternative economic model. Outside of standardized monopolies, and through cooperation with marginalized producers and farmers, these ice lollies aimed to exemplify a sustainable production and consumption model as well as becoming a message delivery tool in a consumer society.
Both the Fair Trade Ice Pop and 500 Lemon Trees are responses to the aftermath of Taiwan joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the subsequent abandoning of farms, a trend that has continued. Po-Chih’s work comes out of a concern about the unnoticed vanishing of farms and farm villages that policies have facilitated and an unease around what will be left of Taiwan a decade from now.