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.
Situated in the rural outskirts of Chiang Mai, The Land Foundation brought together two existing projects in 2004; Umong Silppadhamma initiated in 2002 and The Land Project begun by Rirkrit Tiravanija and Kamin Lertchaiprasert in 1998.
The Land Foundation takes the ethos of self-sustainable natural farming and experimentation from its earlier incarnation The Land Project and merges it with Umong Sillpadhamma’s emphasis on self-knowledge through meditation, yoga and art.
The Foundation outlines as its aims the promotion and support of artistic and cultural activities, natural farming and self-knowledge through Vipassana techniques.
Some of the projects that have been trialled at The Land include; Superflex’s development of a system to utilise biomass, Arthur Meyer’s experimentation to harness solar power, Francois Roche and Philippe Parreno’s concept is to transform the energy from animal muscle to electrical energy.
The remnants of these experiments can be seen peppered across the site of The Land together with architectural structures built predominantly before the formation of The Land Foundation. These include Angkrit Ajchariyasophon’s space for Dharma practice, Caretaker’s house (Farmer’s house), by Kamin Lertchaiprasert and Rirkrit Tiravanija’s 3-storey space for living based on the basic need for interaction, reading /meditation and sleeping. More recently the emphasis has been on self-funded projects that create accommodation for future users of The Land, without prescription and with total freedom, the only criteria being that the ground level should be open due to seasonal flooding vulnerability at the site.
The natural farming practiced at The Land is inspired by Thai farmer Chaloui Kaewkong, who worked with the idea of farming based on the composition of the human body - 1/4 earth (mass) and 3/4 water (liquid), and Japanese farmer and philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka, the author of One Straw Revolution and champion of no-till farming. The most visible manifestation of this is The Land’s two-crop annual paddy farming cycle participation in which is open to the public
In practice The Land operates as an open space available to anyone to test ideas in line with the aims of the organisation and on a given day it might be host to international researchers carrying out fieldwork, local students from Chiang Mai University attending off-site sessions or architects conducting workshops.
ComPeung is an independent residency organisation founded in 2007. Based in Doi Saket 30 minutes North East of Chiang Mai, Thailand, ComPeung sits in rural location surrounded by farmland and lakes. The residency centre consists of a mix of buildings, made in primary alternative methods such as adobe bricks of dirt and coffee husks, Earthbag techniques and utilising local materials such as bamboo.
The self-funded nature of residency programme offers artists across a broad range of disciplines an opportunity to retreat to make work out of the stillness provided by ComPeung, with limited other distractions. The residency artists are able to connect with each other within this ‘micro community’, where spaces such as the kitchen and communal meeting place/ library are shared, but are able to work without the imperative of connecting with the local community or delivering engagement work. The engagement that takes place is led much more by the artists’ own work and their personal interest in collaborating with the local community.
Some examples of ComPeung residency artists’ wider engagement with local context include Thai artist Surajate Tongchua working with monks from the village temple Wat Patumsararam, Japanese artist Tatsuo Inagaki visiting with his students from Hosei University and conducting workshops with pre-school students, another artist Dylan Martorell developing a series of instrument building robotic workshops at the temple which were attended by young Buddhist monks and a collaborative project with Drive Home, a collective from Sapporo, who worked with children from the local school, Mea Dok Dang primary school.
More recently ComPeung has initiated an exchange programme with Nepal, offering Nepalese artists the opportunity to undertake a fully-funded residency there. The funds were raised through a concert at ComPeung which brought local audiences to the site.
A number of other residency programmes have emerged in and around Chiang Mai including the more formal programmes at Ne-Na Contemporary Art Space and Artist Residency Thailand but ComPeung remains the longest standing and since its inception has hosted over 100 residencies.