Yesterday I visited the Juming Museum.
In his most recent work, Juming is exploring the idea that human life is defined by cubes, squares, and right angles … and that cubes are found nowhere else in nature. This reminds me of a permaculture idea that building things and dividing land in rectangular shapes is unnatural, and that curves are much more natural (and better fit in with the greater ecosystem).
One of the current exhibitions is called “Living World Series – Imprisonment”. One of the sculptures is a married couple with a child inside a cage. However, the cage is locked from the inside, and the key in inside the lock. The sculpture represents how society lays down specific rules – marriage being a prime example – which are like the right angles of a square, which people use to lock themselves down. As an asexual, somebody born out of wedlock, and somebody who has no intention to marry, this sculpture spoke especially to me (indeed, I have been planning ever since I started this blog to write about how liberating it is to be born of of wedlock).
Most of Juming’s sculptures of people are quite blocky – unlike real people, who are made of curves – and he wants nature to put the curves in his work. It’s an outdoor museum where the elements (and pollution) can smooth down his sculptures through wear and tear. He sees the deterioration of his sculptures and the equivalent of human beings growing old and dying. Furthermore, though he founded the museum, he put it into the hands of a foundation, and claims that everyone in Taiwan owns the museum just as much as he does.
The people who run the museum have decided to dedicate significant resources to preserving the sculptures instead of letting them nature take its way with them. But since Juming let go of the control of the museum, he does not have the authority to stop them.
And the museum, like many museums, has two restaurants, and teahouse, and multiple gift shops to separate visitors from their money beyond the admission, complete with a special package where if you bought a ticket and a meal you got a discount (I took this deal and enjoyed the meal). I do not blame them – operating a museum costs money – but casually letting capitalism in seemed to put the museum right into society’s cube.
Furthermore, his work seems to have a yearning to change humanity’s place in the greater eco-system. The location of the museum was chosen for the natural scenery. Yet by virtue of the location, visiting the museum requires burning a significant amount of the fossil fuels.
However, Juming seems to embrace the irony. His sculptures are not trying to reproduce nature’s natural curves – he’s reproducing humanity’s cubes and playing with them.