Micro Micro Revolution encourages communities to take up direct action against ecological disaster, raising awareness on land-use, pollution, and sustainability. It seeks to close the gap between nature and culture, to reinvent our relationship with the earth through a subversion of cultural perceptions about our communal agency.
Braun and Castree have said that “More than ever, nature is something that is made”. Micro Micro Revolution explores this process of building new natural relationships which are sustainable. In attending these exhibitions, we also are provided with an immediate platform to receive new perspectives on art and ecology.
In ‘500 Lemon Trees’, artist Po-Chih reveals enterprise as an act of communal agency. He asks participants for a donation to plant a lemon tree in a rural community suffering from the neglect of agricultural production. When the lemon trees bear fruit, these lemons are then used to make a lemon wine. This creates a sustainable production force for the local community. The project shows the value of re-claiming cultural production at a local level, reinforcing a community’s co-dependant ties amongst workers. ‘500 Lemon Trees’ shows a direct trajectory of this reclamation, successfully mobilising a process of visualisation outside the hegemony of big-business production.
For Micro Micro Revolution Po-Chih has created an ambient space documenting this process. The audience can immerse themselves in a room of lemon trees and documentary film, which albeit highly aestheticised, is an obvious celebration for everyone involved. On the opening night the lemon wine was cracked out, creating a positive feedback loop through a system of mutual exchange; blurring the lines between producer/consumer and artist/viewer.
The next project, ‘Cultural Action at the Plum Creek’ documents an ongoing conversation amongst Plum Creek’s communities affected by pollution. This exhibition guides the audience through a series of cultural actions which are documented creatively. These actions are determined to re-engage new generations with their environment. The hope is to bring about awareness on the issues facing these communities, uncovering a collective history in the process. This exhibition remains in a state of progression where we can immerse ourselves in both community made artworks and ongoing research. Admittedly, it’s not easy to immediately grasp the location of the art-work as a whole. Initially the research format seems fragmented. But this exhibition isn’t a quick-fix; instead it requires attention and time in which the viewer can undergo a process of engagement with the issues at hand. It also requires an imagination; one which can work with the community to imagine new ecological relationships to their land.
This kind of piece works best when a fundamental autonomy of the communities is realised; the artists instead taking a more curatorial role. Although facilitated by Wu Mali & Bamboo Curtain Studio Films, this exhibition facilitates this autonomy, arguably allowing the community a more immediate agency in writing their historical ties. We see past, present and future trajectories of the communities; stretching their actions across history and rooting them in their land.
‘Plant Matter Needed’ documents a collaboration of social activism between the residents of the Sa’owac village dwelling and artists Hsu Su-chen and Lu Chien-ming. The Sa’owac village dwelling faced demolition by the local council, with this exhibition following a period of protest and reconstruction through videos, texts and objects presented within a reconstruction of one the Sa’owac dwellings. The rebuilding of the Sa’owac dwellings signifies an attempt to not only practically preserve the tribe’s cultural space but for those engaged to re-define their socio-spatial relationships collectively. This collaboration works as a cultural interchange which leads to the creation of new social spaces. These spaces which are created consciously allow for communities to remain in a dialogue with one-another other, in the process dis-mangling a hierarchy of spatial influence.
For this exhibition, the dwelling is re-constructed in the CFCCA. For the opening night the tribe leader of the Sa’owac village performed a ritual blessing on the site. For the audience this site acts as a visual homage to the tribe and for those involved in its construction it acts as a symbol for an integration amongst communities. These three exhibitions were further contextualised and integrated within the context of the Manchester area with a follow up event ‘Symposium: Transcultural Landscapes of Art and Ecology at the Whitworth Gallery.
As we follow a series of journeys, we find these journeys follow us too. Questions about the nature of our own community engagement are an undeniable result of our audience participation. We are also lead to question the effectiveness of the exhibitions themselves; a critique being innate within the works’ dialogical nature.
So does Micro Micro Revolution succeed in raising a lasting awareness? We can’t know. But what is obvious is that these exhibitions begin a difficult discussion; facing head-on overwhelming ecological issues. Its creative actions work dialectically, documenting social change in progress. The remnants we see in these three exhibitions transform the perception of our environments: from lone consumer to a social relationship based on mutual growth and exchange. In the process we are reminded of the fundamental creativity in community engagement.
Rachel Margetts is an artist based in Manchester.
Image courtesy of CFCCA.
Micro Micro Revolution, CFCCA, Manchester.