GESTURES TOWARDS TREES

Artists: Edward Pien and Johannes Zits,
Guest Curator: Tila Kellman, Ph.D.

Date: August, 2012

Place: Piper’s Glen, Columbus Field, or other grove of trees, Antigonish, NS
StFX University Art Gallery, Antigonish, NS

Format: 3 possible stages:
1) Ongoing construction/performance open to the public
2) Possible staged public performance at night, with lights
3) Gallery installation combining the web and video, later in the year

Despite over 20 years of working alongside each other, Toronto artists Edward Pien and Johannes Zits have not collaborated publicly. Proceeding from Zits’ desire to reconcile with nature, they propose to weave a giant web interlacing a grove of living trees in Antigonish using clothes from the town’s Opportunity Shop. The Antigonish area historically has suffered complete deforestation due to farming and shipbuilding, and remains a heavily harvested region for New Page paper. Current plans envisage the region as a “machine for biomass production” for the new biomass fuel plant in Port Hawkesbury, so the forest continues to be vulnerable to abuse. If we think of clothes as our surrogate skin, what could be a more tender gesture of reconciliation towards trees than to weave them together with our own protective surface? Since the gesture is one of empathy and starting anew, the artists accordingly will work in the nude. By using our community’s castoff clothes, the gesture is made on the part of the entire community as well as on the part of the participants.

Ed Pien has achieved global recognition for his installations situating the forest as the real and metaphorical matrix for our fears at one extreme, delight at the other, with curiosity ranging between. From his spectacular paper forest mazes haunted with nightmarish monsters and ghosts to giant papercuts that slide undecidably between play and fear, Pien’s work incites wonder and delight while probing subconscious fears of the dark unknown, of loss and of sexuality. In his recent work, the network of forest branches has become a more generalized web realized in galleries and environmental installations.

Johannes Zits has achieved global recognition for his performance and video pieces that address nature as the other. His approach is to collaborate with nature by treating it as another body, another performer. This “collaboration” has produced videos such as Elemental Gestures, in which he empathizes with a pile of driftwood logs, and the large video/performance work, Embodying Nature (2010), that combined a gallery group performance with a performance video made in a Chinese bamboo forest.

The proposed video will be shot by one or two non-professional videographers who will also be participants in the performance. Zits will compose a video of the installation/performance. The clothes web will be re-constructed in the StFX University Art Gallery at a later date and shown with the video.