The TAIWAN TANGLE: SPACE FOR
CONTEMPLATING CARRYING CAPACITY
Guandu Nature Park Sculpture Festival
The Taiwan Tangle: Space for Contemplating Carrying Capacity is sited
on land and in water.
It is constructed using bamboo
and rope with split bamboo and tangled vine. The shape and proportions
of the tangled shade roof are derived from the island of Taiwan,
and approximately 24'L x 9' W x 8' T (inside). The topography of
"tangle" represents the topography of the island.
poles are set in earth and in the water, a gridwork of bamboo isl
attached to these vertical supports to support the tangled vegetation
of the shade roof. The tangle is bent, twisted and interwoven
into the gridwork.
The Taiwan Tangle refers to the tangle that is literally over our
heads in the sculpture. There, we are under the tangle and under,
or inside the space of the island of Taiwan. The tangle is a physical
manifestation of our mental state. It represents the complexity of
the problems that face us as we push the limits of carrying capacity.
Carrying capacity is a term environmentalists use to describe "the
number of individuals who can be supported in a given area within
natural resource limits, and without degrading the natural. social,
cultural and economic environment for present and future generations" www.gdrc.org
The tangle is like a "dark cloud" hanging over all of us,
but through it we can see glimpses of blue sky. The structure itself
is a metaphor for home, that place which provides us with shelter,
respite and protection, but only so long as we take care of our home.
Our homes are indeed threatened, and those on an island more so than
those on large continents. Carrying capacity refers to a worldwide
dilemma that is intensified on a small island like Taiwan.The tangle
represents the chaos that precedes clarity in our thought processes.
Only with clarity can we conceivably alter our actions. Awareness
of the chaos in our thinking provides for the possibility of change.
In our reciprocal relationship with the earth, there is presently
an imbalance. Our minds are not clear on how to respond to the conditions
we have caused, and we continue to perpetuate the pollution of our
air, water and soil. Taiwan has undergone a rapid transition from
being an agrarian place to being an industrial place. There is confusion
between old and new, between honoring the earth and abusing it, and
a lack of understanding and active recognition about the part each
of us plays in this current crisis. It is clear that how we conduct
our lives each day has a direct effect on the problem. We can attempt
to live in such a way as to reduce our harmful effect on the earth,
or we may choose to ignore it. This work intends to focus attention
on air, land, water and our own relationship to them.
As the title suggests, the sculpture is for contemplating. In the
analogy proposed by this sculpture, Taiwan, a small bit of the earth
anchored in the ocean, represents all the countries within our biosphere.
The biosphere is defined as "the regions of the surface and atmosphere
of the Earth (or other planet) where living organisms exist" wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn.
"The carrying capacity for any given area is not fixed. It can be
altered by improved technology, but mostly it is changed for the
worse by pressures which accompany a population increase. As the
environment is degraded, carrying capacity actually shrinks, leaving
the environment no longer able to support even the number of people
who could formerly have lived in the area on a sustainable basis.
No population can live beyond the environment's carrying capacity
for very long." www.gdrc.org
The sculpture provides a space for individuals to contemplate these
issues by walking on the earth beneath our feet and standing before
the water within and beyond the shelter. The hope embodied in the
work, and of the artist, is that by becoming more aware these issues,
my fellow humans and I will return to our everyday lives with convictions
related to energy conservation on personal and political levels.
How large is our reach as individuals? Can we bring change within
our own personal spheres of influence? What can we do in own individual
and collective lives that will begin to make a difference? Can we
drive less, eat more locally, grow our own food, compost our food
waste to enrich the soil, exist in greater harmony with our own climates
by building and planting to take advantage of such things as prevailing
winds and shade, can we consume less and waste less, and perhaps
most importantly, can we recover lost knowledge and discover new
possibilities to teach our children about all these things? Viewers
will be invited to meditate on these issues and their own possible
actions by walking under the tangle and contemplating the air they
are breathing, the path of earth under their feet, and the water
in front of them.
The idea of walking meditation is to choose an object or an idea
to focus the mind on. I asked viewers to focus on the quality of
the environment, the air, land and waters of Taiwan (and the world)
and to think about their hopes for the future condition of the environment.
I requested that they write a hope or an action on a leaf taken from
the reeds growing around the site. Viewers were instructed to walk
slowly under the sculpture, stop at the end and float the leaf on
the pond, to turn around and retrace their steps. As viewers left
by the long boardwalk I suggested they might use it for a walking
meditation on their hope or action.
About walking meditation: "Walking meditation has many facets; it
can be considered simply as an alternative posture. As with any meditation,
it is important to set boundaries: 'With walking meditation
the path one selects creates a boundary. One chooses a level path
- about 20 to 30 paces long-and marks either end in some way. This
can be with sticks or rocks or piles of leaves - anything will do
as long as it is quite clear. The defined nature of a path helps
contain the mind and the tendency to wander. Begin at one end of
the path. Bring attention to the body. Determine how long you will
walk. Let go of expectations. Relax. The usual suggestion is to maintain
the focus on the feelings at the soles of the feet - this helps define
the boundary further. Walk with the eyes downcast, looking about
three paces ahead. Proceed at a normal pace. Get to the end of the
path - stop-turn around - begin walking again. Try for at least 15
Viewers were encouraged to use the boardwalk as their path and to
make a longer walk as they left the wetlands, or to engage the practice
of walking meditation in the more traditional back and forth way