Xu Bing first visited Mount Kenya National Park in late spring 2005. While there, he spent time with community members who spoke with him about their concerns for the health of the Mount Kenya ecosystem. After a number of discussions with locals about the impact of deforestation in the Mount Kenya area, Xu identified trees as the motif of his Human/Nature project.
Long interested in the visual and metaphorical power of written language, the artist determined to work with Mount Kenyan schoolchildren to develop artworks using the Chinese characters relating to trees (such as ?, ?, ?, the ideograms for “wood,” “woods,” and “forest”). Because of recent political unrest in Kenya, Xu’s second visit to the site was delayed. He returned in July 2008, working with young Kenyan students and completed work for his Human/Nature installation. Partnering with Kenya’s Departments of Education and Forestry, and with the help of Rare, Xu created a system using the Internet to disseminate information about the park and about issues related to the forest. In daily workshops at the newly built Mount Kenya Eco-Resource Centre, Xu worked with ninety students, and some teachers, from several schools in the region.
For Human/Nature, Xu developed an installation that incorporates his own work along with the children’s original drawings. The children’s drawings are available for purchase by auction on Xu’s specially designed website, forestproject.net; proceeds from the auctions will go toward reforestation efforts in Kenya. His website will report the progress of these efforts.
“An idea must take root, grow, and then bloom for it to result in change.”
—Xu Bing, on the Human/Nature project
Produced by Lidia Rossner and Alexander Rossner, http://dmovies.net/.