Vincent J.F. HUANG’s artwork always probes into the development of civilization and the reflection on our natural environment. His works contain criticisms of current global situations and environmental problems that are distressful towards mankind’s future civilization. He explores issues relating to the tendency of people worshipping the GDP (Gross Domestic Product). In the name of developing civilization, humans purport to extend technology, arrogantly and unlimitedly, creating a civilization fantasy and in turn causing dire natural calamities.
Through combining historical and animal images, Huang presents his concerns on the pulse of the global situation, and emphasizes that mankind’s act of chasing economic miracles, but gradually losing valuable thoughts with respect to ecological reservation. Through contemporary art, the purpose is not to taunt the fantasy of the “Brave New World”, but to warn people that technology and progressing civilization can trigger environmental crisis.
HUANG’s artwork probes into the fact that since the Industrial Revolution, mankind’s purpose of developing civilization consumes tremendous amounts of oil and vast amounts of natural resources, in order to construct new consumer values. Consequently these actions are bringing about unprecedented weather changes and natural catastrophes. We should carefully consider what the future holds for us, if we intend for technological development to continue in the same manner as it is now. We are at a time where weather disasters are appearing everywhere around the world. There is no doubt that the time to rethink whether the GDP should still take supremacy is right now.
In 2006, Huang created a series where he used penguins as representative of the species of victims, along with Chinese Zhuangzi’s ideology that mankind and Mother Nature should live in harmony. An example from this series of sculptures are the last surviving penguins, set in Tai-Chi postures, sitting in a creek in Hanover, Germany, which symbolizes the melting North Pole. He also combined these penguins with the Chinese Terracotta Army, signifying that these penguins have been sent to their tombs helplessly because of humanity’s modern technology. He also uses an idea from the famous Chinese ancient painting-- “The last feast” of Han Xizai, an ancient minister from the Five Dynasties. Han was helpless in changing the political situation of his country at the time, therefore he intentionally indulged himself in drinking and frolicking with prostitutes in order to protect himself. Huang transformed this idea into this project: penguins who feel helpless and have no power to change anything because of what human’s modern civilization has done to the ice lands, decide to have the last feast at night. Through this hilarious form of art, he intends to display the metaphor for a serious confronting issue that many species are facing extinction beyond the penguins’ party.
In 2009, he launched a revolution trilogy project mainly with penguins. The first stage consisted of naked penguins who couldn’t bear global warming, thus taking off their clothes. They come to the human cities: Hanover Germany, Taipei of Taiwan, and London and Scotland in the UK, to spread the “Penguins Times” to alert humans about the global warming crisis in a peaceful way. In the second stage, they hang themselves to death from London’s Millennium Bridge, as a “Guerrilla Art” to protest the extinction of theirs and other species and to use this horrifying act to emphasize that Mother Nature is very disappointed about humanity’s behaviors. In the third stage, the penguins gather other species to take revenge upon human society and the symbolic objects of capitalism. Through Reuters News photos taken from the North Pole, showing Polar bears eating their cubs, Huang transformed the Polar bears into taking revenge upon the most influential man: a sculpture of the American President’s head, thus symbolizing the ideology of Mother Nature striking back. Hammerhead sharks attack a statue of Ronald MacDonald, the symbol of American capitalism, with the goddess of liberty kneeling and bowing in a state of worship of a holy statue assembled from electronic parts. This series of artworks are focused on Mother Nature striking back at human beings. Other than using animals to warn people about the crisis of weather changes, this artwork also criticizes current common ideas of human-centric theories and technology-worship values.
Going beyond presenting animals under grave environmental situations, Huang also went to the Tuvalu Islands in the South Pacific in July 2010, to proceed with the first environmental art performance in this tiny country. Tuvalu Islands is the most imminent case of destruction of a country due to the rising sea levels. The title of this project, “Tuvalutis” comes from the legend of the lost city of Atlantis. This trilogy is to signify that “supreme views of economic development” of the present world might lead human society to an unknown, disastrous and doomed destination. He turned the symbol of Copenhagen, the mermaid into a “Dried Mermaid” statue that suffered from dramatic weather changes and is burned and baked, becoming dry and shriveled. There are sharks circling her, trying to eat her body; it symbolizes all the powerful countries and capital enterprises circling the Copenhagen Summit. This dried mermaid eventually erodes into the waves of a Tuvalu Island, and is cremated at the site. It is a miniature of the situation of the Tuvalu Islands’ dilemma under the impact of global warming. It is a display of “post Copenhagen Summit” issues of global environmental justice. The mermaid’s ashes is symbolic of the Copenhagen Summit’s failure, and was used to perform an Action Art, namely the “Mermaid’s Funeral” in London, where the industrial revolution originated.
Other than environmental themes, Huang also presents projects combining sculptures and performance on other issues such as the Nobel Peace Prize Award ceremony of 2010. This piece was a sculpture of a prisoner dressed as a scholar from ancient China, chained with a “River Crab” shackle, sitting on a horse carriage, and being dragged behind the carriage is a sculpture of Mao Zedong dressed in emperor’s clothing. He presented this artwork to criticize the Beijing authority’s foul act of ignoring fundamental human rights, whereby the Chinese authorities did not allow the Liu Xiaobo to attend the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony to receive his prestigious award.
As Friedrich August Hayek said, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”, and he also said this in his book, The Road to Serfdom, “When we make every effort consciously to create a future with some lofty ideals, we are in fact unconsciously creating something the opposite from what we have been fighting for. Can we imagine any greater tragedy than this?”
Through artistic creation, HAUNG emphasize the current situation in the modern world. In the name of progressing civilization and people pursuing the supreme value of GDP, would this bring mankind to a more beautiful new world, or speed up the process toward a disastrous ending?
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