Five Hundred Lemon Trees: An Organic Archive – A Solo Exhibition by Huang Po-Chih
–Making Spirits through Connections and Contracts,
Growing a Factory from Lemon Tree Seedlings
In 2013 Huang Po-Chih won the Grand Prize at the Taipei Arts Awards with his work “Five Hundred Lemon Trees.” He also succeeded in enlisting 500 participants in his lemon tree planting project, who all donated NT$500 in seed capital, in exchange for the chance to grow a lemon tree. With these funds, the artist began to rehabilitate three disused plots of farmland in Hsinchu and Taoyuan counties. Since then, the seedlings of 500 lemon trees have sprouted and grown. This autumn, Huang Po-Chih returns, with 500 bottles of lemon spirits, produced from these orchards and made by hand. He invites the subscribers from his 2013 project to return to the museum, to appraise and appreciate the results, as an expression of gratitude for their support. At the exhibition venue, the artist will also commence the next step in this process of venture and exchange at an even larger scale, as an extension of his relationships with the viewer/producer and consumer.
A Lemon Orchard in an Art Museum, Art in Fallow Fields
“Five Hundred Lemon Trees: An Organic Archive” marks the conclusion and repayment of the multidisciplinary production project of 2013. And at the moment when the artist gives back to his supporters, the project will also move forward in the museum. The exhibition encompasses an array of elements: installation, text, images and brand management. The protagonists are the structure of the production chain in contemporary society, and the organic, interactive relationship involving art museum/works/viewers/artist. The exhibition space serves as a platform for art performance, considering the temporal/spatial labor process that lies behind objects and interpreting it through sensorial records – both visually as images and aurally as sound. Furthermore, through the senses of smell and taste, viewers and consumers may internalize within their own bodies the production process and the hours of labor inherent in the products, which then become elements of the context. The artist also uses the publicly open character of the art museum to initiate a new subscription program, amassing future labor energy and resources to move forward with the next stage of the project.
The exhibition comprises three parts: (1) an archive, including written text, documentation of the farming process, and field studies; (2) the repayment of lemon spirits – during the final week of the exhibition, the artist will invite the 500 subscribers from 2013 to the museum to pick up their bottles of lemon spirits and partake in a tasting event; and (3) a lemon orchard tour – the artist invites the subscribers of the original project, plus all interested members of the public, to personally visit his lemon orchard in Xinpu, Hsinchu County. As the project continues, the artist will continue the fundraising model of 2013. He hopes to recruit another 500 subscribers, and expand the lemon orchards by establishing a small-scale factory, using this space to sustainably develop the 500 lemon trees brought to life in the first stage – thus growing a factory from lemon tree seedlings.
Concocting Spirits and Community
Huang Po-Chih’s works in recent years have addressed the labor concepts of “operation” and “execution,” taking the complex, multilayered, intricately interwoven network of relationships in society as the subject of his art, which he both illuminates and dissects. The process of production, its practical implementation, community relationships of exchange and manufacture, and the emotional elements blended within them, which cannot be measured or calculated through science or reason, all form the corpus which the project explores. Fully grown trees exhibited in the museum, neon lights on the walls, and poetic texts that read like legendary chronicles become key elements determining whether the contract between the subscribers and the artist has been fulfilled. The production and exchange of material goods are not simple “behaviors.” The decision-making process that lies in the background of these acts is intimately related to social and economic values. By transplanting this complex network structure, “Five Hundred Lemon Trees” has successfully achieved the goals of the first stage, delivering the spirits into the hands of subscribers. And by soliciting new subscriptions, the artist attempts to pursue the project continuously.
Resonance with the Taipei Biennial
During the same period, Taipei Fine Arts Museum is also presenting the Taipei Biennial 2016 on the first and second floors. The artist Huang Po-Chih will join hands with Taipei Biennial guest curator Corinne Diserens in holding a small-scale reading event: “Reading, Presentation and Tasting.” By reciting poetry, reading, and hosting a tasting of his lemon spirits, the artist will share the words of Polish writer Bruno Schulz (1892-1942) and the inspiration they give him. The curator Corinne Diserens, meanwhile, will explore the works of Polish artist Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz (1885-1939) and his relationship with Bruno Schulz.