Contemporary Public Art in Shanghai
Pascale Marthine Tayou is a Cameroonian artist born in Nkongsamba, Africa, a former European colony that abounds with bananas, coffee, and a vast expanse of palm trees. He now lives and works between Cameroon and Belgium. As an artist who has spent years of his life in the African continent, he understands better than those who grew up under industrialization and capitalism what might be a moment of bliss in life.
As we pass by Streeg on the Yangpu Waterfront in Shanghai, we would inevitably feel a gentle struck by the artwork----the word, “Streeg”, means “unintentional knock” in Plattdeutsch. Tayou is always like a little boy and a naive wanderer, roaming freely in the global village. His works are like picking up nature's colored brushes randomly during his journey and painting rainbows in the sky. He is closely connected to the modest energy and knows how to tap people’s heartstring with it.
The heartstring is indeed sensitive, and this sensitivity comes precisely from love. Tayou dances with this string of love without strong and staged sounds, saying that letting silence speak where there is nothing to say is the artist's message of love to us all. In this bronze tree bearing colorful cobblestones, we see the love that comes from silence, gentle healing of wounds, the Eden time of childhood calling for the arrival of spring in an adult world full of armored concrete. It is a worldwide theme that represents a life that acts for love and freedom, in spite of the ugliness existing in the world.
This imagination of seeking healing and beauty from human wounds is more clearly demonstrated in his former work Plastic Tree. It always reminds people of the bleak scene of plastic bags seen everywhere in daily life, hanging high on the branches and being swirled by the wind. They form a beautiful rainbow, which, in the Bible, symbolizes the hope that a new chapter of human history will open after the Great Flood.
It is a hope for the future, at least in the field of theology. We will say goodbye to the suffering of the past and the mistakes we have made to each other and the world. After all the conquests and the fall of sin, rebirth and hope for people will come through a complete cleanse. Despite the much injustice instrinsic in humanity, the rainbow delivers us hope.
This hope implies the beginning of a reconciliation. In Tayou's case, it refers to the possibility of reconciling the conflicts between various cultures, between man and nature, and the the clashes caused by the sociopolitical and economic landscape. This relationship prompts the artist to think deeply about the salvation of the future of humanity. A friend once emailed Tayou and asked him bluntly, "Maybe it’s silly to ask, but I have to ask you--do you think happiness really exists?" It took Tayou two days to reply, "Happiness is a personal thing. I feel that happiness really exists, whereas sadness is also a part of happiness.”
For Tayou, life is fragile, just as human history repeating itself over and over again. He calls on those who do not know this truth that it is time to learn it. Whether in his Favelas, Things Fall Apart, or Reverse City, he goes to great lengths to tell us this truth, asking us to be brave, to stay strong-minded and steadfast.
Tayou’s world presents a kind of “poetics of relation” by poet and philosopher Edouard Glissant. Although some people call it “philosophy of relation”, it is more like a poetry in Tayou’s case. He has seen too much suffering in this world, whether in Africa, Europe or somewhere else. Wars, conflicts, poverty, hunger, toil, as well as the crisis and excessive alienation of the meaning of life brought by modern civilization. However, he still firmly believes that love and happiness exist, and as he has witnessed during the long journey, the rainbow will appear inadvertently in those flashes of suffering.
This reminds him to never forget the existence of hope, because that is a faithful appointment, as captured by his sensitive heartstrings. Under this bronze tree installation Streeg, the colorful fruit is growing. Tayou warns us that human beings are gradually losing themselves in the false society, but he wants to break this state. He deeply realizes that we not only live in a global system, but we are the system, and he wants to explore the possibility of going beyond the boundaries of the system. He clearly points out that we should understand what it means to live together, insist on being ourselves, and find the balance between good and bad, sadness and happiness.
Artist: Pascale Marthine Tayou
Year of Creation: 2019
Dimension: 650 cm(H) x 650 cm(D)
Venue: Binjiang, Yangpu District, Shanghai
Entrusting Party: Shanghai Municipal Planning and Natural Resources Bureau; Shanghai Yangpu District Municipal Planning and Natural Resources Bureau; Shanghai Yangpu Riverside Investment Development Co., Ltd.
General Contractor: Art Pioneer Studio
· Production: Shanghai Purple Roof Atelier
· Construction & Landscape: Shanghai Luwan Landscape Development Co., Ltd.
· Supervisor: Shanghai Zhenhua Engineering Consulting Co., Ltd.
About the artist
Artist Pascale Marthine Tayou born in 1966 in Nkongsamba, he lives and works in Ghent, Belgium and Yaoundé, Cameroon. His works are characterized by variability, as he confined his artwork to one medium or a series of specific issues. Although the themes may vary, they all use the artist himself as their starting point. His works are not only in this sense, between cultures, or place people and nature in contradictory relationships with each other, but also arise from knowledge, that is, they are social, cultural or political constructs. His work is deliberately mobile, and it's an architecture or heterogeneous that is difficult to be pre-established. It's always closely related to the idea of traveling and coming into contact with other things and self, and is so spontaneous that it almost seems casual. The objects, sculptures, installations, drawings, and videos produced by Tayou have a common feature: they focus on the problem of individuals crossing the world and exploring the global village. It is in this context that Tayou negotiated his African origins and related expectations.