Land art elim­i­nates the su­per­flu­ous

Bold artists set out to feel at one with na­ture and other mem­bers of the an­i­mal king­dom, writes YAZEED KAMAL­DIEN

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

ALONG the way to the Ceder­berg in the Western Cape, South Korean land artist Ko Se­ung-Hyun ap­proaches a camel on the road­side, plucks grass from the earth, puts it in his mouth and tries to feed the stub­born an­i­mal.

It takes a bit of time, but Ko even­tu­ally suc­ceeds.

He walks away smil­ing, feel­ing united with na­ture, which is what he in­tends to achieve as a land artist.

This mo­ment is rem­i­nis­cent of Ko’s in­ter­ven­tion, Man and Cow, made al­most three decades ago. A pho­to­graph bear­ing tes­ti­mony to this shows Ko on his knees, feed­ing grass from his mouth to a cow. It shows that he does not have to eat the cow but can in­stead eat with the cow.

Ko runs the Ya­too Na­ture Art As­so­ci­a­tion of Korea, which co-or­gan­ised a land art tour tak­ing lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional artists to nat­u­ral spa­ces in South Africa. Site_Spe­cific Col­lec­tive, a group ded­i­cated to land art, is its lo­cal part­ner.

Called Sto­ries of Rain, this tour started at the Cra­dle of Hu­mankind, a World Her­itage Site about 45km north-west of Johannesburg, ear­lier this month. Ko’s aim is to pop­u­larise land art and the re­sults of the South African leg of the Global No­madic Art Project, now in its third year, will be ex­hib­ited at the As­so­ci­a­tion for Vis­ual Arts gallery in cen­tral Cape Town on Thurs­day.

Back in the car, Ko talks about his vi­sion and work as an artist re­ly­ing on na­ture.

“I wanted to show we are one. We are in har­mony,” he says of feed­ing an­i­mals with his mouth.

“Na­ture is my mother and teacher. It gives me ideas and free­dom. It gives me every­thing. I con­nect with na­ture.”

Ko says land artists work beyond their stu­dios and ven­ture into nat­u­ral spa­ces to in­ter­act with na­ture. The aim is to cre­ate work with only nat­u­ral el­e­ments.

“Some artists change eco­log­i­cal con­di­tions but land art is con­scious­ness about na­ture,” says Ko. Land art in some in­stances also per­forms as ac­tivism, he adds, with Ya­too hold­ing work­shops in South Korea and In­dia to con­sci­en­tise artists about work­ing with na­ture.

Ya­too has also worked to “ed­u­cate chil­dren about na­ture”, says Ko.

“When chil­dren drink milk they think it comes from a fac­tory. They don’t see it comes from a cow. We want to take them back to na­ture to see the cow.”

Ko says artist meet­ings with sci­en­tists have also been or­gan­ised to raise aware­ness about the “eco­log­i­cal con­di­tion, cli­mate change and wa­ter is­sues”. To this end, a sym­po­sium is planned for Cape Town next week.

South African artist Janet Botes par­tic­i­pated in the Global No­madic Art Project lo­cally, and also last year when it was held in South Korea.

Botes says land art “feels so pure and back to ba­sics”.

“It’s what art should be in­stead of ad­ding su­per­flu­ous things to it.”

Botes is part of the Site_Spe­cific Col­lec­tive which plans monthly gath­er­ings in Cape Town. Lo­cal in­ter­est has been luke­warm though.

“We have gath­er­ings ev­ery month but artists don’t join. Land art is still very much a fringe move­ment in the art world be­cause artists are so focused on the com­mer­cial value of art,” says Botes.

Ko says land artists are not mak­ing money, but spread­ing ideas about na­ture con­ser­va­tion. They use gallery spa­ces mostly to ex­hibit the doc­u­men­ta­tion of their art to ex­pose this move­ment to a wider au­di­ence. Al­though there is not much mon­e­tary re­ward for land art, Botes says the value of get­ting out of her stu­dio for land art projects has helped her with her paint­ings.

“What you get from land art, you can’t put into words,” she says.

“You feel it when you’re in your stu­dio af­ter­wards.

“You get new ideas. And also the more time you spend out­side, the health­ier you are.” yazeed.kamal­


South Korean land artist Ko Se­ung-Hyun feeds a camel in Yz­er­fontein, on the West Coast , to be­come one with na­ture.

OC­TO­BER 1 2016


South African artist Erynne Ewart-Phipps em­broi­dered a pat­tern with red earth on to a rock at the Sil­ver Hills at the Crocodile River Re­serve in Cen­tu­rion, Gaut­eng.


The fragility of some of the trees in the Ceder­berg moun­tains were the in­spi­ra­tion for a video piece. Other videos are planned.


Shell frag­ments on the Lange­baan beach form a piece called Pil­grims Fac­ing East. The writer re­cently went on pil­grim­age to Mecca.

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