Jiri Mountain Tea Line

KOREA 2016

Back in December last year I was invited by Dr Choi, through Isabel Langtry at the Hampstead College of Art to take part in the Jiri Mountain International Festival of Art and Nature in Hadong in the south of South Korea. The Festival was the brainchild of Professor Kim Seong Su who is in the process of setting up a craft college and residency program in Hadong. Construction of the buildings is underway and they hope to open next year. I was commissioned to make a work outside and to exhibit some works in an exhibition.

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Dr Choi Won

 

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Professor Kim

In July this year I visited the area and chose a site on an old terrace on the side of the mountain directly above where the college buildings are under construction. The terrace was revealed when we strimmed the bracken. It may have been an old trackway through the chestnut forest, of which a few trees still remain lower down the hill. The line of the terrace points directly to a nearby triangular peak and immediately suggested a linear work pointing at the mountain.

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revealed terrace line

During the three days I was in Hadong in July I was given a tour of the area and taken to the valley where there are famous tea plantations along the river and on the sides of the mountains. We were served the beautiful and sweet tasting tea at an organic plantation. It was this experience, along with seeing the low rows of tea bushes that gave me the idea of planting a snaking line of tea bushes to animate the line of proposed stones. This would then make a growing piece which would have to be cared for by the college into the future and would further link water from the mountains, and soil from the earth, so that these elements could be imbibed through the drinking of tea by students, as a way of embodying the landscape. Further, the line of stones pointing at the mountain peak resembles an acupuncture meridian line in the body and is another way of connection from people to landscape, much as the ancient Ley lines and stone rows of Britain act in our own landscapes. This in essence links to similar confusion ideas in the Korean landscape. The first tea seeds were brought here to Jiri Mountain from China in the year 828 and planted under the kings orders. The Zen master Jingam bred the tea in 830 and spread the growing of tea throughout Korea. My own family’s connection on both my mother’s and may father’s side is rather more modest and goes back a mere four generations of tea planters and brokers in Ceylon. All this makes me very happy to incorporate tea into a sculpture here in Korea.

My idea first idea was to make a thick rice straw rope and have this snake between the stones. The tea bush saplings planted through it. In time the tea bushes would replace the rope.

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Drawing of the line of rice straw rope with tea bush plants.

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In 4 years the tea bushes replace the rope

We returned on Monday 10th October to Hadong and revisited the site hoping that the preliminary excavations of the terrace would be complete, but alas the site was as we left it.

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However, we spent the first day choosing boulders from the building site, researching straw rope and looking at young tea plants. It rapidly became apparent that it would be almost impossible to make a thick enough straw rope in the time available, and that the tea plants were very small. Fortunately someone from Hadong council took us to an area near the river where excavations for houses were about to uproot a whole mature tea plantation and we were told we could have as many of these plants as we needed.

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the lines of tea bushes offered to us

On Wednesday Mr Jeong Wigi arrived with his truck and digger. We promptly loaded 11 boulders from the building site, including a potential large standing stone onto the truck and then Mr Jeong clawed his way up through the chestnut trees and onto the site in his digger. By the end of the day he had escavated the site, and as he did so it became apparent, when we created a long terrace aimed at the mountain, just what that shape had to be and in so doing we were able to do away with the need for retaining walls. Mr Jeong was so expert that the arm of the digger became an extension of his own arm. We had with us the expert landscape designer Mr Lee Kyeok Jeong and Mr Kim Yeong Hwan (YHK). Both YHK and Dr Choi speak English, so with their help and expertise we were able to communicate with mr Jeong.

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Mr Jeong Wigi

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Mr Lee, Dr Choi and Mr Kim

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YHK

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Excavations begin

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Excavations complete

On Thursday we started placing stones and by lunch time we were done. We are off to Seoul for a break tomorrow, staying with YHK and his wife and next week we will start planting tea and make provision for seeding the banks and decide on whether to plant grass around the work (which will need mowing) or use a membrane and aggregate surface.

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placing stones in line with the mountain

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placing the last standing stone

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Stone Mountain Line

Jiri Mountain Tea Line | 2016 | Uncategorized