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Global Ideas

Diamonds in the forest

Artist Drue Kataoka likes to put her work in surprising contexts and environments - such as the depths of a forest. The results are really rather beautiful.

Your work entitled "After the Celestial Axe” is located in a forest, how significant is that?

Situated deep in the California forest, After the Celestial Axe is a sculpture comprised of a moss-covered fallen oak tree and 27 mirrored surfaces built out of thousands of reflective fragments. As you walk through the forest, you first see light from the sculpture shining brightly through the trees. When seen from afar, these reflective arrangements sparkle in the sun; but when examined more closely, they reflect, refract, expand and transform the environment and the viewer. How or why the Celestial Axe fell is a part of a hidden narrative. Very soon, a magical, multi-planar universe is revealed.

To what extent do you use your work to draw attention to environmental issues?

I think art can be a powerful partner not only in drawing awareness to environmental issues, but also in creating profound engagement with them over time. I have done so directly or indirectly with a number of works including "After the Celestial Axe," and another one of my works called the “#link:http://www.drue.net/art-tree-of-pascal.htm:Tree of Pascal# which is a brainwave artwork.

What is the message of this piece?

The artwork shows the aftermath of an event of incomprehensible proportions – an Axe that fell mysteriously from the skies, leaving a sparkling residue of starry formations. One of the extraordinary things about this piece is how people come away with their own “visions” or “artistic hallucinations” after engaging with it. They come and tell me the vivid visual scenes and stories that were unleashed in their imagination. They also take many photos of themselves and the environment reflected into the piece from their particular vantage point. The end result is a lot of interesting derivative works.

How does it change with the seasons?

After the Celestial Axe is a like a living organism, constantly changing each time you encounter it, living with and feeding off the energy, the environment and people around it. The reflections in the mirrors are constantly changing depending on your viewpoint, the season, time of year, time of day, and how the surrounding forest changes. The work transforms the relationship between viewer and environment, creating a dynamic feedback.

How effective can art be as a tool for raising awareness?

Art has the potential to create profound engagement with people, not just to “raise awareness” with them. To be aware of something is to know about it on a superficial level. Mainstream advertising is great at spreading so-called “awareness” on a massive scale. However, “awareness” is something that is weak because it fades quickly, whereas profound engagement lasts long after the first encounter.

Art can be one of the most powerful and effective ways to transfer messages to people that linger and deepen over time because it intertwines the intellectual with the emotional. In a world of fragmentary and ephemeral communications, art has staying power. That lays the foundation for actionably moving the needle on the global issues we face today.


#link:http://www.Drue.Net:Drue Kataoka's# art practice spans disciplines, integrating ancient Japanese ink painting techniques with steel, brainwaves, mirrors, time dilation, digital image processing and mobile technologies. In 2008, she exhibited at the first zero gravity art exhibit in space at the International Space Station. Kataoka has been named both a Cultural Leader and a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum. Born in Tokyo, she began her art training in Japan, graduated from Stanford University and is based in Silicon Valley.

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