A project to document the changing landscapes and built environments of Tanna Island.
W.E. (Cheryl and Greta) are two artist-chitects living in New York. Our work is a mix between art and architecture; sometimes more research-based, other times more construction-based, at times performative, and once in a while, edible.
HAPPINESS is a project that we need your help with. It is a documentary photographic/drawing series tracing a journey on Tanna Island in Vanuatu (South Pacific). Home of the ‘happiest people on earth’ (Happy Planet Index) and one of the most traditional Melanesian cultures, Tanna’s growing tourism portends cultural change. Our interest in documenting Vanuatu now comes from a desire to document the island before it changes much more. Our project hinges on Vanuatu as a place caught between preserving indigenous culture and tourism development. 70% of the subsistence economy of Vanuatu are engaged in "modernizing"-- which the local people simultaneously welcome and consider a threat to traditional village structures. We will document existing architecture and networks of human movement.
Our interest in Tanna Island was generated when we learned about the Vanuatu Pacifica Foundation’s plans to create an arts center on the island. We started to think about all the factors that would affect the island’s future and the Naihnè people. We thought that further research would be important in the rapidly-changing site.
Thank you so much for your interest in our project!!
About the Vanuatu Pacifica Foundation
We will be working alongside the Vanuatu Pacifica Foundation. The Vanuatu Pacifica Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by Paul D. Miller (AKA DJ Spooky). The VPF is working to rebuild a local living economy that retains youth and Traditional Ecological Knowledge. The organization is building the Tanna Center for the Arts, which will host artists’ residencies and further the development goals of the people of Tanna. The Center will engage the local culture and its competing interests for tourism with an equal exchange of ideas and activities between the cultures of Oceania and the international arts community. It aims to be a green, carbon-negative construction-- the first bamboo constructions will be erected this summer. Vanuatu Pacifica Foundations efforts come at a moment of change on the island.
The mission of the VPF can be found here: http://www.the-vpf.org/
Now, more about our project!
We will travel the circumference of the island, which is about 25 miles long by 12 miles wide, to document the current vernacular architecture of homes in villages and public space, and the transition from city to nature.
We'll be photographing and diagramming the local bamboo architecture and patterns of living. The documentary journey will follow the structure of our Trans Siberia project (See below for a beefier description of that project). In travel around Tanna, we’ll register built conditions and traditional paths of travel through photographs and, later, hand and digital drawings. These will be compiled along with written narratives into a visual document of the island. This documentation will inform both future developments on Tanna Island and serve as a guidebook for our community back at home – and beyond. In the next two years we hope to use this information for the possible construction of temporary mobile pavilions and public spaces on the island.
How the project will be developed in later phases…
Our photographic documentation will be a starting point for further study of the way people live on the island. We will look at how people move through the island, what they live in, and what this means for a future of increasing tourism. We will analyze, along our journey, the networks of past and present movement through the island, to understand future developments of networks. In later phases of this project, with our documentation, we will develop diagrams and schemes for possible construction of new forms of public space, which include temporary mobile pavilions.
Your support would fund:
$5000 for two 4-segment flights (The journey would take us 2 days to arrive in Vanuatu) - NYC to Sydney, Sydney to Port Vila, Vanuatu and Port Vila to Tanna Island.
$500 ($250 each) for living and production expenses (food and supplies).
Our goal is to begin this project and take our research journey this summer 2011. We aim to be on Tanna Island in August 2011, when the Vanuatu Pacifica Foundation begins the first bamboo constructions for its Center for the Arts.
A little more about our documentary journeys…
We travel to document changing landscapes. We do this through photographic and filmic journeys; then we use our documentation to diagram, map, and design further.
In 2009, we traveled with Columbia University GSAPP to the Middle East to research sustainable building in Abu Dhabi. We visited Dubai, Oman, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. We documented and filmed 10 Syrian archaeological sites that form the Dead Cities, a series of ancient, mysteriously abandoned towns.
In the winter of 2010, we traveled the length of the Trans Siberian railroad for five weeks from Moscow to Beijing (Brrrr!!! We vowed never to do this again in the dead of winter), documenting the administrative buildings in 14 major stops on our way. We photographed and recreated a digital model of each of these buildings. Along with our video footage and written narratives, they were exhibited at Studio X New York and on arts organization Triple Canopy's online magazine.
You can check out the TRANS SIBERIA project at these links:
In 2011 we taught a university studio in Macau. We bicycled through the southern Guangdong province in China, documenting traditional fishing villages and observing water systems in coastal and inland towns.
Thank you so much for your support, interest, time, and money! Our timeline is ultra-tight. We can’t do this without you. We love you!
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
seconds to go
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a personal thank-you note and a bearhug.
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a personal thank-you note and packet of hand-warmers with our W.E. logo. These hand-warmers were integral in our Siberian research and serve as a memento from that journey.
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an individualized, W.E.- created photographic postcard sent to you from Tanna.
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a collection of five W.E.- created photographic postcards sent to you from Tanna
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an invitation to a dinner hosted and prepared by W.E. of recipes gathered from our travel in Tanna.
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a framed 18"x24" print of photograph from our journey (your choice).
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a framed 36"x48" framed print of a photograph from our journey (your choice).
- (25 days)