‘The structure of the work is similar to a theatre set …the layers are planned to be moveable so that the set can be changed to simulate different phases of the folktale.’ Yoca Muta
In Tale of Two Suns (2008) Yoca Muta uses folklore to explore the human encounter with rural landscape and nature. An ancient folktale from Borneo tells of Man’s fury at two menacing unforgiving suns and how one sun was transformed into a moon by a spear driven into its centre. In this work, two different phases of the tale’s narrative – before and after – are simulated by changing the scenery on the eve of the Winter Solstice on 19 December.
In a recent field trip to the Sabah state in Malaysian Borneo, Yoca Muta learned of the folktale handed down through the generations amongst the local tribe.
‘The heat generated by the two suns riding in the sky is so severe; it took a woman’s life. Then her husband took vengeance on the suns with his blowpipe. When a dart of his blowpipe struck one of the suns, the sun turned into a moon and the heat eased.’
The most interesting part of the folktale, for the artist, is the idea of humans challenging the sun with the intention of suppressing its power or exerting supernatural control over it. By theatrically re-staging the folktale, she questions whether this kind of impulsive action against nature is feasible. During a recent field trip to Borneo, she observed both the beauty and the ferocity of the jungle, as well as its frailty. From a small hill in the corner of a village, large areas of de-forestation caused loss of animal dwellings and increased contamination of natural resources revealing new kinds of natural disasters.
A Tale of Two Suns uses the modern glazed façade of Rivington Place as both a huge screen projecting the inside out and as a byobu – a Japanese folding screen or wind wall which traditionally features nature-themed sceneries and landscapes. Yoca Muta has transformed the window into a three-dimensional composition using layers of objects such as a mountain, a tree and sun to illustrate the folktale.
Yoca Muta explores the idea of nature as a screen onto which we project our desires and longings. Using artifice and theatrical devices, she explores how Man’s relationship with nature has changed, and wonders if any natural landscape or ecosystem remains unaffected by humans. Her use of materials exemplifies the theatricality of her construction and she describes them (clay and polystyrene) as being ‘flexible, fluid and primitive but with an artificial texture of their own.’
Curated by Melanie Keen.