Kim Myeongbeom, Tree Boat, 2011.

La Plata River at Dorad, Puerto Rico. Artistic action; consisted in a boat trip with several plants as passengers.

Tree Boat

“My work has a lot to do with memory, my childhood, and how I remember every experience.” – Kim Myeongbeom

Floating on the Tree

“I think that the unmoving is much more poetic and meditative than moving things” – Kim Myeongbeom

Imagine waking up one day and looking out the window to enjoy the surroundings. When all of a sudden, out in the body of water that swims along where you are, a small boat with “extravagant trees, plants, and shrubs” appears. Immediately, issues such as locational identity and immigration begin to surge from the depths of the mind. So you wonder whom, how, and why as the boat floats on its own business fulfilling the artistic purpose behind it.

It was sometime during September 2005 in New York City where Land Artist Robert Smithson’s simple sketch made in 1970 turned into a reality, thirty years after his death, by Minetta Brook and the Whitney Museum under the supervision of Smithson’s widow artist Nancy Holt. Floating Island to Travel Around Manhattan turned out to be the ‘non-site’ of Central Park with the “attempt of re-contextualizing the landscape as a constant succession of movements, shifts, and relocations” all in a “poetic gesture”.

Creative Components

“My favorite objects are the natural things around me especially trees”.  – K.M.

Taking Smithson’s concept of the floating island and making it his own, Korean artist Kim Myeongbeom created Tree Boat. Previously done in Seoul (Korea), Chicago (US), and now in Dorado (Puerto Rico), the ongoing project consists of a small boat with native plants and/or trees planted on it. Kim’s Tree Boat in Dorado had a “Ficus Longifolia and a Tabebuia Rosea creating a lavish garden” comprised with an evolving rock towers were each stone represented a personal wish; based on the popular tradition in the mountainous regions of Korea were along the paths one can find stone towers in which the stones also represent a wish.
From the type of boat that was chosen to the plants that were used the project’s cultural representation circled around immigration. The boat that was used is called yola. This boat is commonly employed by people from adjacent islands (Cuba and Dominican Republic) to crossover illegally to Puerto Rico. The tree, although it might evoke stability and permanence, meanwhile, represented the individual “who affected by unforeseeable circumstances, decides to leave home”.

The performance happened a the Balneario de Dorado & Rio La Plata (also at Dorado) followed by a conference titled “Dialogue with the World” at the Contemporary Art Museum [MAC] in which the audience was able to hear the artist’s experience with Tree Boat and all his other works of art. Although the project is a ‘non-site’ it “elicits a sense of displacement” that allows the spectators to feel the poetic and meditative state of the unexpected wonder that is Tree Boat.

Information extracted and edited by Karina del Mar from Carla Acevedo-Yates’ curating of Tree Boat [complete text can be found in arte_FITS’s Tree Boat brochure] and Kim Myeongbeom’s Proposal for arte_FITS.

For more information on Kim Myeongbeom you may visit