St-Paul de Vence is such an amazing place with incredible art, antique shops, charming boutiques at every turn. I was really amazed by the sheer number of galleries in the city, and the fact that it was home to artists that I love – Chagall, Matisse, Picasso. While this too beautiful-to-true place left me so overwhelmed what stayed with me was a beautiful nest I saw floating in isolation, hidden away below the ramparts. Apart from the creative artistry behind the project, there was a kind of comforting aspect to it. If I was not in South of France I wonder if I would ever come across this beautiful project. I really want these wonderful sculptures and the artist behind it to be known.
Kim Cao uses weaved bamboos as the only material to make his floating nests. The manner they support and intersect to form natural shapes inspired him to create this artistic vision of the perfect society. “The bamboos are men, relying on each other to shelter something bigger, something more beautiful, some unspeakable, and invisible mystery, floating on the winds. A testimony to the grace and solidarity that we humans can show.” The beautiful thing about such art is that it does not always answer the problems faced by the society but makes us ask the right questions.
What is the creative process behind the woven nests?
After feeling what kind of shape needs to come out, I go out and choose the materials, the thickness of the bamboo and its breed define the natural bend I can get from it.
Depending on the size of the piece, I either use the main stem or the “branches” (axillaries although I’m not sure about the English translation for this, axillary in french, can’t really speak of branches, as bamboo is a herb, like palm trees ).
I then decide whether to weave with the whole plant, leaving the leaves to decay and eventually fall, or clean up the branches for a more geometrical render.
On some occasions, I heat up the bamboo to artificially bend it beyond its natural limits. Like steel, bamboo fiber becomes flexible when heated, then keeps its shape when cooled down.This technique is indeed tricky, as pressure and temperature have to be adjusted to the stem’s freshness/dryness. Doing so without breaking half the stems in the process takes a lot of patience, but mostly it needs attention and sensitivity, one needs to be “listening” to the bamboo, both literally and metaphorically.
I took the time to describe precisely this process because t became obvious to me after a few years of working with this material, that I had much to realize and learn about individuals and societies, from bamboos; as individuals, we can, of course, bend beyond our limits, our balance, but we have to listen to the cracks, pops and pains during the process, otherwise we are sure to break at some point. As a society, we survive and prosper by accepting the links and the pressures that are a natural consequence to these links.
We bond with people, it makes the structure hold itself together.
When the pressure is too great for the individual to withstand, at least a piece of him/her breaks and begins its own journey. Of course, there’s no such thing as a perfect society, that’s why leaving my creations to decay and be used as a ladder for young sprouts to get to the light is an important stage of the creative process, which I adore.
What inspired you to create weaved bamboo nests?
The need for a shelter, I guess, and the need for a cure to overthinking 🙂 My dad was born in Vietnam and my mom is french. Growing older (and more vulnerable), I admitted lacking a sense of belonging. When you’re mixed blooded, people from either country ask you where you’re from. Hence the attention I gave to societies, big or small, my opinion is we’re all in need of that sense of belonging, and of a connection.
Tell us more about your vision of a perfect society.
I wish people would listen to themselves more. To me, it all starts with listening and contemplating. In modern western society, listening to others is considered as a sign of weakness, when to me it’s the greatest sign of strength, and listening to yourself is selfishness when I call it self-alignment. How can anyone else know better than myself my feelings, and in a more general way, what defines me as an individual?
We’re taught to memorize, not feel.
We don’t know our own selves.
My opinion is, people would feel better about themselves by taking a break, breathing, listening and contemplating, and this simple act of self-love could help society into an upwards spiral. Connect, in real life, do something you like!
How do you dismiss all the conflicting thoughts in your head and focus on the singular process of creation?
Most of the times, it’s the overdose of thinking that leads me to empower myself by manipulating matter. My redundant thoughts are always about things I understand, but can’t change. But I can change bamboo!
Give us a sneak-peek into your typical day. How does an ‘A Day In Life of Kim’ look like?
I’m lucky enough to live in a small house with pets everywhere, and a vegetable garden.
On a typical day, I’d eat fruits and take a walk in the garden with my dog, check on the veggies and on my two beehives. Then I either work on video editing or music, or on sculptures. I also grow a ton of experiments, like Koke Damas to include in my nests, water lentils to put in recycled lightbulbs, or moss for terrariums. I’m passionate about plants!
I’m also part of an association that promotes artists and also help people/companies install growing systems with recycled materials in homes of offices. And of another, that aims at protecting bees and related insects.
If someone issues a search warrant through your tools and sketchbooks, what are they likely to stumble into?
Very simple sketches, as I prefer simple shapes, sometimes to help with staging or proportions.
As for tools, the main one is a good sécateur, a quick Japanese saw, a hatchet, strings of differents kinds and a small blowpipe. I also use a variety of climbing equipment to hang the pieces in between trees.
Do you have any other creative projects you are currently working on?
I’m working on an exhibition, a path in the woods I spent my childhood in, in Saint Paul de Vence, and have some other ideas in the area.
I’m passionate about storytelling, so there’s a story I wrote, a philosophical journey, of a young man looking for his roots. Maybe an audio book, child book or animated movie with this.
I’m working on a project with a polish illustrator, for an animated movie
. I also love dance, a project involving cadavers acquis (exquisite corpses) with 15 dancers is under construction, I’d like to explore mixing dance on stage with pre-captured dance videos in a yet to come project. As for sculptures, I’m exploring working with living materials, plants, mosses, maybe even ant colonies!
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