Jiu Xian Garden Village

Artists in Residence & Workshop Programs / Ming Village & Sustainable Cultural Landmark


The 3 Year Workshop

DaST’s proposition, in Jiu Xian rural village located in the southern part of China is to integrate through a new systemic approach to social,economical and environmental challenges, the principles of sustainable design.

i.e dealing with the life cycle management process, meaning that DaST team is addressing all questions linked to policy in regard of what we know about the Sciences of the Earth, the Human fundamental needs, the necessity to share the natural ressources and knowledge all mingled within the Cultural and Historical background of this old Ming village and its surroundings DaST has designed a compass to help understanding its purpose.

In order to share more knowledge it has been decided that the Jiu Xian Garden Village project would be done through workshops open to the best students in Architecture and Landscape of the South China University of Technology in Guangzhou and associate the local population The workshops intend to confront the students frontaly to sustainable issues / reality / the rural chinese world / National Héritage / conservation / restoration. The decision to work with the local population came from the understanding that: «Jiu Xian Garden Village «would become a success if they handled the project as their own 1st year objective.

We dedicated our first year to a global inventory and found that Jiu Xian was managed in an almost far more advanced sustainable way than the best existing projects but using very little access to high end technologies meaning that Jiu Xian in its présent structure had a really limited possibility to go forward within the to-day rules leading all processes.

Production Structure

All productive natural assets in Jiu Xian are divided by the number of inhabitants each inhabitant has been granted by the state (at the beginning of the second half of the 20th century )a leasehold on a pièce of arable land of 1 mu(667m2)on which they produce either 2 crops of rice a year or fruits, plus grass and vegetables on the borders, nutrients for the soils come mainly from the manure of the cattle, rice straw and oysters shells each family was granted ,as an average, a pond of approximately 100sqm to breed fishes for one very nice meal a week.

Fish are fed with the grass from the paddy fields Each family breeds also 1 pig or 2, a few chickens and ducks for the meat and the eggs and a buffalo for working the fields all cooking wastes are reused to feed the animals or nurture the land the irrigation system is very efficient and the water fairly shared collective land (3000 mus of non arable land) provides wood for cooking purposes and all the médicinal plants needed to cure most of the illness plus added pastures for goats the Yulong river that crosses the land of the different communities is used as a touristic waterway and the profit are split between the villages according to the length of the river crossing their land and then, shared between the inhabitants of each village, in equal parts as a result of this clever management process the biodiversity is respected and each family produces twice their vital needs.

Surplusses are sold to the markets nearby to buy clothes, little tools and all the traditionnal products they need for their celebrations but the information and dreams provided by the tv channels or by travelling to the nearby big cities Yangshuo, Guilin, Nanning make them wish a different type of life. They just see their income 300 euros per year compared to the average one in the cities 1200 to 3000 euros without understanding the pressure and all costs associated to it. They neither perceive the quality of their life and the huge freedom they benefit , nor the importance of their work and knowledge (feeding the big cities,keeping the soils and the biodiversity in good shape, absorbing lots of co2,aso) Nobody helped them understand the changes the model needed.

  • Move from quantity to quality
  • A fair balance between rural population weight/% of GNP
  • Keeping the soils fertility
  • Keeping and increasing biodiversity
  • Offsetting cities co2 emissions
  • Securing chinese food independance
  • Keeping the water clean
  • Offering jobs for many
  • Family organization

The family organisation is very simple (originate from the confucianism) the oldest man in the family rules The youngest help the oldest as soon as these are unable to provide for their needs The girls stay in their family all their life even when married.

All different generations of one family live under the same roof. And help each other The design of each house modern or old is the same The husband of a new couple must follow his wife and live under her family’s roof If the new husband or the new wife is coming from another village and if there are more arable land available they will be granted one «mu» as for the other members of the community,same thing for the newly born on the contrary,if there is not enough arable land they will have to find a job else where or create a new activity in the village Here again they believe it’s easier to live in big cities for privacy reasons, not understanding that the way they live in the village is truly sustainable.

Political Organization

The political organisation is also an astounding example of shared responsability In the case of Jiu Xian ,1250 inhabitants,there are 15 districts each district is a specific and geographical unit of balanced production Each district elects every 4 years a representant Once elected, the new Council will decide who is going to be in charge of the finance, the education, the roads, the natality, aso At that stage the members of the council have to be approved by the communist party (which, usually, they are) The communist party also has an office and 1 or 2 non elected representants in jiu Xian Any problem/question arising is always settled , fast, in a peaceful way, during a meeting or several ones that may last hours The objective being to keep the harmony within the community We happened to have some dificult problems at different times and they all have been solved, the same day or the following days in a nice and fair way.


Jiu Xian has a school for kids aged 4 to 14 265 students learn chinese mandarin and everything that is requested by the authorities (as in all other countries),except the real meaning of rural life ,a real luxury today and an absolute need to keep countries alive and prosperous on the long term the result being that the younger population has just one wish, leave the village and find a better paid job anywhere else.


In the village almost everyone knows the proprieties of the médicinal plants and has a fair knowledge of the TCM- Traditional Chinese Medicine – principles The food is very healthy and participate entirely in keeping the population in good shape Almost every one knows how to do massages and baths ,and, if not, their neighbors will know and help.
At the end of this short and limited inventory the questions that arise are very simple and awfully complex at the same time.
How to keep the best things and bring some new operative methods. How to keep the population at work with the vision of their noble and vital role.
How to increase their income and life conditions while increasing the biodiversity, the quality of soils and waters what a lucky challenge for the DaST team second year objectives third year objectives.

Birth of the Project

Fernando Pessoa’s words flashed in my mind…:

Qualidade distinctivamente humanas
As de imaginação em vez de saber
De jogo em vez de trabalho
da totalidade em vez da separação

From that day on, our DaST team, in charge of the Jiu Xian Garden Village project found the necessary energy to accomplish the task, even if that meant revising all its previous plans.
It, suddenly, seemed urgent to mingle Jiu Xian’s inhabitants with more people from other countries, speaking different languages, living in an entirely different stage of development and with artists who would enable them to capture the beauty of their surroundings.
But above all I felt that launching these artists in the midst of a civilization so different from their own could but be a thrilling experience to them.
The whole DaST (Design a Sustainable Tomorrow) team set to work intensively. We succeeded in increasing the construction capacity at the different work sites by giving the carpenters, masons, electricians and bamboo experts, greater responsibility and by increasing the number of workers at each site.

We also had to adapt the program altering temporarily what the health centre was intended for, enabling it to shelter the artists in case of bad weather, modify the structure of the exhibition rooms and alter the design of the tea-house, Without compromising in quality the access paths to the site. We reviewed and improved the design allowing it to be used two ways, one lane for visitors and one for buffalos.

The DaST workshops became more and more frequent, all the drawings were updated in real time, the logos and the costumes were designed, executive summaries and three books describing the stages of the project were also written. Above all, Goncalo proposal made us think more deeply,about some of the processes. Introducing more f lexibility, Professor Bao, Professor Feng Shu, Professor Jia Yun, Gerhy, Gao Wei, Lee Ziruo, Li Bo, Li Ming Zheng, Ma Tian Tian, Maoeraichiyu, Su Yi, Captain Wu, Vena, Joyce, Ye Ziteng i. e. Gaston, Xiao Xiao, Sissi, Swordman, Hugo, Yiping, Sandiamano, Fat, Feng Da Da as well and many others were at their best.

In the end, a house from the Ming village, had to be restored to receive the visitors and to work as the exhibition room where the project was to be presented.

In order to do so, old restoration materials had to be found, the roof and framework rebuilt, the walls cleaned and plastered with lime mortar tinted with natural pigments, electricity and the lighting system installed, the rainwater sewers cleaned and restored surveyed and Mr Li´s permission granted to connect the installations to his water and electrical metre.

We were fortunate to have an English born architect, Ian, joining our reduced team due to the departure of Mr Lu and his foreman in July. It was a great pleasure to witness the community becoming fully involved even if it turned out to be difficult some days to manage the different teams working on the site as every villager wanted to help, but it was really impossible to have more than 45 workers at the same time.

Ian’s great qualities, chinese fluent-good listener, his amiable spirit and highly efficient common sense worked wonders. He managed to organize the teams to work in turns improving the quality of life and involvement in the project of a great many families in the village.

In the beginning of September there was a major meeting in Canton with the “Dasters” at the SCUT (South China University of Technology) to present a progress report and discuss the best way to organize the Residence. The following aspects were critical to the adaptation/ integration/happiness of the artists and as a result the success of the residence.

The language issue, the relation with the villagers, the importance of including school children in the project bring the artists to discover the beauty of this region of China were essential.

In order to do so it was decided that the artists should be able, at any time, to explore the surroundings i.e., finding drivers and translators knowing China, its customs and its history, provide the artists full access to the materials and skills they might need. This was a real sensitive issue since it could range from the request for a Grand Steinway, a steel foundry, a pottery with a 40m long furnace, a stonework factory, a carpenter’s shop, a scaffolding company, and obviously canvasses, paper and pencils…

The meals and the festivities had to be organized: fireworks, a play, a fashion show, a concert and the exhibitions. We had to inform the public authorities, invite the villagers and the officials, our friends and all those who supported the project and also make the most of the rain and the cold weather.

I must say that Yivi, Lizzie, Sissi and Wang Xi were fabulous, awfully efficient and always gentle. If it hadn’t been for them and for Nicolas always present everywhere and ready to help, the residence wouldn’t have been such a success.

A few days before the opening we were told that two of our friends, the piano Maestro Elisha Abas and the poet Howard Altmann were unable to join the group. The piano had to be cancelled!!!! and Professor Feng Shu suggested to replace the piano concert by a Guqin concert. Duma Siran joined us a few days later and our days were filled with her music.

Gonçalo’s challenge was really hard to match but transformed our year in Jiu Xian in a fabulous one. Thank you Gonçalo.

About Site-Specific

Land Art 2009

The concept of site specific is about the reflection of the work of art as part of a certain place or environment where the connection between the artistic concept should communicate with the surrounding and those who live among it.

In LandArt we seek to feel and work in harmony with the earths cycles, as for its nature, population, animals, matter, and all unlimited possibilities that result as a fusion and complementary of these elements in the search of creative processes that offer us the possibility to feel and contemplate the universe that surrounds us in its different rhythms.

We work on the infinite universe of construction and detail which, although can be ephemeris and condemned to the rhythm of a cycle, will always mark our memory or the work of art, which can only be revealed at a certain hour and a certain day.

LandArt appeared during the 60’s of the 20th century going against the minimalism and all sophisticated technologies of the cultural industries, and forward the increasing awareness regarding environment issues. We can consider that Man, since always, felt enchanted by the innumerous choices of creation that Nature has provided.

Through the innumerous works conceived in the distant past, as for Stonehenge from England in 3100 b.c., or in the landscape architecture of the 18th century, we can say that we have already dived in the LandArt reality where we could witness Mans desire to exceed himself in the search of a greater intimacy with Mother Nature, in search of the perfect symbiosis.

Gonçalo Lenadro

Presenting our Artists


Peuples ou minorités?
Les différents peuples qui composent la Chine sont appelés «minorités».
Tel est le titre de mon tableau réalisé à JiuXian.
Il fait suite à ma série du début des années 80 intitulée «Les guerres culturelles».
Tous les jours meurent des langues et des cultures. Les pensées dominatrices, les pouvoirs politiques et marchands ont mis les populations au pas de la consommation. Tout est devenu marché même l’art!

Dans ce triptyque, les oppositions entre formes naturelles et fabriquées sont les éléments évocateurs de ces problèmes inhérents à l’évolution de notre civilisation moderne. Son vocabulaire plastique est celui de l’art du XXéme siècle, peinture abstraite gestuelle, géométrique et matiériste, figuration, écritures (ici poèmes de Lao Tse en palimpsestes peints par trois personnes différentes).

Il n’y a pas d’anecdote si ce n’est la découpe des montagnes qui situe le lieu de création du tableau.

Une peinture d’histoire sans histoire qui laisse le spectateur maître de son interprétation; je pense qu’il pourra ressentir le drame humain que j’ai voulu évoquer.

Michel Batlle


Revealing the Commonality of the Human Condition

Unlike the other artists who came to JuXian I was not a novice to the village. This was my third visit to JiuXian. My first visit was with Frederic Coustols when he invited my to join him on a visit of exploration. We had a mutual interest in discovering a village in China, me my FACESCAPES project, and he the development of an eco village. In our travels we found many wonderful places but when we found JiuXian it was obviously the right place for both of us. The place was stunningly beautiful, there were enough historical buildings still intact and the people were receptive. My needs were simple, to interview, film and photograph the people as part of my larger Facescapes project.

”FACESCAPES where I follow a humanist tradition of getting in close on the subject, creating landscapes of faces, faces as a field, revealing contours and valleys like an aerial view of any terrain. But behind these abstractions my desire is to reveal the commonality of the human condition, a way of looking at the mileage of the human clock.”

It would be our village mine for Facescapes, and Frederic for his eco village.

Nine months later I returned for a month to produce my China FACESCAPES with my Australian – Chinese interpreter and a sound and camera assistant. The project went very well, meeting, filming and interviewing the locals. However I never totally finished my interviews as I fell ill and had to be shipped off to Hong Kong where I spent three weeks recovering. But I had achieved my objective despite not totally finishing all the interviews and film that I had planned.

A year later Frederic had almost fully developed his amazing project. Within the concept of his project was an artist in residence site. When Goncalo Leandro from WOA who was organising the residency asked me if I would like to nominate two artists to join them. I immediately included myself as well as Michel Batlle one of the local artist I had been working within the PADIES artist in residency program. I was very curious to see how the project had developed and what changes it had bought to the village. It was also an excellent opportunity for me to explore an idea I had wanted to expand for FACESCAPES.

What was wonderful was to see the enthusiasm and inspiration that the artists felt in discovering JiuXian and China. There is no doubt that for the artists to develop a project in China, especially under an artist in residence program such as being developed in JiuXian was a tremendous opportunity. All the resources are available, scale is virtually limitless and costs are comically low so an artist can avail himself of material, skill sets both practical and technical that would be economically impossible for most of these artists in their home. The artists threw themselves at this opportunity. The sense of community was very strong with support for each other’s ideas and work, each developing their unique approach.

I was more the observer. The isolation of the village gave me an opportunity to reflect on how I wanted to move forward and also participate in the concept of land art that was the goal of the residency.

Whilst exploring my concept for FACESCAPES I availed myself of the opportunity to film some local events, a funeral, a school visit and the artists at work as well as local life. Through these observations I developed the concept for an installation piece that would incorporate Facescapes, the village and the mystic that surrounds it. I recorded local stories of mysticism and myth of the mountains which I’ll mix with the sounds of nature especially the sounds of the ever flowing water unique to this village, all this to be incorporated into the installation through multiple projections and sound bites within a symbolic room of five meters square. It is an exciting project. I managed to collect enough material for the project.

Now away from the quiet of JiuXian I need to find the time to fulfil this ambitious project. I believe it will immerse the spectator into the energy of the village, it’s peacefulness, its beauty, its people and it’s mysticism.

To achieve this would make the JiuXian experience totally perfect.

Denis Piel


Lao Tseu in every corner

This last residence in China,
in Jiu Xian Garden Village,
in a lost age,
surrounded by the rivers,
the mountains
the gentleness of the farmers
Lao Tseu in every corner of your mind
Made me enter in another universe
Where I felt totally in myself in this text written hundred year ago by F Pessoa

“Time and things have a different meaning
You don’t want to include Time in your scheme
You don’t want to think of things as time – bound, you want to
Think of them as things
You don’t want to separate them from themselves, treating
Them as things present
you shouldn’t even treat them as real things,
you shouldn’t treat them as anything-
You should see them, just see them
See them until you can’t think about them,
See them, without time or space,
See and be.”

Maria Mendonca Coustols


Walking around environment, body and mind as a variation-in-whole

Changes dark-light, plants growing, sounds, qualities… Also changes my feelings, thoughts, strength, faith, resistance… between me, my body and light, animals, space, seeing, not seeing, darkness, cold, dry…. sense of control is changed, also changes the sense of possibilities, to be, to live, to create, to create myself.

Walk between sun place

Going around the Mountain
Following sun, during day and night
Place and I are not a homogeneous happening
Sun changes movement and in each place maintain the same movement, everyday.

Into being?

5 elements

This work was inspired to live-experience the recognition of energy in transformation from these 5 elements, from the traditional Chinese culture. The chosen elements have in their own way of being the characteristics to represent the recognize energy’s state:

Water starts to flow in anyplace it appears, and goes around any obstacle, never stops flowing liquid, steam, humid.

When energy is flowing, it can start to increase energy. Wood is always growing in one direction, up.

When energy reaches its maximum grow. It will start to go everywhere, outside. Fire spreads its movement in any direction, if you put paper in the left it can go left, if you put down it can go down.

After energy expands outside until its limit, it can only start to decrease energy. If you grab Soil with your hand and let it go, it always moves down with gravity, finding place stable to fix, and there is its form of live and grow.

After energy decrease it start to go inside, to live inner states of enlarging. In Metal stone each particle is moving to interior, so the stone is amount of particles join together.

Even if outside energy seems to be stopped, inside there still inner movements, when inner movements reaches to its own limit, it will start to move outside, anyway, and starts to flow becoming water energy, again.

I describe elements following the cycle of creation, but exist also destruction as transformation cycle.

Find to be

Arrival. to be.
See. Feel.
Hear. To be
Could see nothing, ground soil scent tree shadows.
Could be Mozambique, going inner land
before sun arising.
Strange language
Don’t know who i’m
Don’t know where i’m
Don’t know what things means
I only can see
Feel, scent.
Listen what I hear.
The place is strong
I’m going to work
Find to be.
Melt with the world feel its strengths.
Follow an alive interiority inside me
Be time between things, alive
form an idea
Inside me
In relation
Inside with universe life

Sara Yan