A Tree Without Roots – Rebuilding the Memory of Camphor Tree & Historical Trade

April 30–May 3, 2018

Taipei Botanical Garden
No.53, Nan-Hai Road, Dist. Zhongzheng, Taipei


In this project, “A Tree Without Roots” collaboration between Yipei Lee and Aliansyah Caniago, we continue the Southeast Asian research of independent curator Yipei, especially from the Silk Road, to the bountiful island of Sumatra, located between the Sunda Strait, the Malacca Strait, the Karimada Strait, and the Indian Ocean. The trade of the Islamic world connects the eastern and western extremities of the Indian Ocean. Since Aliansyah Caniago’s hometown was in Barus, a historically significant port town in northern Sumatra, camphor was the most famous commodity traded.

One day, Yipei and Aliansyah discussed the memory of camphor pills, a daily product. Aliansyah mentioned that his hometown is located in Barus, Sumatra, where they often use camphor to preserve and keep away insects. Still, he had never seen a camphor tree in person.

Most historical records show that Indonesian camphor wood was sold across the Indian Ocean to Europe. In contrast, Taiwan camphor wood was mainly sold to Japan. Therefore, we think that the ancient route of camphor trade in Asia seems possible in our project collaboration, using ethnographic and anthropological research methods, historical documentary materials, and behavioral performances to present the plant’s first-person role to strengthen the plant relationship between Taiwan and Southeast Asia. Discussion.

At the end of his residency, he visited the local elementary school. He saw a camphor tree over 800 years old, which was the first time for him to see the appearance of the camphor tree. But at the moment, he found the reason for returning to Taiwan and the meaning of why he was here. That afternoon, he collected as many camphor leaves as possible and brought them back to his studio. He quickly traced them in his last few days, like a botanist collecting specimens, hoping to leave something behind.

Our preliminary search of existing literature reveals that the Sumatran locals call camphor Kapur Barus (abbreviated as barus). Going back to the earliest Muslim literature, one of the first mentions of barus may be Suleiman, who wrote in 851 on the road to conquest, “In this plantation of Verser one can obtain good camphor.

In the 10th century, the Arab historian Masoudi wrote: “…… about Versailles, where camphor is available in abundance, except that it is a place of storms and earthquakes.” In the 13th century, the Southern Song dynasty, Zhao Rushi wrote in the pen of the Zhubanji: “Binsu is one of the sources of camphor trees.” According to Italian Venetian traveler Marco Polo, “Camphor from Versailles is the best in the world. Its quality is so good that it is priced in gold.

Compared with Indonesia, the origin of camphor in Taiwan can be traced back to the Ming and Zheng period in the 17th century, from Fujian, Zhang, and Quan. After Zheng Chenggong took over Taiwan, the righteous people in the coastal area came to Taiwan one after another, so the tiny stove method of making camphor in Zhangzhou was one of the important centers of the camphor manufacturing industry, so it came to Taiwan and laid the foundation of the camphor manufacturing industry in Taiwan. After developing government trade in the Qing Dynasty, the golden age of camphor in Taiwan became famous internationally during the Japanese era.

Therefore, the memory of the camphor tree becomes the critical soul of this creation, and the artistic cooperation project between the two places is developed from the historical context research and performance art. We are looking for camphor-related organizations to collaborate and conduct research on the history of camphor, visit factories, and hope to interact with camphor trees. Through the concepts of “camphor tree broken wood” and “fading,” Ariasan Kaniago further conveys the environmental issues and humanistic thoughts of the camphor tree industry.

Concept: The memory of the camphor tree is the crucial soul of Indonesian artist Aliansyah Caniago’s artwork. Together with Yipei Lee’s research on the historical context of camphor trees in Taiwan, we develop an art collaboration project between the two places. Through the concept of “camphor tree fragments” and “fading,” the fake tree is created to echo the natural growth of the surrounding trees, conveying the environmental issues and humanistic thoughts brought about by the camphor tree industry.

【紀錄 Documentation】

無根的樹 – 從樟樹記憶與歷史貿易共創未來歷史


在李依佩和阿里安山‧卡尼阿哥的計畫合作中,延續過去獨立策展人李依佩的東南亞領域研究,我們特別從海上絲綢之路出發,來到物資豐饒,位於巽他海峽、馬六甲海峽、卡里馬達海峽與印度洋之間的蘇門答臘島。伊斯蘭世界的貿易連結了印度洋的最東端和最西端。由於阿里安山‧卡尼阿哥的家鄉在蘇門答臘北方,歷史上一個非常重要的港口城鎮巴魯斯 (Barus),最著名的貿易商品是樟腦。




我們初步尋找既有文獻,可知:蘇門答臘當地人稱樟腦為卡普爾巴魯斯 kapur barus (簡稱巴魯斯)。回溯到最早穆斯林文獻記載,最早提到巴魯斯的人之一可能是蘇萊曼,他在851年的征服之路寫道:「在凡瑟這片種植園可以獲得優質的樟腦。」

10世紀時,阿拉伯歷史學家馬蘇第寫道:「…… 關於凡瑟,那裡可以取得大量樟腦,只是那邊是個充滿風暴和地震的地方。」到了13世紀,南宋趙汝適在諸蕃志的筆下寫道:「賓蘇是產樟樹的來源之一」。據義大利威尼斯旅行家馬可‧波羅 (Marco Polo) 提到:「來自凡瑟的樟腦是世界上最好的,它的質量好到都是用黃金計價的。」



【過程 Process】
作品意象 Concept:樟樹記憶為印尼藝術家阿里安山・卡尼阿哥 (Aliansyah Caniago ) 創作之行為藝術重要靈魂,與李依佩之台灣樟樹歷史脈絡研究,共同發展出兩地藝術合作計畫。透過「樟樹碎木片」與「消逝」概念創作假樹,與周邊自然生長的樹呼應,傳達樟樹產業下帶來的環境問題與人文精神思考。

Artist list:
Aliansyah Caniago (Indonesia)

Context: Yipei Lee (TW)
Poster design: Yipei Lee (TW)

Organization: Taipei Botanical Garden, SUAVEART

Residency: A Spring Project

藝術家: 阿里安山・卡尼阿哥(印尼)

文字: 李依佩 (台灣)
海報設計: 李依佩 (台灣)

主辦單位: 台北植物園、細着藝術

駐村: 阿斯匹靈計畫

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