City as Nature was invited by the eco-conscious Japanese retailer MUJI, to host an exhibition and workshop series about connecting to nature in their new flagship store. This was an interesting experiment for us, not least because our programming “With Nature” had a generally anti-consumerist message, something that is at odds with most retailers — even the eco-conscious ones.
Although MUJI’s ethos of minimalism, re-use, and a ‘just enough’ mentality makes them a leader in sustainability, this must be prefaced with the knowledge that we just don’t really need most of the things that are for sale in this world. Some might approach this divide with an aggressive protest outside inside the “cathedrals of consumption,” however psychologically speaking, this rarely changes peoples attitudes.
We accepted this exhibition because our work was allowed to clash with the very idea of a large retailer, not in a confrontational way, but in a way that allowed us to engage with the beauty and possibility in the alternatives. What is the future for a retailer like MUJI if they wish to truly align with nature? Hopefully projects such at this can plant the seeds that will grow into answers for this question.
The exhibition series included:
Nature Mandala Workshop — Set in the middle of the store to engage with shoppers, the core message of the nature mandala workshop was that nature is the art store, and we don’t necessarily need to spend money to make art.
Natural Farm Photo Exhibition — Set inside the store’s book reading area, film stills and photographic prints from Patrick’s Farmscapes project were suspended from the ceiling in a way that people sitting to read were met with a small forest of floating images.
Film Screening — We screened the entire Final Straw: Food, Earth, Happiness documentary, and had a discussion with the audience on how the ideas of the farmers might impact our habits as consumers.
We also invited our luthier friends Erdem and Melike from ODR Custom to give a workshop on making musical instruments out of trash. This was a reprise of an earlier workshop we piloted with them at The Branch.