Haruko Okano. Community Participatory Public Art 8
2015 Meditation for the Planet
Meditation for the Planet is the three part project by Haruko Okano, as part of the last phase of
a year long residency called “Conduit” in Dr. Sun Yat Sen Park, in Vancouver’s east end.
Haruko, Nicole Dextras and Marina Szijarto were the last three artists in the “Art is Land
Network” group to install environmental artworks in the park. Each of the 3 stages of the year
long residency was created by 3 different artists in the Network. Each stage had its own subtitle:
Contour, Concert and the last phase Converse. You can see sections of the entire residency
online at the group’s web site, www.artislandnetwork.com under the section “Conduit”.
Nicole, myself and Marina all used text as part of the conversation with the public I worked with the
mother tongue of the 3 cultural groups for whom this area is historically important. Three Indigenous
peoples, Japanese-Canadians and Chinese-Canadians.
Haruko’s Meditation for the planet has three components.
1 Meditation on Land
Meditation on Land acknowledged
that the park sits on unceded Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh indigenous people's land but,
also acknowledges the historical significance to the Japanese-Canadians and Chinese Canadians
whose neighborhoods were in this area when the race riots moved through Chinatown destroying
shops and proceeded to do the same in Japantown. This acknowledgement was done using foods
and medicine plants used by each group written in their native tongue with English translation. These
were wood burned onto maple veneer leaves strung on hemp string. I called these “plant lines”
These were strung in the trees, each plant line adjacent to the cedar plank which had a statement
by a contributor from that cultural group. Each month from April into July I mounted a different
plank for each group.
2 Meditation on Water
Meditation on Water was an installation in the pond. Three rings of hemlock beads linked together,
surround a lotus sculpture rising out of the water. Each ring of beads carries the names of the
food/medicine plants used by that particular group. The rings are designed as prayer rosaries.
The lotus symbolizes transcendence— overcoming challenge. The lotus is born in the mud and
debris at the bottom of the pond, rises through the clouded water to appear pristine above the
water’s surface. Interestingly the turtles in the pond took to resting on the ring of beads, basking
in the sun until after 3 months the beads sunk out of sight. The lotus was mistaken as a landing
place by the ducks and geese coming into the pond so that at the end of the residency the petals
became partially flattened.
3 Gifting in Motion
Gifting in Motion was the performance part of Meditation for the Planet, where I took a basket
full of the affirmations coming in through the online blog spot and workshops at local community
sites. I would travel by public transit from my house to the park for each of the Converse free events.
I would invite riders and people on the street to take a free affirmation for the healing of the planet,
explaining that affirmations were coming in 8 different languages. Over 200 people participated
in the whole Meditation for the Planet project.