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Exhibition: Chimei Museum's Origami Universe

Edited by Robert J. Lang

Serendipity strikes again! I had the good fortune to visit Chimei Museum's Origami Universe exhibition just after the release of its accompanying catalog at the start of the Lunar New Year. Weighing in at one kilogram and formatted exquisitely with beautiful photographs, the catalog is outstanding, and priced at < US$20.00! All artists are represented, with a brief biography and up to four pages each, although not all artists' works are included. Having photos of all the works of art in the catalog would have provided a complete vicarious experience for those not able to visit the exhibition, but it would have doubled the size of the catalog. Fortunately, I had taken photos of some pieces not included, while the catalog offered photos of works I had not photographed. The ultimate experience is to visit the exhibition and take home a catalog to continue to savor the exhilarating experience quite unlike any other exhibition.

Reading others' exuberant reviews of the exhibition made me want to go see it for myself. Two factors sealed the deal for me: (1) Robert Lang's post in an email dated 11/16/16: "I think the Chi Mei exhibition would probably take the cake; it is pretty darned impressive.", and (2) it turned out to be cheaper to stop in Taiwan en route to Tokyo than to fly round-trip to Tokyo. So—for those of you planning to visit the Far East, check out the prices for a multi-city itinerary before May 30, 2017, when the exhibition closes after seven months.

What made Origami Universe so special for me? I have visited a number of origami exhibitions over the years, and what immediately struck me was how this exhibition heralded the continuing growth of the artists with whom I am familiar—both in their creativity and mastery. It also supported my own growth in introducing me to a number of artists with whose work I was not acquainted.

What else makes this exhibition unique? It is the largest exhibition I have visited—featuring works of 63 artists from 21 countries—and Chimei Museum devoted ample space, accompanied by good lighting, to all the contributions. When one purchases entry, one is handed a rectangular ticket. At the entrance to the exhibition, a small rectangle is removed, leaving a square that one can fold. Each visitor also is presented with a long rectangle containing a summary of the exhibition and with pre-creases that encourage the visitor to fold it into a small booklet.

The exhibition is organized in different rooms by category: representational, geometric, and applications. The representational category is further divided into three parts: human figures in Folding Ourselves, plants and animals in Natural World, and imaginary beasts in Fantasy. For Natural World, let me quote the curators extraordinaire, Bernie Peyton and Uyen Nguyen: "Animals have been a favorite subject of origami designers for hundreds of years. However, it is ironic that the greatest expansion of animal origami is at a time when many animal populations and their habitats are threatened with extinction."

Some of the models in the Fantasy section were displayed whimsically in cylinders built into the walls.


Little Demon by João Charrua

The geometric category includes tessellations, corrugations, modulars, curved folds, and curved surfaces generated by pleating that leave one breathless.

For the category of Applications, the contributions range from jewelry, decorative vessels, furniture, and fashion at one end to the use of origami in cutting-edge research. Included in the exhibition is the Foldscope, an Origami based print-and-fold paper-microscope. Unlike the rest of the exhibition, where one is asked not to touch, Foldscopes are available for visitors to explore and visualize the possibilities with this low-cost tool.

Here is the list of artist/researcher contributors in the Applied category:


Photograph courtesy of Larry Howell, Brigham Young University.

Included in the exhibition are videos distributed across the rooms that delve deeper into the art and the research inspired by origami.

At the end of the exhibition, one exits into a large, high-ceiling room containing different stations that encourage visitors to fold their own models. One can choose from among a range of options: folding from books (including Tom Hull's Project Origami), folding from instructions on iPads, folding from step-by-step instructions on large boards affixed on the walls. Upon completion of their models, visitors can either keep them or contribute them to cylinders embedded in the wall on one side of the room. One then exits through an isosceles triangular opening.



Chimei Museum Folding Room

Following is a slideshow of some of the art to whet your appetite either to make a trip to Taiwan or to purchase the catalog:



Chimei Museum

This article is dedicated to my cousin, Wilma Wang, who planned every step of a most memorable visit to Taiwan.

Patsy Wang-Iverson