The White Bears Claim

The world’s first animal refugees arrived in Taiwan

Artist calls attention to the climate crisis in low-lying islands

by Vincent J.F. Huang

A monumental sculpture of polar bears wearing life vests, perched on a block of floating ice, will arrive on the Lanyang museum in Taiwan. These climate refugees’ request for asylum on January 26th 2018.


‘The temperature is getting higher and higher, accelerating ice melting in the Arctic. Lead seals more and more difficult to capture …said by those poor Polar bear refugees.

– ‘In 2011, one of our countrymen was found dead after a 9-day swim in the Alaskan Sea by 426 miles while still can’t catching the seal.’

– February 2016 “National Geographic Channel" exposes a very rare film. Due to the warming effect, our polar bears cannot find enough food. A male bears treat the cubs as their prey. Regardless of the reaction of the female bear, Bear bite dead fill.

– and in December 2017 Starving Polar Bear on Iceless Land

‘These horrifying pictures of our survival always have aroused global concern, but things have changed; you humans are always good at forgetting, so you humans still enjoy and rely on the fossil-fuel-based human civilization dream.’

These symbolic refugees, forced to flee the melting ice, are a clear representation of global warming for animals and for humans, that encourage awareness of these issues. The installation work is height 2.5 meters, created by Taiwanese artist Vincent J.F Huang.

This eco art project will demonstrate how art can contribute to resolving the climate crisis while attracting more global media attention to the extreme weather in worldwide recently.

While facing the increasing gravity of the climate crisis, with extreme weather affecting the entire planet, this artistic intervention offers a response to the question: “How can art be used to awaken a wider public to these climate issues? The world’s first animal refugees floating on the museum lake may incite people to re-think our planet’s future and anthropocentrism.

These white bears can also be understood as a metaphor for small island inhabitants, severely affected by the elevated sea level and in a context where Fiji chairs the UNFCCC COP23 conference in Bonn in last Dec. Such as Tuvalu and Kiribati are on the frontier, low lying island states in South Pacific. A Kiribati man who launched a landmark bid to become the world’s first climate change refugee faces deportation from New Zealand after a court rejected his appeal in July 2015.

Finally, the project aims to reveal the future we may soon face… if we do nothing.



■ About Artist

Mr. Vincent J.F. Huang received an MFA from Gray’s School of Art, Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland in 2000. He then worked in the Visual Communications Department at ShuTe University of Taiwan, as a Senior Art Lecturer, from 2001 to 2006. Huang has been selected as the artist-in-residence at the Pier2 Art District at Kaohsiung (Taiwan), Duolun Museum of Modern Art in Shanghai (China), Artspace in Sydney (Australia) and the Arctic Circle Project. He was also a visiting scholar in Zhu Qizhan Art Museum of Shanghai in 2007.

Since 2010, Huang has been working with Tuvalu, a small South Pacific island that is facing the risk of becoming uninhabitable due to sea level rise. He represented Tuvalu as an official delegate to participate in the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) COP 18 in Doha, Qatar and COP19 in Warsaw, Poland in 2012 and 2013, respectively. The following year, Huang represented Tuvalu at the 55nd Venice Biennale and took part in The Arctic Circle project led by The Farm Foundation for the Arts & Sciences (FFAS). His international engagement through artistic expression eventually earned him national recognition as he received the 7th Presidential Culture Award in 2013, the most prestigious cultural award in Taiwan.

Huang currently lives in Taipei and devotes much of his work to environmental issues relevant to people’s everyday lives. He applies the idea of “Social Sculpture”, a term coined by the German artist Joseph Beuys, by inciting public participation in projects that increase awareness of climate change. He is skillful in combining mobile and interactive installations with dark humor to elicit human introspection in today’s unsustainable pillage-based economy. The depiction of endangered animals in his pieces, as symbols of the fragility of small islands and any living creature on Earth, is Huang’s attempt find a “promise land” before Tuvalu becomes, one day, uninhabitable.

Huang’s has exhibited across the globe: UK, USA, Germany, Italy, Sweden, China, Australia, Qatar, Poland, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Tuvalu and Taiwan.

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