Body and Soul Site Designers Bamboo DNA

Posted June 15, 2011 in Festival Features

DDF apr-may-24 – Desktop

Gerard Minakawa, world-renowned artist and founder of Bamboo DNA, is a man who loves what he does. Bamboo is his life. He lives and breathes the woody grass and has dedicated his life to cultivating his passion for bamboo and sharing it with the world. And he is really, really good at it. After falling in love with the material on a trip to Japan, Minakawa decided he wanted to bring bamboo back to America and use it as a fresh and innovative tool for construction. Thus, Bamboo DNA was born. Functioning both as spectacularly unique works of art and entirely functional works of architecture, Minakawa’s bamboo creations have dazzled people from all over the world, introducing them to a whole new way to think about art. If you have yet to witness his work, head over to Body and Soul this weekend to see some of his most innovative work-your mind will be blown.

Tell me a little about yourself and how you got the idea for Bamboo DNA?

Well, I’m from New York, but my dad is Japanese, so I went to Japan to visit him and just completely fell in love with Bamboo for it’s utility, versatility, and sheer—sheer beauty. I originally started Bamboo DNA to import and distribute materials but it became so much more than that.

I had the pleasure of seeing some of your work at Coachella music festival this year and was struck by how completely unique and eye-catching it was. Do you consider your pieces to be more works of art or architecture?

Well, part of what defines what I do is that I blur the border between the two. You know, it’s really hard to define or box the arena of my work—I do not necessarily feel closer to one or the other, so really, my work is a little bit of both. What I am really interested in is being INNOVATIVE. I don’t want people to look at my pieces and immediately thing “art” or “architecture.” No, I just want them to walk away with something new in their minds.

Why bamboo?

I hadn’t really given much thought to it before Japan, but on my trip, I grew to really appreciate how versatile it was and how the people there used it in every aspect of life from poetry to architecture to gardening. Japan really gave me a cultural context for the material—it’s such an ancient but somehow really fresh new material. I wanted to breathe new life into something that has such a rich legacy and history.

When you started the company did you have any idea of the following you would have?

Ha, well I certainly had no idea that I would have 1,070 fans on facebook.

1071. I’m your newest fan.

Hahaha, glad to hear it. But no, I really had no idea at all. You know I had this furniture company 10 years ago, left it, and went to Bolivia to really just get away from the US and learn something new. I lived there for 3 years and there, like in Japan, I just couldn’t get away from Bamboo. In Colombia I spend a lot of time learning how to work with material, building structures, etc. I came back to states in 07 and knew I wanted to work with bamboo on a different level—not just in building furniture. You know, in the US there is a very limited supply of bamboo. While I was abroad, I found there are so many more types that you would not find in the US. So I knew that I needed an overseas supplier. That international aspect I think is what helped me to, I guess, gain such a following. It’s a global project—not just confined to one or two countries.

Are there other companies who have sort of caught on to the bamboo trend, or are you pretty much the only one?

Bamboo DNA is the only company totally focused on exploiting bamboo in this vein in the sculptural sense. I’m here to stay and I don’t feel limited by it. The less I know, the more I feel like the doors are opening. It’s a strange feeling, really. That I feel empowered by not knowing what’s ahead. It’s like everything you’ve done just becomes a bigger and bigger wider foundation. I definitely feel like I’m somewhere mid way in my career. I’ve accomplished a lot, but I know there is so much ahead. I’m excited to see what kind of collaborations are ahead—what sorts of people I will work with. You know, I started with just this love of bamboo and idea in my head and now I have some amazing people—artists, musicians, etc.—wanting to work with me. It’s really amazing.

What are you bringing to Body and Soul?

I created a sort of woven willow stage, kind of a lounge area. And you know, that goes back to what we were talking about earlier—about the fusion of art and architecture. It’s a piece designed for utility, but I still see it as a work of art as well.

What are your goals? What’s next in store for Bamboo DNA?

Well, I definitely want to keep making giant alien bugs, hahaha, because they are just so much fun to do. I feel like I’m slowly writing a fantasy novel with my works; it’s really—really something. Aside from that, I want to keep doing permanent works of architecture and temporary festival work and event work. And like I said, I am so eager to see who I will have the opportunity to work with in the future.

Body and Soul festival runs this weekend at Ballinlough Estate.

Words Laura Burdine




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