Vancouver artist Joseph Wu challenges limitations of origami form

Nate Lessler

Origami figures by Joseph Wu with only one to two sheet of paper. A reception to showcase his work was held at the GAC on Tuesday October 26 from 4-6 pm. Photo Credit: Marin Axtell

After Intercultural Center Program Advisor  Ben Wu ’07 saw the PBS documentary “Between the Folds” over the summer, he was inspired to create a hands-on event on campus that would challenge commonplace views of origami.

“I had never really done anything with origami, but the film really expanded my [view of it],” said Ben Wu.”I kind of wanted to [create an event] that was interactive . . . I’m hoping that it will give people a different perception of origami.”

Wu then did research on potential visiting guests and came across the website of Vancouver-based origami artist Joseph Wu. Soon after Ben Wu contacted the artist, who was more than willing to visit Whitman.

Joseph Wu visited on October 26th, and 27th. The event involved a creative demonstration where he produced certain origami at the request of audience members, a reception and gallery of selections of his artwork in the Glover Alston Center and two interactive origami workshops. Additionally, a week before Joseph Wu visited campus, Ben Wu screened “Between the Folds” on-campus.  The film challenges common perceptions of origami not only through displaying artistic works that challenge assumptions of the medium, but also through depicting how origami is currently being used as a method for ground-breaking science.

“I thought it was really interesting to see an isolated art form grow. To see how it evolved and then you can make connections to other art forms and [science] . . . There is a moment where [an origami artist] takes a sheet of paper and makes an intentional single crease and suddenly it’d a piece of art rather than a hobby,” said sophomore Nick Cross.

However, only a few students showed up to see the documentary despite the film’s good press. Before Joseph Wu’s visit, Ben Wu expressed uncertainty about the amount of attendance the events involving Joseph Wu would receive.

“I have no idea if people are going to show up or not. It’s kind of the nature of putting on events, you have no idea how interested people are going to be until it happens,” said Ben Wu. “You chose dates that you think won’t have much happening [on them] . . . but sometimes it turns out to be a really bad week for people, and there is only so much planning you can do for that unfortunately . . . it kind of sucks because you feel like you’ve got like a really cool thing [planned] and then not that many people show up.”

In the end, Ben Wu was quite satisfied with the turnout the events received.

During the origami workshops, Joseph Wu guided students in making modular origami (origami using multiple sheets of paper), as well as origami animals. The artwork created in the workshops will be on display at the Stevens Gallery in Reid Campus Center.

The artist insisted that origami is an art form which prompts thinking beyond simple animal-like shapes.

“The most common [stereotype] I try to break is ‘Oh yeah, origami, I did that when I was a kid,'” said Joseph Wu.  “Some people just can’t seem to see past that.Modern origami is definitely an art form in and of itself, but a lot of people just here the word and they think about the birds and frogs they made when they were kids . It’s too bad because they are missing out on all the things that are possible today.”

Ben Wu believes that it was the artist’s passion which made the event so interesting and successful.

“I think each person who attended took something small away from the experience and had their conception of origami (and art) expanded a bit, which was always the primary purpose of this series of events,” said Ben Wu.  “It’s been really enjoyable to watch an artist who is genuinely passionate about his art but also equally passionate about sharing it with others in the most unpretentious way possible,” said Ben Wu. “His joy and the fun that he was having reflects really well on origami as a artistic medium.”