March 06, 2013 00:00 By The Yomiuri Shimbun
An island art festival showcases the beauty of the Seto inland sea
The Setouchi Triennale 2013 art festival is set to kick off March 20, featuring works from 175 contemporary artists and groups from Japan and about 20 other countries and regions.
The event will take place on 12 islands in the Seto Inland Sea, including Naoshima in Kagawa Prefecture, which is home to the popular Chichu Art Museum designed by architect Tadao Ando.
Attracted by the concept of revitalising these small depopulated islands with the beauty of the seascape and contemporary art, the event will feature art from such big names as painter Tadanori Yokoo, film director Takeshi Kitano and photographer Nobuyoshi Araki as well as Ando.
Yokoo says he’s long been enchanted by Teshima island, which had been tainted by illegal dumping of industrial waste. Undaunted by its infamous past, local fishermen and farmers are striving to regain the island's former beauty by rebuilding its fishing industry as well as cultivating strawberries and lemon trees.
“I want visitors to see and feel through art how the island has regained its vitality,” Yokoo says.
The first Setouchi Triennale was held from July to October 2010 on seven islands, and was organised by a committee of the Kagawa prefectural government and other entities.
The event drew 930,000 people, more than three times the target number. Encouraged by its success, organisers decided to hold the event every three years.
Yokoo also participated in the first event. For this year’s exhibition, he will remodel an old house as an art museum that will be opened in July. There, he plans to create a work comprising 10,000 postcards of waterfalls that will be reflected on a mirror floor to create the illusion of an abyss, thereby expressing the joy of life.
Collaborating with contemporary artist Kenji Yanobe, Kitano will display an 8-metre-tall objet d'art depicting a monster jumping from an old well with an axe stuck in its head.
According to Kitano, the work is a parody of the Aesop fable “The Honest Woodcutter”, and also represents his anger toward the destruction of the environment.
Araki, better known as “Ararchy”, will exhibit large-scale photos of vibrant flowers, and other photographs, on the walls of six buildings near Uno Port in Tamano, Okayama Prefecture, which serves as a gateway to the islands hosting the festival.
On Awashima island in Kagawa Prefecture, contemporary artist Katsuhiko Hibino will exhibit pieces salvaged from sunken ships, such as Bizen-style pottery locally manufactured hundreds of years ago, to entertain visitors with a “trip” into the area’s maritime history.
Ando, one of the event’s founders, is building a museum to commemorate his activities on Naoshima island.
Visitors can access the event across three seasons – from March 20 to April 21 for spring, July 20 to September 1 for summer and October 5 to Nov. 4 for autumn.
“It’s one of the world's most unusual art events as visitors can tour the islands and enjoy art along with the gentle flow of time,” says Akira Tatehata, president of the Kyoto City University of Arts. “I think many famous artists have been fascinated by its appeal.”