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Amazing Echigo Tsumari Art Triennial in Japan 2021

| September 8, 2021 | 0 Comments
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Echigo Tsumari
Seizo Tashima, Hachi & Seizo Tashima: Museum of Picture Book Art

Echigo Tsumari: To view contemporary art you generally head for a museum. But the Echigo Tsumari Art Triennial, an landscape-scale art festival held every three years in the Echigo Tsumari region of Japan, offers a vastly different experience.

Echigo Tsumari is an economically distressed region with a decreasing and aging population. It covers an area of roughly 760 square kilometers, including the Tokamachi City and the Tsunan Town. The Echigo Tsumari Triennial was originally conceived as a sort of experiment in regional revitalization through art. The festival has also become known for its experimental approach to art production and display.

During the period of the Triennial, which runs from July 26 to September 13,2009, you may come across art no matter where you choose to go. There is art in the rice paddies and forests, in abandoned buildings, old schools and classrooms, and along the roads. Even if you look up at the sky, you are likely to find artwork.

collection of soil
Yasuo Terada, Collection of Soil

Many of the works on display are site-specific installations, produced by collaboration between elderly residents of the rural area and younger urban artists. Part of the festival’s goal is to cultivate the “joy of solidarity and collaboration” that has been lacking in much contemporary art. This spirit extends well beyond Japan. The Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial has attracted increasing international attention and participation, and now includes artists from 38 countries and over 350 works.

China, Indonesia, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Philippines join the Japanese artists in representing Asia. France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, Poland and Lithuania, Croatia, Belgium and Finland present the diversity of Europe. The Americas are represented by Canada, US, Mexico and Brazil. Other artists include those from Australia, Egypt and Israel among others.

Some of the pieces on display have traveled the world, while others are permanent installations created during previous Triennials. More than 200 new artworks are on display for the 2009 festival. And there are the numerous continuing projects, like the one where you can write a letter to someone-or to yourself-to be collected at the next art festival to be held in three years time.

natural feeling
Haruo Higuma: Natural Feeling

Works are displayed in a variety of settings across a wide area, as explained on the Echigo Tsumari Art Trienial website:

“In contrast to today’s obsession with rationalization and efficiency, instead of concentrating these works in one place, Echigo-Tsumari Triennial has adopted a blithely non-efficient – yet effective – way of scattering pieces across 200 communities. Visitors liberate their bodies and senses and feel the life of the community while visiting works of art that highlight the beauty and richness of the satoyama as well as the human time accumulated there.”

Some entries, like Henrik Hakansson’s “The Waves of Sounds” (2009) gives you an opportunity to listen to the sounds of nature. The visitor is enveloped in the sounds, collected through a high-precision recording device, as she sits with headphones, listening and noticing the many unexpected sounds found in nature.

The nature theme is predominant in the festival artworks. Haruo Higuma’s “Natural Feeling” (2009) is a house made both internally and externally of glass. Inside, drops of water gently fall down. Photographs on display capture the look of visitors as they think about the water drops. The artist asks you what communication is there between one’s self in the mirror and the people captured in the photographs.

In Shoko Fukuya’s “A piece of forest” (2009, Japan), hammocks are slung among the beech trees, creating a place to relax in the forest. Takeshi Kobayashi’s “A hut of earth” (2009) projects different images on the floor of a deep hole. All are photographs the artist shot on foot in Tsumari throughout the four seasons. Visitors can experience another side of Tsumari, using your eyes as the camera lens.

The art festival itself began ten years ago with a view to revitalize the region through raising its attractiveness and ability to transmit to the world. So it is natural that the other predominant theme of the festival is revitalization and breathing to life old and abandoned buildings. Seizo Tashima Hachi and Seizo Tashima Museum of Picture Book Art (2009) takes and has transformed a closed elementary school into a picture book museum. Picture book characters traverse the space freely, and a new story begins. There are many similar projects. Sometimes the buildings themselves become the art.

If you are visiting, make sure you have ample time. If not, you can view the entire collection of artwork and installations at the Echigo-Tsumari website. While there, take your time to learn more about the various projects that are part of the festival. It is sure to transform your idea of what art is, and what it could be.

Here are some addition images from the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial 2009:

capsule of reproduction
Noriko Obara: Capsule of Reproduction
stone forest 600
Kees Ouwens: Stone Forest. Stones attached to wooden poles.
nature walk
Jenny Holzer: Nature Walk. Messages inscribed on stones along the path in the forest.
the visitors
Stasys Eidrigevicius: The Visitors. Posters attached to masts.
hut of earth
Takeshi Kobayashi: A Hut of Earth. Photographic images projected onto the floor of a deep hole.
sound park
Akiko Iwai x Yoko Oba: Sound Park

Echigo Tsumari: To view contemporary art you generally head for a museum. But the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial, an landscape-scale art festival held every three years in the Echigo-Tsumari region of Japan, offers a vastly different experience.

Category: Contemporary Art

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