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Humans are part of nature

As our civilization reaches a critical juncture, the rich nature of the satoyama existence in Echigo-Tsumari can impel us to review our attitude to the environment, calling into question the modern paradigm which has caused such environmental destruction. This is the origin of the concept “humans are part of nature”, which has become the overarching concept for every program taking place in the Echigo-Tsumari Art Field. Regional development in Echigo Tsumari is advanced with the aim to present a model for how people can relate to nature.

“In summer, cultivate the fields; in winter, cultivate the mind.”

Echigo-Tsumari is known for heavy snowfall in winter. This motivates cultural exchanges based upon the principle captured by the Japanese expression “seikô udoku; kakô tôdoku”, which can be rendered in English as “In summer, cultivate the fields; in winter, cultivate the mind.” Cultural facilities, created by global artists and run by local people, warmly welcome visitors and travellers. In viewing the artworks, the visitor passes through terraced rice fields and forests of native beech, encountering festivals and traditional customs, thereby experiencing the landscapes and cultures of Echigo-Tsumari through all five senses. Through this experience, we recover the memories of an origin that we had forgotten, and develop new links connecting people to each other and to the land.

Satoyama and Art

The twentieth century was the era of the city and the art of the city. However, as the city ailed, art became isolated and gradually lost its latent power to connect people to place and people to people. The nature and lifestyle of the satoyama of Echigo-Tsumari environment seems to inspire artists to recover the connections and collaborations that art once had but which has almost been lost.

Artworks are dotted across approximately 200 villages rather than displayed in a single center, an “absolutely inefficient” approach deliberately at odds with the rationalization and efficiency of modern society. Wandering among artworks which emphasise the beauty and richness of satoyama and reveal the accumulated temporal layers of human inhabitation opens the senses to the wonder of existence and revives the soul.

Approximately 160 artworks by artists from all over the world are dotted across the 760km2 area of the Echigo-Tsumari Art Field. We hope that you will feel and discover satoyama in different seasons via artworks in the fields, unoccupied houses and closed schools.

Co-operation beyond generations, regions and genre

In Echigo-Tsumari, artists have no choice but to create their artworks on someone else’s land, requiring interaction with locals. The artists’ passion and openness to learning moves local people, and they engage with artworks not as spectators but as collaborators.

Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale has welcomed many young volunteers from cities. They call themselves the “kohebi-tai” (little shrimp gang) and have been involved with many different projects. The encounter between the old who have spent their entire lives on farming thinly populated lands and students who don’t have clear purpose in their city lives resulted in collision and confusions at first, but this transformed into appreciation and co-operation, leading to an opening up of the region through the initiative of these young people.

It was the artists and these supporters from the cities who got actively engaged and helped the area after the Chuetsu Earthquake in 2004 and continuous heavy snowfall for two winters under the “Daichi no otetsudai” (“Help the Land”) project, through activities such as reconstruction work and snow removal. Through such activities, it has become apparent that Echigo-Tsumari has become a place for hope for those living in the cities. Young people as well as those with more experienced are jointly participating in building a “new hometown”.

As a new model for building community

The way Echigo-Tsumari has pursued community building has been acknowledged beyond the framework of art, including the “Furusato Event Award” (by the Ministry of Internal Affairs)”; the “Tokyo Creation Award”; and the “Machi-tsukuri Commendation by the General Affairs Minister”. This approach to community building through culture and art has drawn great attention as type of “creative city”, and Echigo-Tsumari has influenced other community building projects in Tokushima, Ibaraki, Niigata, Osaka, and Setouchi.

Festival

In addition to the Triennale itself, visitors can enjoy the Summer Festival (“Daichi-no-matsuri”) and the winter “Snow Art Project”, which coincide with local festivals and traditional events throughout the year. The “Daichi-no-matsuri” takes place in the years between the Triennale, welcoming visitors and opening artworks to the public.

Learn and play

Major facilities such as Matsudai Nohbutai and Kyororo and artworks in unoccupied houses and abandoned schools offer public programmes through which you can learn about and experience local life, culture, and science throughout the year. Training programmes can be organized for schools and companies.

Events and performances

Performances and entertainments from all over the world are presented on the unique stage of Echigo-Tsumari, set amongst artworks and terraced rice fields. Visitors can enjoy local expressions and entertainments.

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