Opening of the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale - vol.1

FRAM KITAGAWAPosted : August 5, 2018

The opening of this year's Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale.
It's swelteringly hot, there's no rain - it's a dry summer. The rice crops seem to be begging for some rainfall.

It is in this setting that we prepare for the big opening.
July 26 A late night meeting with all the staff members.
July 27 Press tours. The "China Night" event opens at Nunagawa Campus.
July 28 Special invite tours. The morning is spent at the opening ceremony of Yukihisa Isobe's exhibition at the Echigo-Tsumari Kiyotsu SoKo Museum; in the afternoon, the opening of "Yidaki: Dijiridou and Australian Sound" and finally in the evening, Takeshi Kobayashi's "Beyond The Circle" concert followed by the official Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale opening reception with some opening remarks by the Minister of Culture and Education and the Australian Ambassador to Japan.
July 29 Special invite tours. After the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Kiyotsukyo Tunnel, there are speeches made by General Producer Mr. Fukutake and the French Ambassador to Japan. And in the evening, the opening ceremony of the newly created Hong Kong House.
July 30 Opening of the "Gift from Land: Workshop and Exchange Programme" at the Echigo-Tsumari Cultural Hall. A visit by Mr Kajiyama, the Minister of State for the Promotion of Overcoming Population Decline and Vitalizing Local Economy and at night, a symposium lead by the Antarctic Biennale team.
July 31 Leading a group of Chinese and Taiwanese children in a workshop called "Making the earth from eggshells".

Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale 2018 Opening Ceremony

Antarctic Biennale Symposium

During the preparations I had fretted and just hoped for the opening to go smoothly without any mishaps but in reality those 5 days flew by, as if in a flash.

Starting from a month prior to the opening, approximately 100 supporters from overseas had come to this region to help with the production, which is truly hard and tough work. Our tours have consisted of about 60% overseas visitors. I'm not sure of the exact figures, but I suppose we've already had many visitors? Perhaps our Japanese visitors are deterred by the intense heat of this summer.

Wu Jian'an "500 Brush Strokes" (from the opening of China House)

 A bit about the artworks. First, let's start with our overseas artists. China House this year has been literally filled with the work of Wu Jian'an, who has asked 500 Chinese and local Japanese participants to paint individual brushstrokes which have then been cut out and used to fill the empty house - a masterpiece. In Australia House, we have this year artwork by Hossein & Angela Valamanesh; I find the work inside particularly beautiful. There were about 100 participants at the opening ceremony of the newly-built Hong Kong House which was truly a fantastic experience. A speech by the Director General of the Hong Kong government really gave insight into the passion and drive behind the building of the Hong Kong House, a belief in the idea that art facilitates communication across different lands. Though the Hong Kong House was designed by Yip Chun Hang, the construction was realised with the fantastic support of local architects and construction workers. Thinking back now, the Hong Kong House project was a struggle - but it is through overcoming these difficulties that we give birth to new creations. In the soft light of sunset, the clear passion for the project of Mona who acted as the MC at the opening and the translator still linger in my mind.

Hossein & Angela Valamanesh "Guardian"
Hong Kong House, from the opening ceremony

 In the northern area of the Tokamachi region, a piece that is a part of the Karekimata Project. I was surprised with how much the trees from Harayuki Uchida's "Memories of the Earth" had grown.

Harayuki Uchida "Memories of the Earth"

※A side note - ※
Echigo-Tsumari is an overwhelmingly green region. Many artists plant trees and flowers here, but it's in fact not that easy. This is a region that traditionally has a lot of grains in their diet. Weeds grow mightily and the trees too are strong trees that have been growing for hundreds of years. Considering this, it's very difficult - and surprising - for newly planted plants to grow well. So we cannot be fooled by this landscape or have any illusions. Many artists learn about the botany of the Echigo-Tsumari region during their time here.
Well - Ohji Yoshino's Henhouse piece is doing well and being on-site felt very pleasant. The new pieces at the Karekimata School are strong pieces; I think they worked hard and did a great job.

Ohji Yoshino "Going to Paradise"

 Kohei Takekoshi's piece using a withered tree stump in the Yamashinden village is quite impactful; it was here that previously artist Carlos Garaicoa had used an abandoned house as his stage to create an installation of illuminated models of houses. The house itself no longer stands but this withered tree stump remains in the same site, and as part of this new artwork it brings with it the remnants of past works. A must-see.

 The meal served at Ubusuna House is delicious as always, and chef Murakami from Kitchen Watarigarasu in Tokyo has in my opinion a great skill in his examination and use of local produce. Please do drop by if you have the time.

 In other news, in Kamishinden village prominent Chinese contemporary art master Xu Bing has reimagined a well-known Japanese piece "Mount Fuji from Seikenji and Miho" by Sesshu and looking at this piece from the back by cleverly using the shadow of paper and plants he creates a new landscape "painting", reviving the traditional beauty of landscape art. Landscape painting, a very traditional form of Chinese art, is reimagined here by a Chinese artist and is transposed and reformed. Korean artist Kang Airan's piece "Light of the World, Light of the Intelligence II" inhabits the first floor in the Fumio Tanaka Library - seeing this work again after some time was also quite refreshing.
On the second floor (the previous Miyoshi Hotspring) of Gejo Information Centre is a piece by Thai artist Arin Runjiang, a film showing two elderly men; the artist has researched the influence of Japanese agriculture in Thailand. In our previous triennale, another Thai artist Navin Rawanchaikul explored a similar concept in his piece "The School of Akakura", which leads me to think that for Thai artists the ties between agriculture and the community is incredibly strong.

 Takaokami Shrine in Nakago houses Emma Malig's work "ATLAS-LAMENTI", a piece that touches on both the artist's own history as well as happenings in the world, a piece that moved me. I met Emma Malig 30 years ago in Kyoto. Originally from Chile, she fled to Japan during a coup d'etat and has since then immigrated to France and is working as an artist there. She now presents a piece here at this art triennale.


 "Repetitive objects" by Me at Nakajo Station is a new piece. Me is currently in the midst of developing and evolving rapidly.

Me "Repetitive objects"

I truly believe the artworks have gone up a level this year.

Fram Kitagawa August 1st

Photo by Osamu Nakamura, Kasane Nogawa, Ayumi Yanagi