Thinking 21st century art in the world from Niigata
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Feature / VISITING ECHIGO-TSUMARI WITH HER, VOL.2-2

Chiaki Mayumura experiencing art: Imagination win over prejudice and limit

Chiaki Mayumura (Singer song writer idol)

The visit to Echigo-Tsumari for Chiaki Mayumura to feel and grasp various arts. In this latter half of the column, she experienced the never-ending landscape of terraced rice field as well as unusual artworks using the entire minka house before reaching at the final stop, Echigo-Tsumari Satoyama Museum of Contemporary Art, KINARE. Find out how the imagination she treasurers resonated with art.

Text & edit by UCHIDA Shinichi / Photo by TOYOSHIMA Nozomu / Edit by KAWAMURA Kei (CINRA.NET editorial team) / Translated by Miwa Worrall

18 December 2019

Contemporary Art x farmhouse stay “Shedding House”

Terraced rice fiend in Hoshitoge changes every four seasons as well as morning, afternoon and evening. We organised “Hoshitoge Marathon” in the morning of summer to run around the area when the sea of cloud spread in the sky.

The next stop is “terraced rice field in Hoshitoge”, a breathtaking view where approximately 200 rice fields, big and small, are spread over on the slope. Mayumura was also taken by the landscape which has been created by overcoming harsh nature in the mountainous area. While doing live performance at stadium is great, she has been dreaming about live in the ocean or dessert where 20 million audience could get together. This must be a very stimulating place for her.

Terraced rice field in Hoshitoge (observation stand and public toilet)
Address: 1513 Toge, Tokamachi-city, Niigata
 Inquiry: 025-598-2521 (Toge Community Centre)

 Tourism Association  Dokidoki Tokamachi

* Terraced rice fields across Tokamachi-city are not sightseeing destinations. Please visit the website prior to your visit and we appreciate you keep good manners.

Chiaki Mayumura

On the other hand, these terraced rice fields have been facing the challenge of decline in the number of owners in the recent years. Matsudai Tanada Bank was launched in 2003 to invite people to become sato-oya (owners) to help maintain these terraced rice fields through network of people nurtured by ETAT. Many people started to participate in seasonal activities such as rice planting and harvest, bringing crowd to the region. sato-oya is entitled to receive delicious rice every autumn.

Mayumura: Understand… While it is different from sato-oya, I set up my own office in 2017 (Kabushiki Kaisha kaisha-ja-naimon) and asked my fan to buy shares of the company. I thought it would be fun to organise a fan-club through shares-holding but it wasn’t the only reason. I have a faith that there is something I can do because I am not alone and it gives me keep going if my live performances become place for fans to “have fun together and feel free”. That is why I thought “Matsudai Tanada Bank” is a brilliant project. 

“Shedding House” by Junichi Kurakake + Nihon University Collage of Art Sculpture Course

We then visited “Shedding House” in the same village Toge where the terraced rice field were. You will find a magnificent old minka as you walk through a narrow lane amongst the trees. It looks like a calm wooden architecture looking from outside but you will be surprised when you walk into the house. The entire surface of the house from floor, wall, ceiling and column are engraved.

“Shedding House” by Junichi Kurakake + Nihon University College of Art Sculpture Course (2006)

An artwork transformed 150 year-old minka house by curving every surface of the house. A professor of Nihon University and volunteering students spent two and half years to complete the work – approximately 3000 people’s hand labours. The artwork is open for viewing and available for staying overnight as farm house stays.

Shedding House Official Website

*Please visit the official website for opening period, hours and access to the artwork. 

Interior of “Shedding House”. Every surface is engraved.

Mayumura: I was guessing something could happen at this place and look what I found inside. Take socks off, put my bare feet against on the floor and it is so comfortable to feel the curving on the back of my foot.

This minka house is 150 years old. Until it became unoccupied, the house had changed its appearance over time by putting support on outer wall and renovating inside. Junichi Kurakake, a sculptor and professor at Nihon University and his students began to reveal the house as it was. They restaged life in the house for generations by creating doma, space for cows and horses, and heath. Moreover, they revealed uncovered appearance by curving entire surface of interior space and transformed the unoccupied house into the artwork. It shows us how much unknown potential that any buildings or humans can have.  

One of the songs by Mayumura proving that she would never stop her journey of evolution after a major debut.

As “cotemporary art x farmhouse stay” explains this is an artwork you can also stay overnight. One group can occupy the entire house which would provides special experience with friends or family. Kitchen and bathroom are reformed to the contemporary standard.

There is a loft space which you may enjoy occupying.

Mayumura: If I come to Niigata on a tour (of performances), I would do gasshuku-live (staying overnight performance) followed by harvest live (joining harvest on the terraced rice field).


Oasis in the middle of city – Echigo-Tsumari Satoyama Museum of Contemporary Art, KINARE

Echigo-Tsumari Satoyama Museum of Contemporary Art, KINARE is located in the middle of city where many people visit.

Finally we arrived at Echigo-Tsumari Satoyama Museum of Contemporary Art, KINARE, the final stop of this journey. The pond in the middle offer a  resting space for locals and visitors.

Echigo-Tsumari Satoyama Museum of Contemporary Art, KINARE (2003)

Established as Echigo-Tsumari Exchange Hall, KINARE in 2003. The nestling square structure is designed by Hiroshi Hara and Atelier φ. It was re-opened in 2012 as a contemporary art museum. There are large art installations in the museum as well as a restaurant called “Bar Echigo-Shinanogawa” and a public bath “Akashi no yu”. The large pond in the middle with water surrounded by the building is a favourite space of many people.

Echigo-Tsumari Satoyama Museum of Contemporary Art, KINARE website

*Please visit the official website for opening period, hours and access to the artwork.

Leandro Erlich used this pond and turned the entire space into an artwork during the 7th iteration of ETAT in 2018. It became a permanent artwork and still amuses visitors. Mayumura can you find where is the artwork?

It is hard to see if Mayumura is searching for the artwork or just having fun.

Mayumura: Not sure where? I see the pedestal in the centre but nothing is on. Wait – does this….?

“What?” she seems to have notice something.

Mayumura: Ah, I got it. I see it. There is something drawn on the bottom of the pond – which seems to be a drawing of this building and the sky.

That’s wonderful. This artwork, “Palimpsest: Pond of Sky” is a drawing of the building reflecting on the water and the sky look-a-like on the bottom of the pond.  When you look at the drawing from one point on the upper floor, the actual reflection on the water surface overwraps with the drawn mirror image. When looked from different angle, these images layer upon one another and give strange impression on viewers. Moreover, something strange can happen such as the sky reflecting on the pond is blue while it is raining.

“Palimpsest: Pond of Sky” by Leandro Erlich (2018)

Mayumura: Wow. It is fun to play in the pond imagining how it looks from the upper floor whereas it is strangely amusing to look at the drawing closely from above. 

There are large scale permanent collections of works of contemporary art inside the gallery.

“Tunnel” by Leandro Erlich (2012). The artwork inspired by tunnels and kamaboko-shaped warehouses one would see in Echigo-Tsumari. Mayumura looked gigantic due to the optic illusion.

“Rolling Cylinder, 2012” by Carsten Höller (2012). It gives you a feeling of walking into a conventional sign pole of hairdresser while also reminding us of circulation of blood and psychedelic rock.

“Lost #6” by Ryota Kuwakubo (2012). (Photo by Osamu Nakamura). A wondrous landscape of light and shadow is projected onto the wall as a model train with light runs through the net baskets and other everyday items.  

Mayumura enjoyed the last artwork, “LOST #6” by Ryota Kuwakubo which made her feel as if she travels through Echigo-Tsumari on a small train. We asked her thoughts about the visit again.

Mayumura:  Well, the soft cream I ate was so delicious… no, no actually I didn’t eat anything like soft cream. What I wanted to say was people can have fun using “imagination”. For example, Museum of Picture Book Art, the first place I visited was wonderful and based upon a great story of the picture book. At the same time, it made me feel that I could let my imagination fly such as “this must be a spotty garden eel”. While my pieces of music are based upon real experiences, I thought the world could expand wider if listeners can freely imagine. 

For example, “piccoro-mushi” is based upon her bitter experience, trying to look forward. When she introduced herself as “I am an idol” at an audition for a music festival, the judges lost interest even before she started to sing. This song was born from that experience and she sings to us boldly “it is just a world you haven’t seen.” It could be a message to everyone who is constrained by a stereotypical prejudice.

Chiaki Mayumura / “piccoro-mushi”

At the board for photo-shooting in front of “boys with red lion cloths returned” by Tetsuo Sekine (2009). “This could be my profile photo” – Mayumura’s imagination never stopped expanding.

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Chiaki Mayumura

Born in 12 September in 1996 in Tokyo. Singer song writer idol and CEO of kaisha-ja-naimon. She has gained reputation for her singing along with a guitar, humorous sampling, skillful track-making and cheerful and free personality. She has made a major debut with her first music album “Mejameja Monja” in May 2019 followed by the 2nd album “Gekidan Ogyarhythm” on 8 January 2020. She will go on a tour “Chiaki Mayumura 2nd Tour Gekidan Ogyarhythm.

Chiaki Mayumura Website

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