Art Festival ”Oku-Noto Triennale”report English Ver

Art Festival PLAZA Oku-Noto Triennale: Let's Think about Art Festival from Regional Characteristics
Owner: Asako JINDO

PLAZA, a place for dialogue and exchange by channel, will focus on art festivals held in Japan and abroad, sharing knowledge about the actual conditions and contents of the festivals and discussing them from various perspectives. This time, we focused on the Oku-Noto Triennale and considered how the regional characteristics and the art festival could be integrated. The following is a report of the day's presentations.


Hello, my name is Asako JINDO, and I am an owner of PLAZA this time! Let me introduce myself a bit. I majored in cultural anthropology as an undergraduate. And I major in research/management of art projects as a graduate student. I am interested in how art can be integrated with society and people's daily lives.

The Oku-Noto Triennale was the catalyst for me to choose Suzu as my research field.
Guided by a connection I made at an art festival, I spent my undergraduate years researching the relationship between the festival participants and the "kiriko" floats of the Kiriko festival, which are deeply rooted in the Oku-Noto region, and how the kiriko behave at the festival. 
I have been thinking about the distance that the local people kept from the art festival (depending on the individual and region), and that is the reason that I would like to think about the interaction between the art festival and the local culture.

The Oku-Noto Triennale is an art festival with a strong local character (site-specificity). Let’s consider the art festival from the perspective of understanding the characteristics of the region, which is also essential to understanding the Oku-Noto Triennale.

About Oku-Noto Triennale

Oku-Noto Triennale is held once every three years.
Under the theme of "The most distant art festival, the leading edge of art," the festival is held throughout the city of Suzu, located at the edge of the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture. It is characterized by the fact that artists from Japan and abroad express their works in a way that is possible only in the land of Suzu. The festival has been held twice before, in 2017 and 2021 (scheduled to be held in 2020 but postponed one year due to the COVID-19), and a third will be held in 2023.

Director and Executive Committee Chair
As with the Setouchi International Art Festival and the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale introduced in the first PLAZA of Art Festival 2022, the general director is Mr. Fram Kitagawa, and the executive committee chair is Mr. Mitsuhiro Izumiya, the mayor of Suzu City.

Objectives of the Oku-Noto Triennale

(1) To widely promote the charms of Suzu (traditions, culture, nature, food, etc.)
(2) To reaffirm the potential of Suzu and give the citizens confidence and pride in their city.
(3) To create new connections among visitors, supporters, and citizens from all over the country through exchange.
=>(4) To increase the attractiveness of Suzu, attract young people, and encourage them to make a UI turn, move to Suzu, and settle down in Suzu.

The unique point of this objective is that it aims to increase the number of people living in Suzu. To achieve this goal, the Art Festival is expected to present the attractiveness of the land to people inside and outside of the city.

For further information, check the site below.
芸術祭概要 | 奥能登国際芸術祭2023 (oku-noto.jp)

About the host area “Suzu”

What kind of place is the region where the Oku-Noto Triennale is held?

Suzu is at the edge of the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture.
It is a depopulated area.

It is a beautiful region with abundant nature and a rich food culture.
I love visiting Suzu because it opens up my senses and gives me the feeling of being gently enveloped by various sounds and smells.

Furthermore, the local festivals held from summer to fall are very exciting!
There are many festival lovers, and even those who have moved out of the city come back and hold exciting festivals.
The Kiriko Festival is a festival widely held in the Oku-Noto area and is a certified Japanese Heritage Site.
Kiriko is an abbreviation for faceted lantern. Different kirikos can be seen in different areas, and they are all beautiful and dignified floats with a full lacquer coating. The presence of a kiriko belonging to a district may nurture a sense of belonging to the area.

*Takojima Kiriko Festival of 2022 (photographed by the author)

For further information about the Kiriko Festival, check it below
日本遺産「灯り舞う半島 能登 〜熱狂のキリコ祭り〜」能登のキリコ祭り (notokiriko.ishikawa.jp)

Considering Art Festivals

In considering regional art festivals in Japan, it seems necessary to consider a variety of issues. In this section, I will review the discussion on arts festivals in Japan.

The wave of the activation of arts festivals in Japan
First, we will consider the social context in which regional art festivals have become active.

Since the 1990s, there has been a trend toward "off-museum" activities, in which artists seek to engage with society, leaving the museum and going out into the local community. Behind this trend is the tendency of local governments to shift their cultural expenditures from hard to soft aspects, and the 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, which prompted artists and art professionals to consider what art can do for society. As a result, art projects that are not limited to the artistic realm but are linked to other fields, such as urban development or local revitalization, and work toward social systems, have expanded.

Due in part to these influences, contrary to the common practice of international exhibitions usually held in urban areas to attract visitors, art festivals in Japan are now being held in mountain villages. In some aspects, these festivals are held to revitalize depopulated areas where the population decline is a serious problem.

A Means of Community Revitalization
The Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale, held as a revitalization of such depopulated areas, provided an opportunity to reveal that satoyama attracts a lot of tourists and that it is effective as a tourism industry.

Click here for a previous PLAZA "Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale" report.

While more and more local governments are looking to use the success of the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale as a catalyst for regional revitalization, there are also those who criticize the use of the arts for regional revitalization. 
However, some researchers have expressed concern about this tendency because local art festivals are often focused on building relationships with local people, and there are fewer opportunities for challenging and experimental art. 

Another essential perspective when considering local arts festivals is to think about publicness.

Remember that local art festivals often bring artworks and projects into close proximity to people's daily lives, and local residents may not welcome them, but they are not able to escape them. Outdoor artworks, for example, may be permanently installed outside the duration of the art festival, and it is necessary to consider the lives and future of the residents who live in the host area.
In addition, many regional art festivals are funded by local governments, so it is important to be aware of the fact that they are publicly funded art festivals.

Sustainability is not only about the environment, but also about whether the scale of the festival is sustainable.

Art festivals are characterized by the fact that they are held on a regular basis, once every two or three years (Biennale or Triennale). In the process of continuing the festival, there are various barriers such as the maintenance and management of the permanent works and the problems of manpower, physical strength, and financial resources on the management side. 
Furthermore, changes in local government administration and disaster countermeasures often delay the accumulation of know-how and the planning and implementation of long-term strategies. It is difficult to hold the festival on a continuous basis, but it is considered a necessary element for an arts festival to be recognized as a success.

Of course, we also need to consider whether sustainability is desirable for the host community.

Opportunity for artists
Art festivals are not only an opportunity for artists to create connections with the local community through residencies and repeated visits, but they are also expected to provide a venue for presentation, career development, and a base for production.

There are various discussions surrounding art festivals other than those introduced here. I hope that you will broaden your interest from the discussion points introduced here and investigate them.

Here are the references (books and articles in Japanese only)

熊倉純子 2014. 『アートプロジェクト:芸術と共創する社会』熊倉純子監修. 東京:水曜社
暮沢剛己 2008. 「第2章パブリックアートを超えて:『越後妻有トリエンナーレ』と北川フラム䛾十年」『ビエンナーレ䛾現在』暮沢剛己・難波裕子偏 235-267 東京:青弓社
小泉元宏 2010.「誰が芸術を作る䛾か:『大地䛾芸術祭・越後妻有アートトリエンナーレ』における成果物を前提としない芸術活動から䛾考察」『年報社会学論集』 (23): 35-46. doi.org/10.5690/kantoh.2010.35.  
藤田直哉 2016. 『地域アート:美学/制度/日本』東京:堀之内出版
宮津大輔 2014. 『現代アート経済学』東京:光文社.
宮本結佳 2018. 『アートと地域づくり䛾社会学:直島、大島、越後妻有にみる記憶と創㐀』京都:昭和堂. 
宮本結佳 2019. 「地域がアートに出会う時:直島における展開過程䛾検討」『フォーラム現代社会学』 (18): 111-121. doi.org/10.20791/ksr.18.0_111.
山口裕美 2010.『観光アート』東京:光文社. 
吉田隆之 2021. 『芸術祭と地域づくり改訂版:”祭り”䛾受容から自発・協働による固有資源化へ』東京:水曜社.

Considering the Oku-Noto Triennale

Now, we have considered multiple viewpoints while introducing the discussion on the art festival. From here, let us consider the Oku-Noto Triennale.

Looking into Visitor Questionnaire
The Oku-Noto Triennale is characterized by the large number of visitors from within the city of Suzu and Ishikawa Prefecture.

2017: visitors from within Suzu city [17%], visitors from within Ishikawa prefecture [58%]
2020+: visitors from within Suzu city [17%], visitors from within Ishikawa prefecture [66%]

2017: Local Volunteers [about 500], Supporters from outside of Suzu city [about 800], 70% of the locals went to the art festival
2020+: Local Volunteers [1,156], Supporters from outside of Suzu city [88 due to the COVID-19 regulation], 50% of the locals went to the art festival

Many people participated as local volunteers, and it was reported that the festival provided an opportunity for citizens to rediscover the good qualities of Suzu City, and increased their confidence and pride in their hometown.

Furthermore, the Art Festival's stated goal of increasing the number of immigrants and permanent residents by communicating the attractions of Suzu City has been met with favorable results.
The number of immigrants seems to have doubled in the five years before and after the Art Festival was held!

On the other hand, however, it is pointed out that the economic ripple effect obtained by staying and eating in Suzu City is low because the number of visitors from outside the prefecture is small.

Click here to read the detailed report.
okunoto2017_report.pdf (oku-noto.jp)
6348_8225_misc.pdf (suzu.lg.jp)

Can the Oku-Noto Triennale be considered as an internal development of Suzu City? The process of holding an art festival and the current status of its format
As mentioned earlier, the Oku-Noto Triennale is held for the purpose of regional revitalization.
Mayor Izumiya's welcoming attitude to the festival is significant, but we must not forget that the festival was initiated at the request of the private sector.

The city of Suzu has been debating for about 30 years over the attraction of a nuclear power plant to the city. Rather than relying on outside capital to attract a nuclear power plant, the Art Festival was started with the aim of internally developing the city by communicating the attractions of Suzu City and attracting tourists.

However, because organizing an art festival requires expertise know-how and connections with artists, the festival is fully outsourced to Art Front Gallery, a private company led by the festival director, Fram Kitagawa. This is evident in the percentage of the Art Festival's expenditures.

This raises the question of whether an art festival fully outsourced to a private company can be considered an internal development of Suzu City, which was the goal of the festival. In other words, it can be pointed out that the expectation for the Art Festival, which was positioned as an opposition to the attraction of a nuclear power plant, which is an external development proposal, has turned out to be a form of external development by a private company.

Are the locals accepting the art festival?
Many of the festival participants in Takojima, Suzu City, with whom I was involved in my graduation research, seemed to think that the art festival had nothing to do with them.

When I asked those who actively participated in the festival about the art festival, they showed little interest in art festivals, and they regarded themselves as not understanding the value of art.

During the interview survey, I found that local festivals are a part of their own culture and people in the community have many stories to tell about them. However, art festivals are more of an event for outsiders, which the locals do not have much interest in. (Of course, there are many different opinions depending on the individual and the region.)

My thoughts at the end
The Oku-Noto Triennale focuses on the characteristics of the region, and there are many artworks that make the most of the local characteristics (please visit the festival website to learn more about the artworks), but I think it is unfortunate that local people draw a line between the festival and themselves as someone else's affair.

If the Art Festival could be changed from being an event held once every three years to being an everyday activity for the local people and art being a part of their daily lives, the local people would be able to see it as their own business. In other words, it may be a chance to develop ownership to the Oku-Noto Triennale if they commit it differently. 

To this end, I think it is necessary to have people who know the community well/people in Suzu take charge of the direction, rather than outsourcing the management and direction entirely to outside parties.

How can an art festival held in a local community take root as a culture for the local people? I’m looking forward to the future of the Oku-Noto Triennale. 

The Oku-Noto Triennale 2023 will be held this year! Please pay attention!
For more details, click here.

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