Art Festival 2022" Setouchi International Art Triennale Edition/English version

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In this first installment of PLAZA's art festival project, which focuses on art festivals held in Japan and abroad, we shared our knowledge of the actual conditions and contents of these festivals, and discussed them from various perspectives, comparing and discussing the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale and Setouchi Triennale. In this issue, we bring you a report on the Setouchi Triennale, including the content of the day's presentation!


I stayed on the island of Megijima, one of the venues of the Setouchi Triennale 2022, as an administrative staff member throughout the spring and fall sessions.

At the same time, the facility where we stayed was a residence space for the exhibiting artists, so we were able to deepen exchanges with them, which resulted in a special time to deeply confront and understand their works. At the same time, I also had the opportunity to interact with the islanders, and while I received warm hospitality, there were moments when I felt an invisible line between the two, and I spent my days with my mind constantly wavering between tension and relaxation.
Furthermore, being involved in the festival for two sessions allowed me to see it from beginning to end, and I was able to feel the changes that accompanied the social situation, the things that only an art festival can bring, and the issues that need to be addressed, even though I was on the periphery of the festival. Based on these experiences, I would like to talk about the Setouchi International Art Festival, one of Japan's representative art festivals, in my own way.

About Setouchi Triennale
First of all, what is the Setouchi International Art Festival? Let's start from the beginning.

Setouchi Art Triennale is an art festival held once every three years on 12 islands and two ports in the Seto Inland Sea.

Place of the festival
Takamatsu Port, Naoshima, Teshima, Shodoshima, Ogijima, Megijima, Oshima, Inujima, and Uno Port (Okayama Prefecture).
And Shamijima, the venue for the spring session only. Honjima, Takamijima, Awashima, and Ibukijima for the fall session only.

In 2022, the exhibition will run for 105 days.

Spring (April 14 - May 18)
Summer (August 5 - September 4)
Autumn (September 29-November 6)
The three seasons are divided into the following three periods.
The division into three seasons differs from that of the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale.

Producer and Director

As with the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale
Soichiro Fukutake will be the general producer. The general director is Mr. Fram Kitagawa.

The Setouchi International Art Festival is expected to draw over 700,000 visitors in 2022 and over 1 million in 2019, but what is surprisingly little known is the theme of the festival and how it came to be held.
This time, I read "From Naoshima to Setouchi International Art Festival: Art Changed the Region" co-authored by Fukutake and Kitagawa, as well as an interview with Kitagawa in the past and the official website of the Setouchi International Art Festival to understand its origins and thoughts.

Theme of Setogei
The central theme of the Art Festival is "Restoration of the Sea.

The Seto Inland Sea, which is rich in nutrients and energy, has a history of being used as a place to monitor and shut down information from the surrounding area, as its closeness to the sea and ease of management attracted attention. The ocean's closed nature and ease of management have attracted attention.
Examples include the segregation of leprosy patients on Oshima Island, the refinery on Inujima, and the illegal disposal of industrial waste on Teshima. In addition to these situations, there is also the issue of the island losing its vitality and diminishing regional strength due to the aging and depopulated population.

Against this backdrop, the first consideration in holding an art festival in the Seto Inland Sea was "the true nature of the sea," and the theme of the festival was "Restoration of the Sea.
This theme was chosen in response to the reality of depopulation and aging on the island, and to encourage the elderly people living there to become more energetic.
Art and architecture were the cut-off points for this, and we decided to face the local issues by maintaining the art festival.

What I realized here is that the Setouchi International Art Festival is not a festival of art for art's sake, but rather, it aims to revitalize the local community, and art is the gateway to achieve this goal. If you keep this basic premise in mind, your view and thinking about the Setouchi Triennale will change a little.

The following is a brief history of Setogei.

History of Setogei
Now, let us look at the background of the Setouchi Triennale.

It all started back in 1988.
Soichiro Fukutake's father, Tetsuhiko Fukutake (founder of Fukutake Shoten, a bookstore), had planned to build a campground on Naoshima, and together with Miyake, the mayor of Naoshima at the time, they came up with the "Naoshima Cultural Village Concept," a plan to transform the entire southern area of Naoshima into a cultural area. The "Benesse Art Site Naoshima" was the prototype of the "Naoshima Cultural Village Concept.
Subsequently, the plan, "Setouchi Art Network Concept," was born as a result of an application to the government-sponsored "National Urban Regeneration Model Survey," for which a 5 million yen grant was received, and a proposal for an international art festival from a group of young Kagawa Prefecture officials. This was a proposal based on research into the current situation on the islands of the Seto Inland Sea and linking local revitalization and art.
Fukutake, who had been the general producer of the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale since 2006, asked Kitagawa for his cooperation, and in 2010 the first Setouchi International Art Festival was launched.

But why contemporary art on the islands of the Seto Inland Sea?

In his book, Fukutake explains why.
In literature, music, and movies, the sender is the main actor, and there is a tendency for the artist's opinion to be taken as the main factor. On the other hand, contemporary art is the only medium in which the recipient can take the initiative.
Art does not make assertions; rather, art draws out the qualities of nature and history, and the interaction of these elements moves the viewer. It is something that elicits emotion and certain feelings. This is not mere appreciation; it can even change the way of life of the viewer. I believe this is the power of contemporary art."
He stated.

Seto Art in Figures

Setouchi Art in Figures
The Setouchi International Art Festival, which began in this way, has become a major tourism industry event, with a direct economic impact of 11.2 billion yen and the number of visitors topping approximately 1.17 million in 2019.
In 2022, the number of visitors did not grow as much as in 2019 due to the Corona Disaster and entry restrictions before the start of the fall session, but the number of visitors reached approximately 720,000.


The Setouchi Triennale has become such a socially influential event that it has attracted a great deal of attention, with more than 60,000 followers on social networking sites such as Instagram and Facebook.

About Megijima

Let me talk about Megijima, the island where I stayed this time among many islands.
It is the closest island to Takamatsu, only 20 minutes away by ferry, and attracts many bathers in summer.

Megijima was the only island among all of Setogei's islands where visitors could purchase the works of exhibiting artists, and had its own project called "Megijima Meitengai.
Exhibiting artists used a variety of ingenious ideas to both exhibit and sell their products and workshops. Food markets and cafes were also part of the art festival. A beauty salon and a ping-pong hall were also combined to create a comprehensive department store-like exhibition venue.

Although the island is full of tricks that visitors can easily enjoy, I heard that the population of the islanders has been decreasing due to the aging of the population, and that the number of people actually living on the island is less than 100.
In addition, the artists and other related personnel were restricted from contacting the islanders, and their relationship with the islanders and the island was more limited than at previous art festivals.
Also, this project is a unique attempt to sell artworks, but while actually selling them, we sometimes found ourselves in a dilemma as to whether they were products or artworks.
I want to sell what I can sell, and I would be happy if I could sell it, but there is something different about the act of purchasing becoming the main focus. However, the works we actually sell are all interesting and we want people to pick them up. These thoughts were running through my mind as I worked on sales and served customers.
Even so, it was rewarding to see customers who came from far away enjoy and appreciate the works.

(I will introduce the artworks on Megijima another time!)

Considerations and questions about the Setouchi International Art Festival

This year was also the year that the lack of visitors from overseas, and the fact that there were fewer volunteers and Koebitai running the Setogei site than in previous years, brought to light the problems with the structure of the art festival. To run a large-scale event on a daily basis requires a certain amount of manpower, including the monitoring of the artworks on each of the 12 islands and two harbors, as well as a large number of people to guide and direct visitors to the artworks. Until now, volunteers called "Koebitai," who come from all over Japan and the world, have been the mainstay of the event. This year, however, the number of Koebitai decreased due to the effects of infectious diseases. The fact that we have always been short of manpower shows how much the power of the volunteers has been significant up to now.

Furthermore, "rewarding exploitation" is often heard in the field of art festivals. Although it is necessary to think about this issue from a multifaceted perspective, some people questioned the fact that they receive nothing in return for their work monitoring artworks and providing information throughout the day, while no money is being generated.
On the other hand, we also heard the opinion that it is a valuable place to meet people you would not normally meet and to meet others who share a common taste in art.
Although there are differences in awareness and perception of the word "volunteer," it is necessary to discuss the fact that an art festival is made up of the free labor of volunteers from various perspectives. (This is not limited to Setogei, though.)

However, it is necessary to discuss this from multiple perspectives.

As you can see, when I actually entered the site, my eyes and ears received views and voices that I could only see and hear from there, and I had to continuously think while sorting through the vast amount of information that came in on a daily basis. It is difficult to find answers to all of the problems, but if I were to sum up all of my thoughts, I would say that the Art Festival is a "relationship generator.

The Art Festival is a big project that involves a wide range of people, from the government, private companies, island residents, tourists from Japan and abroad, and artists.
Under this big project, people with various attributes who normally do not interact with each other gather, talk, and create relationships. At the same time, they will visit places they would not normally visit and enjoy the beauty of the Seto Inland Sea and the topography of the islands. Relationships between people and people, people and places, people and artworks, and various other people and things will be created, and these relationships will continue to be formed even after the festival is over.
I find the mechanism itself and the potential of the art festival itself to be fascinating.
I myself am still supported by the rich relationships I have formed with people because of the Setouchi International Art Festival. On the other hand, there are some questions and doubts that I have felt while working at the Art Triennale on the island. I would like to think about where these feelings come from and what is at the root of them. (These are still difficult to verbalize in my mind.)

Based on my experience at the Setouchi International Art Festival, I would like to continue to ponder about art festivals and art in my own way.