Dear all,
On behalf of the Mondriaan Fund, BAM – Institute for visual, audiovisual and media art, the Danish Agency for Culture and Prohelvetia, we would like to thank all the  institutions and people that we visisted/met during this orientation trip. You all really made this trip into a unique experience for us all. We surely hope that this trip will lead to future collaborations on both sides.

Haco de Ridder (Mondriaan Fund)


Day 13

Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography namedroppig

Our visit to this museum was rather short – one hour including the introduction by Harumi Niwa, the chief curator.
The museum is one of five museums managed by the Tokyo Metropoitan Foundation for History and Culture (the other museums are: Edo-Tokyo Museum, Museum of Contamporary Art Tokyo, Metropolitan Art Museum and Teien Art Museum).

The Museum of Photography opened at the Yebisu Garden Place location in 1995, but since 1988 they have already been building up their collection – of photo’s and ‘ a wide range of materials that will facilitate a comprehensive understanding of photographic culture’. The collection consists now of about 30.000 pieces, 80% of which is Japanese photography. And, I quote, ‘ the 17 photographers designated to as major photographers to be focused on in the collection, are:
Akiyama Shotaro, Ishimoto Yasuhiro, Uedo Shojo, Kawada Kikuji, Kimura Ihee, Kuwabara Kineo, Shirakawa Yoshikazu, Tsuchida Hiromi, Tomatsu Shomei, Nagano Shigeichi, Narahara Ikko, Hamaya Hiroshi, Hayashi Tadahiko, Fujiwara Shinya, Hosoe Eikoh, Miriyama Daido, Watanabe Yoshio.
For me a list to google, as I don’t know the half of them, or maybe useful information for the folks back home. There is another list of 21 ‘designated’ photographers according to the New Policy for the Photography Collection, but unfortunately the half of the list is unreadable through a printing mistake. The ones I can read are:

Araki Nobuyoshi, Furuya Seiichi, Ishiuchi Miyako, Koyama Hotaro, Morimura Yasumasa (also the curator of the Yokohama Triennale), Sato Tokihiro, Suda Issei, Suzuki Kiyoshi, Tamura Akihide, Yanagi Miwa.

The museum has 3 exhibition spaces; 22 exhibitions per year are organized by 13 staff curators.  The two exhibitions that were on during our visit and that we ran trough shortly (but got the catalogues) were of:

Akihiko Okamura, (1929-85), all about life and death – he was a photojournalist in the 60’s and 70’s, ‘ the next Robert Capa’, that worked during the Vietnam War and photographed in the Dominican Republic, Hawaii, Tahiti and Ireland. Even his war photo’s are somehow warm through his contact with the subjects and the use of colour.
Fiona Tan, Terminology – ‘her first full-scale retrospective in Tokyo’.

The museum is closing for reconstruction in October, and will be reopened in 2016. Just as the Museum of the Contamporary Art Tokyo. So you know.

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Hara Museum Arc.
Established in 1988 as an offshoot to the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, the Hara Museum Arc at the foot of Mt. Haruna-san was build in order to make room for the collection belonging to the Hara family. The museum designed by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki (who also designed MoCA Los Angeles) is located in the countryside 150 km outside of Tokyo. The collection currently holds about 1500 works/titles. The focus is on contemporary art – which in this case seemed to be defined as post-1950s art.

Looking back, it strikes me that we have experienced several examples of museums in both Japan and Korea which favored displaying the art work in a “black box” instead of the “white box”. In the Hara Museum Arc, the current hanging in the so called Kankai pavilion – also a black box – was a highlight. Here, historical works stemming from the ancestral collection of the Hara family were on display alongside contemporary works such as charcoal drawings by Leiko Ikemura and a painting by Yoshitomo Nara. Due to the significance ascribed to the changing seasons within Japanese culture the exhibition in the Kankai pavilion changes every month.


Hence, the current display of a beautiful folding screen from the 17th Century, in so called Musashino style depicting a landscape with flowers, grasses and a hanging moon especially chosen for the September exhibition. According to Japanese tradition, the moon is a sign of autumn, since “this is the time a year when the moon is most beautiful,” the curator informed us.




Surprisingly enough, a visit to the museum storage turned out to be another highlight of this visit. It tells you a lot about a museum to see how they treat their works behind the scenes. After taking off our shoes we were led to the clean storage room which in part also seemed to serve as a back stage showroom with selected pieces on view. Among others, a handful of large format paintings by Lee Ufan were on display here – probably one of the artists whose works we have seen in most museums during our visit in both Korea and Japan (Lee Ufan was born in Korean 1936, but has been living in Japan for many years).


Yayoi Kusama, Self Obliteration, 1980

Other works on display was a lovely 1980 installation by Yayoi Kusama – a kind of yellow environment in wood and painted acrylic resin including table and chairs. I have a weak spot for Kusama, especially her 1960s happenings in New York, but the vast commodification of the artist (from polka spotted key chains to likewise pillows) in every museum shop in Japan has been a surprise and a bit overwhelming.


Visiting the storage also showed us how to prevent a sculpture from damaging due to earthquakes currently affecting the area. Shigeo Toyas sculptural installation is made out several blocks of wood (about 2 meters each, each standing 60 cm from each other when installed). To make sure that the wood pillars wouldn’t be damaged, the installation had been gathered in a tight bundle.


Children’s room by Hiroshi Fuji.


Children’s room by Hiroshi Fuji.


Arts Maebashi
At 5 pm we reached our final destination. Arts Maebashi is an arts center that will celebrate its first anniversary at the end of October 2014. It is run by Fumihiko Sumitomo, who is a former senior curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOT), Tokyo and a founding member of The AIT residency in Tokyo and is widely considered as one of the leading figures of contemporary art in Japan.

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Maebashi is a town about 100 kilometers from Tokyo with a total population of 320,000 citizens. A favorable economic situation (Maebashi used to be an important center for the production of silk for the European market) made it into a flourishing cultural scene in the 19th and 20th centuries. But in 1945 Maebashi’s glory was put to an end: only ten days before the end of WW2 the city was heavily bombed and left in ruins. Luckily this did not make an end to Maebashi’s cultural life, as is testified by the list of artists that have lived here and the art movements that developed here in the second half of the 20th century.
Arts Maebashi is located in a former departement store called Seibu Walk and offers a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Its program comprises temporary exhibitions and art projects with a strong focus on “sharing” and on the exchange with the local community. The two artists that were introduced after a short welcome by the director give a good idea of how this mission must be understood:


After a two-year residency at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, Meiro Koizumi returned to his hometown Maebashi where he is preparing a solo show with director Sumitomo and his team. Koizumi is working together with fellow citizens and fellow-countrymen hoping this might help him to get a better understanding of the country into which he was born.

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At first glance, the colourful, participatory work of the artist duo Kosugei1-16 might seem very different from Koizumi’s video’s, but is in fact very similar. For the project that was presented Kosugei1-16 worked together with children from the area trying to bring back to life the spirit of Kondojoshi- the founder of a local drawing school for children who lost everything during the war.
Besides the exhibitions organised at the museum, Arts Maebashi is involved in various projects in downtown Maebashi making the area around the museum into a vibrant area as we were able to experience during the short tour director Sutimoto gave us.

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For the artists that are reading with us: next month Arts Maebashi is initiating an international artist residency that will allow 3 artists per year to spend min. 2 months in Maebashi. From what we saw, this context will surely provide a stimulating context for all those who are searching to develop and deepen their work!


Arts Maebashi is yet another excellent example of what seems to connect the many places we have visited and the many people we have met (both in Korea and Japan) who place art at the core of their understanding of/ and dealing with the world – present, past and future.


Day 12

Remedies for a drifting mind

Magazines, art blogs, museums, art fairs, biennale shows, galleries, off spaces – in the globalized art world there is always an upcoming artistic talent to be discovered, always new forms of expression popping up somewhere. We are constantly exposed to a massive stream of new information, which we believe is vital to our daily lives. How can a young triennale, with its three years of preparation, survive in such a rapidly developing art scene?

Eschewing cheap spectacle and a straightforward commercial format, artistic director Yasumasa Morimura succeeded in compiling a consistent and well-considered answer to this question. He does so by taking a deep breath, looking back at art history and searching for forgotten positions, or at the risk of being lost in the memory of a bustling art scene.

The triennial is divided over two main venues, the Yokohama Museum of Art and the Shinko Pier Exhibition Hall. The title, “ART Fahrenheit 451: Sailing into the Sea of Oblivion” is derived from Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel. The story portrays a society where book burnings regularly take place, with its exiled citizens memorizing the contents of the books, thus quite literally trying to embody their absence. Fahrenheit 451 is also featured within the exhibition, as part of an installation by Dora García, which is a stack of mirrored copies of the novel, echoing its epigraph: “If they give you ruled paper, write the other way”.


Mimicking the structure of a book, the show unfolds into two introductions and eleven episodes, accompanied by rather aphoristic guidelines. This linear presentation is presented as a “voyage through the sea of oblivion”, exploring the borders of language and silence, remembrance and forgetting. The presentation format has a rather sincere and integer touch to it, which largely comes to the benefit of the artworks on display.

Michael Landy’s 7-meter-tall “Art Bin” dominates the entrance hall of the Yokohama museum. It encourages everyone to sign up and toss their unwanted works of art into the container. It is described by the artist as a „monument of creative failure“ – a nice twist to the plot of „Fahrenheit 451”.


In the rest of the exhibition, contemporary artists such as Simon Starling, Akram Zaatari, Melvin Moti and Danh Vo are presented alongside more historical figures including René Magritte, John Cage and Kasimir Malevich, fostering an enriching art historical dialogue. The overall theme is manifested in a number of works throughout the show without becoming too illustrative. Eric Baudelaire, for instance, is showing his recent video “The Ugly One” (2003), dealing with the current political peril in Lebanon. The feature-length film, a collaborative enterprise with Japanese avant-garde film director Adachi Masao, is a slowly developing visual confrontation between Masao’s original screenplay and Baudelaire’s faux-documentary style.

Eric Baudelaire

Another remarkable and thought-provoking work by the Temporary Foundation consists of a huge installation with a red judicial court setting on one side, and a sculptural interpretation of a green tennis court on the other. During the triennial, it is being used as a setting for the “Yokohama Trial”, a series of five trials during which a specific case is deliberated. Each trial is organised together with university professors and accompanied by a DJ or rap performance, e.g. “Rapping the Japanese Constitution” or “Does Free Will Exist?”.


This experimental, cross-disciplinary project is counterbalanced further on in the exhibition, with a rather classical display and surprising curatorial choices. There is Andy Warhol’s “Hammer and Sickle” and “Come Painting” series, or Shiyuki Sakogami’s oil and watercolor paintings referring to natural history and a mythical worldview, thus subtly taking up the exhibition’s poetic-political lead. As a kind of sinister, uncanny finale of the triennial’s first venue, Gregor Schneider created an installation titled German Angst, a moist, muddy and claustrophobic environment.


The second part is staged at the Shinko Pier Exhibition Hall, and is less convincing in terms of coherence and display format. Nonetheless some captivating works are included, such as Akram Zaatari’s video Him + Her, Bas Jan Ader’s famous “Fall” series, Tadashi Tonoshiki’s dense sculptures or Elias Hansen’s odd assemblages.

In addition to the two big exhibition venues, the „Triennale in the City” is spread over Yokohama, as an effort to include the local art scene. As the Yokohama prefecture is situated just outside of Tokyo in a less densely populated and gentrifying harbour area, the local authorities attempt to promote it as a “creative city”, with affordable studios for artists and designers in a former red light district and several exhibition spaces. Even though the uncritical recuperation of Richard Florida’s ideas remain highly questionable, the Yokohama Triennale didn’t really seem to suffer much from the widespread city marketing virus. Instead, it purports to engage with the local and global public, all while promoting Yokohama’s community development. Yokohama and its triennial certainly deserve a spot in the centre of the art world’s international attention.


Nicola & Pieter

Day 11

Swinging arms and legs

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‘It’s like a tank’, says Mrs Yuko Hasegawa , chief curator of MOT, Museum of Contemporary art of Tokyo. ‘Or a submarine, demanding curatorial and artistic inventiveness. Dealing with MOT’s architecture is incomparable to a human scale museum such as the Guggenheim or MoMA.’ She guides our delegation through the empty galleries for temporary exhibitions, where a peloton of technicians and builders is working towards the upcoming exhibition ‘Seeking New Genealogy – Bodies/Leaps/Traces’.

MOT houses a semi-permanent exhibition as well, exploring it’s own collection (ca 4000 works) of post war art from Japan and abroad, but apart from that the submarine reserved to introduce and review artistic trends, has the following numbers : 4.000 square meters of floor space on three floors, each with different ceiling heights (4m/6m/9m), as well as an Atrium which captures natural light, height: 19 meters. MOT, a building of stone, steel and wood by the architect Yanagisawa Takahiko, is an art work by itself and the largest museum for contemporary art in Japan. It opened in 1995.

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Intimidating as it might seem, it offers more than one advantage. MOT utilizes the space in the coming together of expressions from a variety of fields: theater, film, dance, performance and other forms of visual arts, in order to develop the discours on highly contemporary art: beyond the dogma’s of western modernism, into a social-political context. Curatorial exercise on an intellectual and theoretical level meets with spatial expansian and also with practical inclusiveness: new generations art fans bring their little kids – welcome little swinging arms and legs.

Mrs Yuko Hasegawa has a distinguished career characterised by major curatorial projects, notably in Eastern Asia and Latin America. She was curator for Sharjah Biennial 11 in 2013, reassessing the Eurocentrism of knowledge in modern times. Different perspectives were combined by a gathering of architects, designers, creators, and artists, in order to challenge them as well as the viewers to seek new knowledge by sharing ideas.


This multifaceted approach also counts for the next show: it welcomes Kyogen master Mansai Nomura as its general advisor. Kyogen is a form of traditional Japanese comic theatre. ‘Seeking New Genealogy, Bodies/Leaps/Traces ’ explores diverse physical expressions, examining our physical memories and knowledge. By sharing a variety of forms of expression, ranging from paintings, video’s and live performances to dance, theatre and sports, it strives for ‘new creative genes’.

For example, and given the coincident funny enough, Mrs Hasegawa projected a painting by Jackson Pollock we saw two days earlier, in Benesse House Museum on Noashima Island, in a beautiful but classic setting, as static as serene. MOT however, will trace back Pollocks actions and enhance the movement visible in his drippings by showing his work together with dance performances of Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak Dance Company.


Wish we could join that search: it starts September 27th and runs through January 4th 2015.

By the way: we might have missed the opening of Marlene Dumas in Amsterdam, but were happy to see her blinking on MOT’s table in Tokyo.

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Wilma Sütö

3331 Arts Chiyoda Centre
After having begun the day at one of the most famous and established art institutions in Japan, our afternoon programme had something entirely different, although no less interesting, to offer.


In a former high school building located in Tokyo’s famous area Chiyoda City you’ll find the “3331 Arts Chiyoda Centre”, commonly know as the “three-three-three-one”. This young and energetic venue might be described as a multi purpose creative hub, exhibition venue and activity centre, dynamically engaging with local residents and contemporary artists and artisans.


The former high school facilities and interior are to a very large extend kept intact, only today the former class rooms houses an abundance of small projects spaces, artist run galleries and designer offices; the roof top basket ball court is used for farmers markets and organic vegetable growth; while the gymnasium is rented out for larger exhibitions, crafts markets, gatherings and community festivities. Furthermore 3-3-3-1 is also an artist residency for both Japanese and foreign artists, currently providing studios for one Australian and one Danish/Belarussian artist.

Not surprisingly the 3-3-3-1 we met was buzzing with activity; at the same time busy like a high school hallway at recess, and concentrated like class room of learning. Young cool kids were seeing the art show in the enormous white cube exhibition space, artists and designers were working in their workshops, and small galleries and local residents in all ages were hanging out in the cafe, attending the ongoing handcrafted paper market in the front hall, or helping out in the project spaces.

With the words of the young energetic director, Hiroyuki Kimura, whom we had the pleasure of meeting, 3-3-3-1 aims to be “a free space in which artists and creatives can both unfold and present themselves in exchange with the local community”.


3-3-3-1’s operation and maintenance is by 80% covered though rent income from the many various tenants, while the remaining 20% is provided through public funding and private sponsors. This division allows for a wide range of the facilities and the activities at 3-3-3-1 – ranging from lectures to yoga classes – to remain free of charge for local residents and other participants, much in keeping with the venue’s aim of being accessible and welcoming to the general public.

Due to a general population decrease, caused mainly by sociocultural changes allowing women to pursue their own careers, closed schools and the consequent lifeless neighbourhoods are not a rare sight in Tokyo. An afternoon in the company of 3-3-3-1’s vibrant crowd proves however, how innovative entrepreneurs may preserve and reanimate the otherwise abandoned, though creativity and the encouragement of community co-ownership.

Please find additional information and future event schedule here.


More info on Hagiso



Day 10

Tokyo Joe!

Tokyo, and Tokyo tower.

Have you ever imagined a museum of contemporary art located at the 53th floor of a sky-scraper? A museum director known all over the world as one of the best stylist? A gallery with 14’000 m2 of exhibition and 1 million visitors per year ? Welcome in Roppongi and his fascinating art triangle.


Among the very young institutions we’ve visited today, the first one was the Mori Art Museum, created in 2003 and owned by the Mori Real Estate company. Since then, 40 exhibitions were organized with the focus ART + LIFE. A large topic, which could include many projects… Besides solo shows of mid-carriers artists, the team of curators plans region-based exhibitions focused on emerging or forgotten countries. Listening to the presentation of the curator Kondo Kenichi, we realize that the museum was created before having a collection, as a japanese Kunsthalle.


The acquisitions came afterwards and are soon going to have their own exhibition space. It’s interesting to see that we usually start with a collection to create a museum.
Striking is the attention the Mori Museum pays to the visitors. Opening hours until 22.00 (everyday), tours dedicated to depressed mums with their babies (« buggy tour »), « urgent » talks for more informed public, etc.
After a short walk, we join the 21_21 design museum, founded in 2001.


Noriko Kawakami & Bas Valcks

We immediately recognize the concrete pattern of Tadao Ando, that we’ve just seen many times in Naoshima. The zig-zag shape of the building is allegedly alluding to a piece of cloth as an homage to its founder Issey Miyake. The co-director Noriko Kawakami, welcomes us warmly with her (of course) Miyake folded black dress. She’s very glad to introduce the first exhibition entitled Making Images. Here again, a large and harmless topic… The show intends to create a dialog between art and design. But the design remains in separated spaces and do not really meet the art-pieces. The challenge is still there!


If the 21_21 has no collections, the huge National Art Center hasn’t any either. The youngest institution funded by the government is also the largest. It welcomes around 1 million visitors per year in 12 galleries, in a mix of mainstream shows and fairs.


One gallery hosts a Musée d’Orsay retrospective. The show is overcrowded and reveals the fascination of Japanese people for western countries. If you want to have the same shoes as the Fifre (Edouard Manet, 1866), you will easily find them in the shop, as well as french marmelade !
The day ends with a reception at the Dutch Embassy, with about 80 people attending. We meet Japanese artist as well as curators on the terrace. It’s a chance to get introduced to all these interesting people.

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Julie & Julie

Day 9


The morning ferry brought us to the island of Naoshima. The island is a fishermen’ s village and the location for several buildings by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando. During the 20th century this island was one of the smaller islands used for dumping heavy metal waste. Because the bigger islands had a better control, the factories chose the smaller ones and dumped lots of
metal slag. This practice stopped in the beginning of the 1990’s. In 2006 the
artist Tsuyoshi Ozawa created “88 Slag Buddha’s” out of this waste material.

Opposite of this work is the Lee Ufan Museum, build in 2006. Lee Ufan is a Korean artist that lived in Japan for many years, a member of Mono-ha and Dansaekzo school, whose work follows us through the whole trip. A building that was a result of a collaboration between the artist and Tadao Ando. After looking at several sculptures in front of the entrance with seaview for backdrop we received behaviour instructions by a uniformed lady. The building has no windows, only concrete walls with small round holes in a regular pattern, one of the brandmarks of Tadao Ando. Lee Ufan’s paintings and sculptures have the simplicity and dedication of a Zen monk. One of the most fascinating pieces is a video projection on a shadow cast by a stone. Under the stone you see the shimmering moon, clouds, water and trees. The surpirise in an other space was a lightspot on the floor, made by the sun coming through the roofwindow. It would probably dissapear once we were gone. The building is a complete Ando and Lee equilibrium.


Next stop is the Chichu Museum, build in 2004. It’s the home of only a
few artworks of James Turrell, Walter de Maria and Claude Monet. On the way to the entrance we past a pond with waterlillies and colourfull flowers , a mini version of Giverny. At the entrance the instructions are the same: no pictures, lower your voice and take of your shoes when necessary. Not to disturb the spectacular landscape the museum is build underground and is depending on natural lighting that enters the building through roofwindows

The architecture almost forcefully directs one’s way; every view could give you the price-winning picture. It’s good we were not allowed to make any.


The skyscape by James Turrell is the most luxurious one of his skyscapes. A slick stone bench looks like it is polished by hand. You can sit on it and look up at the sky through a concrete frame – the sky is bright blue for today. For  Turrrell’s ‘Open Field’ there is a long line. Shoes off and only eight people at the same time. Before you come too near to the pale blue light source the alarm sounds and disturbs the temple-like atmosphere. Walter de Maria’s work is a space with a very big granite ball (probably brought in halfway throug the construction of the building) placed in the middle of the staircase. On the shelves stand guilded mahogany sculptures of repeating geometrical shapes. The rooflight and the guilded ‘ sticks’ reflect in granite. Another que for the room with the five Water-Lily paintings by Claude Monet and slippers on not to damage the floor that’s made out of thousands of small marble blocks. Peculiar setting for these works, but they are still beautiful. What would Claude think. What to say about a museum like this? Either you love it and plunge into the experience or you think it’s too exclusive, too much for a special audience, too far from ‘human’. It’s hard to tell, but enough for an interesting discussion!


The last stop is the Benesse house, a hotel exhibiting a part of the collection of the Benesse family, with the usual suspects like Richard Long, Bruce Nauman,
Jackson Pollock, David Hockney and Hiroshi Sugimoto – his seascapes are hanging outdoors in the bright sun (and sealed frames). After wandering through this yet again Tadao Ando building we have lunch. A work of art in every
perspective – presentation, and subtlety in taste and colour.


Winnie & Ksenia

Day 8

Teshima Island
Let us – Rob and Annette – begin with stating the conditions of our report. We chose to not do additional research on the internet, but limited our sources to immediate interaction with the subject at hand: our trip to Teshima Island and the third Setouchi International Art Festival (or Setouchi Triennale), the images and documents collected (suggested reading includes “Insular Insight, Where Art and Architecture Conspire with Nature. Lars Müller Publishers, 2011/12) and conversations held today. We are indebted to the candid feedback and insights provided by our fellow travellers, particularly to Bas Valcks (who has been living in Japan since 12 years and works for the Dutch embassy’s cultural department in Tokyo since 6) and of course to Haruyo-san, our local guide (and one of the many volunteers supporting the Art Festival). So although not everything may be thoroughly fact checked, our account is as authentic a reflection of today’s extraordinary experience as we can provide.


Triennale General Director Fram Kitagawa and Bas Valcks

More information on mister Kitagawa



There are over 6000 islands, 350 of which are inhabited, throughout the area of the Inland Sea of Japan. During the period of the rapid economic growth in postwar Japan, the majority of these islands suffered from a gradual decrease of inhabitants, often due to the increase of industrialization and spreading pollution created by the face-paced development of large-scale ironworks and oil refineries shooting up along the coast in the region, which made living off the land and sea – the main source of income – impossible.


Coastline of Teshima Island with rice paddies

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Map of Teshima Island


Yokoo House

The Setouchi International Art Festival, which in its first edition brought 900’000 visitors to seven islands in 2010, and increased to over one million with 12 islands in 2013, may be considered a successful example; or even role-model benchmark; of how an equally sustainable and mindful impact art and culture can have on the revitalization of a region. Today, over 200 artworks have been implemented, many of them permanently. Approximately 210 artists from 24 countries and regions have participated.


Yokoo House

The origins of this success date back to art projects carried out by Benesse on Noashima since 1992. Benesse Holding (a corporation involved in educational systems and publishing), has been active in ongoing CSR (corporate social responsibility) for over 20 years, when Tetsuihiko Fukutake first initiated the creation of a children’s campground on Naoshima in 1985. His untimely death in 1986 put the responsibility of his legacy in the hands of his son, Soichiro, who claims he underwent a transition of his own personal values in the process, eventually leading to his appointment of Fram Kitagawa – the General Director of the Setouchi Triennale. who gracefully greeted our group last night upon our arrival at the Hotel Clement – transfer the successful model of an art festival first executed in the north of Japan to the Setouchi Inland Sea island region in 2010. Today, the immense costs for the broad range of activities are supported both by the local government and the Fukutake Foundation, as well as many national and foreign sponsors.


Pippilotti Rist, Your first colour


Pippilotti Rist, Your first colour

Whereas a due portion of the success is due to the rigid selection, curation, impeccable installation and maintainance of the artworks conceived by internationally renowned artists, it is the activation of the local community in all aspects of the running of the festival that truly supports its ongoing artistic, economical and social success: Transportation to and from the islands, as well as bus transfers the islands, rental stations for electrically powered bicycles, decentralized ticket sales booths at the venues, a variety of local shops, a restaurant (a former Tofu Factory, restored and designed by Ryo Abe) that is run by locals cooking and serving local produce, or the private B&Bs that have been established and importantly, the tending of the art festival’s facilities and guiding tourists; all of the above add to the ongoing support of the local economy, currently attracting a younger generation to return to the islands. On Teshima, the population once was over 2500 people, today, it’s headcount is a mere 900 mainly elderly inhabitants, but slowly increasing.

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Chiharu Shiota, 2010

Chiharu Shiota, 2010

The works themselves, as experienced on today’s delightful excursion, follow a red line that relates in subtle ways to Teshima island’s history. An island that mainly has relied on its agriculture and fishing, it underwent a major crisis when the natural environment was seriously damaged by its exploitation as a dumping ground for toxic industrial waste: the reputation of the island, once famous for its pure water, rich produce of rice and abundent fishing grounds and ideal farming climate (indeed, we spotted fig and olive trees today) reverted to an island associated with pollution and contamination. It only fully regained the restablishment of its image in 2000, when the government agreed to remove the waste, which is still in process.

Not all of the art works were equally convincing, however the majority of those visited and experienced today carefully examine the the characteristics of the region, the natural environment, and the history and architecture of the island. Another feature is that most of the works offer an immersive dimension, requiring the visitor to engage, interact and introspect. The following four examples do not include all of the works on our tour, but they do represent the variety of experiences that we made today.


Mike and Doug Starn, Big Bambu, 2013


Mike and Doug Starn, Big Bambu, 2013


Mike and Doug Starn, Big Bambu, 2013

Our fist stop was Mike and Douglas’ Starn’s Big Bambu. Beautifully settled into the landscape this large-scale piece can only be fully experienced if it is climbed into and up onto. Built by a dedicated team and local helpers, the piece does not follow any rules, it is worked out as it is constructed fully out of bamboo poles and hundreds of knots of brightly coloured rope – an organic and instinctive process, following the notion of chance and chaos. A rickety but solid pathway leads upwards, the reward at reaching the top platform modeled after a large fishing boat protruding above the crowns of the bowing bamboo forest is a breathtaking view of the neighbouring islands. Big Bambu is one of the temporary pieces and will only be accessible until September 22nd, after which it will only be able to viewed from the outside.


Janett Cardiff & George Bures Miller, Storm House, 2010


Janett Cardiff & George Bures Miller, Storm House, 2010

Whereas the Starn’s lead us to great heights and a birds-eye view, Janett Cardiff & George Bures Milller’s “Storm House” takes us on a journey into the interior of an old house. It the semi-darkness we experience the amazingly authentic experience of the assault of a tremendous thunderstorm. As the rain pounds on the window panes and the tatami mats tremble under the impact of the thunder, lightning flashes lead us to believe we are isolated in a remote place where the exposure to the elements is a vital component of daily life, and the shelter of a home takes on a deeper meaning.






“Les Archives de Coeur” by Christian Boltanski takes us inside our own being. Situated in a small wooden pavillion on the seaside, overseeing a peaceful bay inviting for a stroll along the beach contains three different rooms; a listening room for heartbeats that have been recorded all over the world since 2008. In an installation room, random samples of the heartbeats can be heard. In the third room, visitors are invited to record their own heartbeat. Since its installation in 2010, over 15’500 individuals’ heartbeats have been added to this archive by visitors on Teshima, leaving an invisible but audible trace on the island that points to the fragility of human existence. Today, four more were added by members of our group.

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Ryue Nishizawa, Teshima Art Museum, 2010


22Art museum

Ryue Nishizawa, Teshima Art Museum, 2010

Rei Naito, Matrix, 2010

Clearly the highlight of the tour is the Teshima Art Museum. A misleading name, as it is not a museum as such, but a collaborative project by architect Ryue Nishizawa and artist Rei Naito. Embedded in the undulating landscape and nearby green and carefully restored rice paddies, this bright white concrete structure in the shape of a teardrop with two large circular openings revealing the sky emanates an unparalleled serenity and peacefulness. Following a winding path overlooking the sea below, we enter its hollow belly of Naito’s “Matrix”, a mesmerizing space that at once captures one’s full attention and creates an atmosphere of commanding calmness. Voices are hushed, people huddle in silent groups observing the spring water – reminiscent of the former acclaimed purity of Teshima’s water – rising from the floor that takes on random forms, gathers and divides and runs in unexpected lines across the almost unperceptibly slanted plane. Others search solitude, walking the space, sitting or lying on the floor, simply absorbing the positive energy.

Tobias Rehberger, Il Vento Cafe


Tobias Rehberger, Il Vento Cafe

As all members of our group unequivocally agreed, this work was a moving and unforgettable experience and in itself a well worthwhile reason for visiting Teshima. Mark your calendars, the next Setouchi Triennale will take place in 2016! check out more here !


Tobias Rehberger, Il Vento Cafe

Annette & Rob

Day 7

Soon leaving for Takamatsu (Japan)


Rachel & Joo Young

Thank you so much Rachel & Joo Young.
You did a great job!

Day 6

For the sake of peace? The Real DMZ Project

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Fasten your seatbelts, one of the first guidelines provided by the leading Korean curator and artist Sunjung Kim, as an international art crowd embarks on a one-day bus tour to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a liminal territory “between military paranoia and everyday life“ that separates North from South Korea.

The DMZ has been established in 1953 as part of the ceasefire agreement between the two conflicting republics, supervised by the United Nations. This buffer zone consists of a four-kilometer wide, green barrier, crossing the land along its actual demarcation line.

This territory, however, appears to be riddled with paradoxes and myths. As one of the most heavily militarized border zones in the world, it has by now become an idyllic refuge for rare fauna and flora like cranes, Mongolian oaks or Korean tigers. While it is a still surviving sample of the cold war rhetoric, it has turned into the biggest tourist attraction of South Korea. So, apart from the bus driver’s self-assertive driving skills, the seatbelts could certainly not protect us against everything else that was still to follow that day.


Guest curator Nikolaus Hirsch in the residency of Adrián Villar Rojas

It is in this no man’s land, or at least in its close proximity, that Sunjung Kim launched the DMZ Project three years ago. Where in the past, organised visits to the area had a distinct anti-communist and educational intent, you can now experience its surreal character through contemporary art interventions and installations. Together with German curator and architect Nikolaus Hirsch, this year’s project has been set up to “investigate the paradoxical conditions of conflict, while imagining a new alternative reality for the Demilitarized Zone“.

Our imagination for that matter already got triggered during the bus trip, while our guide was trying to trigger our minds into a meditative state. Just relax, close your eyes, and take a deep, deep breath. Ingo Niermann’s textual and performative contribution to the project envisioned a de-mechanized utopia where no mechanics or electronics were allowed, a common ground where people from different descents could encounter each other. An improbable, yet possible situation challenging the current status quo in the region.


View of the DMZ from the bus.

Also included in the Real DMZ Project is a large number of artists working with acoustic and performative formats, as well as a lecture program, intended to counteract the profusion of visual impulses that is there already. An impressive performance of this surreal, ghostly mood was delivered by the South Korean avant-garde cellist Okkyung Lee in an old, destroyed mill. The farming village Yangji-ri, founded in the seventies as a propaganda village near the border, is since this year being used by the DMZ Project for an artist residency program, inviting artists Adrián Villar Rojas, Ingo Niermann, John Skoog and Joohyun Kim to develop a site-specific work. Seeing their eventual output nonetheless left us with a lot of questions regarding the actual engagement with the local community, even though the whole project might be all the more about raising historical and political awareness of the region’s problematic state of affairs, both locally and internationally.

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Performance by Okkyung Lee

There are some qualitative works on show at different venues, with an honorable mention for Mark Lewis and Dinh Q. Lê, who made fascinating video pieces that reflect on the sociopolitical tensions within the region. For the peace observatory, which offers a stunning panorama, Tomás Saraceno was commissioned.


Tomás Saraceno, DOF (Degrees Of Freedom), installation at the Peace observatory.

to create a new work. After an initial state of perplexity and uncertainty, he decided to replicate the touristic binoculars all while changing their rotation angle to 360 degrees, thus creating an omnidirectional viewpoint.

But what could this contemporary artworks possibly achieve? “It will certainly not lead to a dramatic political change in Korea,” says Nikolaus Hirsch. Right. So after a three-hours drive you will find yourself again in the bustling streets of Seoul – as if nothing ever has happened.


Nicola & Pieter

Day 5

ACC / Asian Culture Complex – Guided tour
This morning, after queuing for coffee, cappuccino, flat white and green tea frappuccino, we had a guided tour (with very nice helmets) of the Hub City of Asian Culture Complex with Claudia Pestana, a Portuguese curator working for the Asian Culture Information Agency in Gwangju, one of the five agencies which will move to the ACC complex before its opening in September 2015 (see report about the Asian Arts Theatre on Thursday 4th September).


The complex is not only huge, it’s gigantic! The lot is 128,621 m’ in size, with a total floor space of 178,199 m’ and an estimated total cost of $680 million from Korea’s national government. The site resembles a basket sunk in light as a metaphore for Gwangju, the city of light. The concept of the architectural project revolves around the notion of flow through different buildings, each hosting one of the agencies entitled for the production, presentation, dissemination and archiving of Asian art and culture.


Vue of the Asian Culture Complex

Please allow me to quote from the ACC website:
The Asian Culture Complex will be the main facility of Gwangju as Hub City of Asian Culture. It is planned to be constructed on and around the site of the former Office of Jeollanamdo Province which is a historically important area in this city known for its spirit of democracy, human rights and peace. The location also serves as a bustling center for the people of Gwangju. The ACC will be designed and built based on the idea that it is to represent the following three concepts: a landmark of the HCAC, a symbolic edifice reflecting the spirit of Gwangju, and a venue for daily enjoyment of culture for the general public.

The complex will host the Asian Culture Information Agency with a library, collection and archive rooms, projection rooms, reading rooms, seminar rooms and all the facilities required for a public international cultural venue. The information centre will also organise study programmes, publications and academic research projects linked to universities in Korea. As mentioned earlier, the complex will also host the Asian Arts Theater with several venues for performing arts and exhibition spaces for visual arts.

L1001096 - Version 3

Work in progress

Gwangju Hub City of Asian Culture
By Lissa Kinnaer




Gwangju Biennial
The fifth and sixth day of the program brought us to Gwangju, a historically loaded city in Korea. In May 1980 peaceful demonstrations took place in Gwanju against the newly installed military government but the demonstrations were brutally suppressed by military forces. This resulted into the Gwangju Massacre, hundreds of civilians being killed. The Gwangju biennial, our main focus on this particular trip, definitely refers to this historical moment in time. ‘Burn the house down’, curated by Jessica Morgan, the title taken from a Talking Heads song, which much to our amusement was danced on by a dance group during the opening ceremony. This ceremony had spectacle written all over the place. The presence of a famous Korean actor turned some of the younger visitors into ecstasy, fireworks and the artist Lee Bul performing an aerial dance titled ‘abortion’ hanging from a crane. Something we did not realize at the moment, as it seems to fit the high level of showy elements perfectly.





The tenth Gwangju biennial reflects on a spiral of violent or symbolic events of destruction or self-destruction- setting fire to the home one occupies- fallowed by the promise of the new and the hope for change. I read in the catalogue, which gets illustrated in the first gallery by art works dealing very literally with the element of fire, enhanced even more by a wall paper through out the exhibition space made by El ultimo grito a multidisciplinary design studio. The pixelated image of smoke on the wall intervenes in each space.


Entrance hall

Wall paper detail

Wall paper detail


Fortunately the biennial seems to develop in the next spaces, ramps and outdoor installations into more thematically divers layers.

For instance Minouk Lim, a South Korean artist directly reacted to the theme of the biennial. His work ‘NavigationID(2014), are two containers installed in the public square in front of the main entrance. The containers held the remains that have been carefully gathered by relatives of Massacre victims of Korean War in attempt to bring recognition and respectful burial. At the opening, the container and a bus were carrying the families of deceased, escorted by a helicopter and an ambulance.


Minouk Lim, NavigationID (2014)


We were wondering why two containers were surrounded with old Koreans performing a ritual but we neglected it and walked in the entrance hall. The documentation film of the work installed at the entrance confronts us with the quite heavy context and give us quit an intense welcome to the biennial.


Season of change(1968), Yamashita Kikuji

A noticeable element in the biennial was the presence of a severe amount of painters. Either politically related or more on an individual personal conflict focus.One of the more politically related paintings was Season of change(1968), a surrealistic painting that depict anxious in continuation of US military involvement in east Asia and the Japanese who profited from collaboration with the US. The painting was drawn by a Japanese painter, Yamashita Kikuji who was involved in the Japanese art movement led by socially committed artists, in a style combining social realism and surrealism.

This painting reminds me of the Japanese conceptual artist On Kawara who recently passed away, who had an extremely minimalistic practice. There is a fact that such an opposition artist also made similar style of drawings in the 50’ in Japan, which makes me imagine the size of uneasiness of the society in the time.


Brigit Jurgenssen, Housewife drawings


Brigit Jurgenssen, Housewife drawings


Artist group Dung-Ji, From the series Mother as a Laborer 1989


Tetsuya Ishida, Recalled,1998

Towards the exit, I met a strange women saying hello in Korean and offering me a hand shake. It was weird as she smiled intimately in the middle of public space. Of course I accepted to shake hands but then I needed to walk through between two lines of approximately 30 strangers by doing the same with all. This performative interaction was created by the duo artists Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, titled ‘Temperament and the Wolf(2014)’.


Somehow this work was a nice ending of the tour as the transmission of the messages between the physical contacts brought a sensibility of hesitation but aiming for harmony. Official website of Gwangju Biennial

Rumiko and Juliette