Preparations for the Setouchi Triennale on Shamijima

 

For this second part of my series on the Setouchi Triennale 2013 preparations, I’m bringing you to Shamijima.

Actually, while I had seen and been intrigued by Shamijima during one of my very first days in Japan four years ago, last Monday was my very first visit of this island that is not exactly one as you can reach it without a boat, but simply with your car, bike, feet. Indeed, this very tiny island off the coast of Sakaide, ended up being attached to Shikoku a few decades ago, when the area was intensely developed with the building of the Great Seto Bridge and a large part of Sakaide’s coast was heavily industrialized and expanded with a lot of land reclamation that reached Shamijima, thus making it a part of Shikoku. However, if it’s not actually an island anymore, it has kept its Seto island calm and charming atmosphere. And while the aesthetics of the place has taken a hit by this major change, it’s not all bad, as the island hasn’t really suffer from depopulation as it is now simply a – somewhat isolated – neighborhood of Sakaide that is just one commute away, and if it was not for the ugly landscape looking east, it would even be the perfect place to live in Sakaide, as it still feels like a quiet island, but you can drive to and there the city that is just a few minutes away. I even saw a few houses that have recently been built there, a rarity on any island of the area.

But for once we were not there to explore the island (this will be for another day) but to get acquainted with the Setouchi Triennale art that will be available for viewing there in just two weeks.

By the way, for this mini-trip, “we” were Cathy Hirano (who’s now in charge of a good part of the English communication of the Setouchi Triennale, namely the News section of the official site and the English Facebook page), 康代, 華 and I.

As soon as we got out of the car, we stumbled upon a strangely familiar form, I mean Stratums, the artificial hill that Tanya Preminger is building. Of all the interviews that I have led so far – I haven’t published all of them yet – Ms Preminger is the first one whose art I see on site. It was even more fascinating for that reason; seeing the real thing after seeing the conceptual rendering.

Of course, the work is not finished yet and the construction site was full of activity when we got there:

 

Shamijima - Stratums Preview - 1

 

Shamijima - Stratums Preview - 2

 

As we got nearer, I wondered whether Tanya Preminger would be on site, or whether she’d overview the thing from a distance. I had an answer to that question very quickly when looking towards the top of the small artificial hill:

 

 

Not only she was literally on site, but she also was the one who worked the hardest. When we asked to the Koebi-tai volunteer who welcomed us when would be a good time to come back to be able to talk with her when she’d be less busy, he just yelled and called her to come down the hill. He told us that it would be a good way to have her make a pause as she had been working non-stop for hours and could continue for as long if nobody made her pause.

So, she came down the hill and welcomed us and talked with us a little. She seemed to be an incredibly happy person, with a delightful childlike enthusiasm, which made sense as she was right in the middle of doing what she most likely likes most on earth.

I know that every artist has their own way of working, their own availability and more, but I’m always a bit disappointed when I learn that an artist (generally speaking, not just for the Triennale) has only designed the blueprints for the artwork and didn’t actually built it themselves, sometimes didn’t even go on-site. I have to admit that with such a large scale work, I was half expecting that. So, you can imagine my surprise (and the smaile on my face) when I realized that this person on top of the small hill was Ms Preminger indeed.

Another amusing anecdote: as we were talking about the work, we asked if it was ok to take pictures. The Koebi-tai volunteered showed us then the conceptual rendering in the tent/office in front of which we were talking. Tanya Preminger stopped them and said that the best (and only?) way to take those pictures would be with our feet in the dirt and on the work itself.

So here they are:

 

 

We didn’t talk much longer, the artist was anxious to return working, but even if she was very busy, it was not as much because we were disturbing her rather than because she was really having a lot of fun on her earth mound shoveling and giving directions to the giant digger that was way closer to her than I’d feel comfortable (but I guess she’s used to it as a digger is one of her main tools).

Thank you again Ms Preminger for this warm welcome and this fun moment.

I can’t wait to see the finished work.

 

After eating udon in Sakaide for lunch (one of the advantages of having an island that is not an island), our next stop was Shamijima’s former school (even if the island is not too touched by island exodus, it still has too deal with aging population like anywhere else in the country, so schools tend to close more than open these days). Several artists from Kobe Design University have made their quarters there.

We first entered a classroom that will host SHIRO by Kentaro Hayashi.

Three men were busy with the upcoming installation. The room has been completely painted white, and the installation will mostly be a projected video on the wall and blackboard (now white too). When we arrived, they were testing it and adjusting it on site for the first time. If they were very nice, they were not very talkative and I’m not even sure if Mr. Hayashi was one of the three men or not. They still gave us a preview of the installation, which I suspect will be very beautiful and poetic:

 

 

Shamijima - Kobe Design University Project Preview - 1

 

Our next two encounters in the school were two men who were so busy they barely lifted their heads and didn’t say more than letting us in. Who were they? What were they doing? No idea.

 

Shamijima - Kobe Design University Project Preview - 4
Too busy for a chat.

 

Another artwork in the school will be From a Nameless Island by Mitsuo Toyazaki. For this piece, they school’s main corridor has become orange and blue and will include floating pieces of Styrofoam:

 

Shamijima - Kobe Design University Project Preview - 6

 

 

Hana walks around
And as the weather was almost springlike, 華 used the occasion to practice walking a little. She’s starting to get the whole thing.

 

White gorilla on Shamijima
As often with the Setouchi islands, it’s not uncommon to make peculiar encounters.

 

Next, we headed towards Shamijima’s west beach where Kobe Design University, under the direction of Tetsuro Fujiyama + Tomii Architect & Associates was putting the finishing touches to a “Umi no Ie“, a “beach house”, buildings that are often found on Japanese beaches and where one can rest, eat, drink, etc. In the house will be served various things including the Island Soup, which is being designed by EAT & ART TARO with the assistance of people from Shamijima, Honjima and Ibukijima, using only food from those three islands (and it will of course be served on the three of them).

 

 

More artworks will soon be installed on the beach, including the one I’m going to show you in a few lines.

But before that, we ran into a small crew (two people) from a local channel who was doing pretty much the same thing as we were:

 

 

With all that, I realize that I haven’t really taken many pictures of the island itself. Here are a few of them though:

 

Shrine on Shamijima

 

Daffodils on  Shamijima
The daffodils are in bloom. If that’s not a sign of the end of winter, I don’t know what is.

 

 

Shamijima North Beach
Shamijima’s North Beach

 

Cove on Shamijima
This small cove is probably the most beautiful beach I have seen in Japan so far. Unfortunately the view from it is not as dreamy, as it’s the Great Bridge of Seto and the Sakaide Industrial Port.

 

Finally, we met with Yasuaki Igarashi who showed us the preparations for his work Sora-Ami: Knitting the Sky that will soon be installed on the west beach, near the “beach house”. Her friend (significant other?) and he were very welcoming and nice too. Once again, we would have liked to spend more time with them, but once again, everyone was very busy.

One important thing if you come to the Setouchi Triennale (or should I say “when you come”), you will most likely come for the art, but what makes the festival exceptional, are the islands themselves and more important, the people on these islands, whether it is the artists or the locals (even though not all the artists can afford to stay on site for very long during the festival itself).

Oh and don’t be surprised by the folded futons in the following pictures, the room where Yasuaki welcomed us is his working place during the day, but it’s also his lodging at night. 🙂

 

 

And with those colorful nets I concluded this rather long post (thank you if you’ve read to this point).

Honestly, I didn’t expect a lot from Shamijima and I was gladly surprised all day long, and now I’m really looking forward to returning to the island after the opening of the Festival (in 9 days!)

 

Coming up next: unfortunately, I didn’t go anywhere this past week-end (I had to work yesterday 🙁 ) but next week-end I hope to be going both to Ogijima (and hopefully meet Arthur Huang) and Shōdoshima (and hopefully meet James Jack). Let’s hope I managed to do both.

Stay tuned…

 

 

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