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Now, Echigo-Tsumari, nestled in rich natural surroundings, is at a turning point in its cultural history. This gives us an opportunity to think about the global environment and revise the modern paradigm. Our theme is "human beings are a part of nature". The Echigo-Tsumari region is developing, with the aim to become a model community that can demonstrate the possibilities for relations between people and nature.
Satoyama and Art
At each ETAT to date, a large number of works were scattered over a wide area - on mountains, in and around rivers and terraced paddy fields and in traditional villages. In contrast to today's obsession with rationalization and efficiency, which would have concentrated these works in one place, ETAT has scattered the works across 200 locations in a blithely inefficient - yet effective - way. Visitors liberate their bodies and senses and feel the life of the community while viewing works of art that highlight the beauty and richness of the rustic nature of satoyama and acknowledge the centuries-old human interaction with the land.
Art Creation in Someone else's Land
Art has the ability to connect people to people, and people to place. In creating a work in Echigo Tsumari, an artist is obliged to communicate with others. The effort and enthusiasm of the artists, who are creating art on someone else's land, has moved and involved the local residents. Thus they too were committed to the work - not as "the audience" but as collaborators. The artist's piece became one that was created and shared by the residents.
Revitalizing local objects and skills
ETAT has always worked to utilize existing objects. "Existing objects" could be villages in mountains, rivers, terraced rice fields, folk dwellings, or schools. The Triennial has also utilized regional skills and vocations. With the assistance of artists, designers, architects and experts, we create new values from these objects and skills and make them into regional assets.
Culture Created from Everyday Life
Since the Meiji Period, until recently, art in Japan has been defined in the narrow framework of Japanese and Western painting, music and sculpture. In this concept of art, aspects of our lives such as street performance, festivals, food, clothes, houses, gardens and plants, which should be recognized as art, were overlooked. ETAT will deploy various projects as "art" regardless of their genre so that art can be in its original form, as part of our everyday lives.
Site Specific Art Works
People can rediscover the value of a location through art. Art works to be created in the ETAT need to be "site specific". Visitors have been drawn to the "region" and rediscovered it through art. Site specific art works harmonize with their location and attract people to that location. Landscapes, life as well as the traces of life that had existed in the region for centuries, were represented through such art works. The collection of such art works has given a depth to the "region" that was only vaguely recognized before. Local residents often cannot see the potential of their land. Art helps them to restore pride in their land and region.
Embodiment of Time
Christian Boltanski used the now-closed Higashikawa Elementary School for the installation site of his art works during the second ETAT. The school classrooms were covered with various objects such as the school's guest slippers, used clothes and dry flowers. Visitors who visited the site had a sense of deja vu upon entrance - as though they had seen and heard children playing and singing. Artists had embodied the life and the time that were once part of the village life. Their works of art brought back the memories of people who used to live there. ETAT uses art to embody the time that had existed in the village over centuries, and by doing that, values the "time" people have spent there.
Collaboration Transcending Regions, Generations and Genre
Numerous young volunteers from cities have participated in ETAT. They called themselves "Kohebi-Tai (A Group of Small Snakes)" and have involved themselves in various activities as volunteers - creating art works, working in rice paddies, snow clearing and helping local residents in the aftermath of the Great Chuetsu Earthquake in 2004. Students and artists from cities have come together with elderly people who have been farming all their lives in this depopulating region. This encounter changed their relationship from one of conflict and puzzlement to one of understanding and collaboration. The Echigo-Tsumari region has been opened up by art and young people. What was discovered through this process of collaboration was that for the supporters living in cities, Echigo-Tsumari is a precious place for building hope. Others have now also started to involve themselves in making a "new homeland" in Echigo-Tsumari.
The advancement of civilization has led to the frequent movement of people, capital and information across borders, which has had a significant impact on the national framework. This has increased the importance of regional communities as a base for people to live.
The twenty first century will be the century for regional communities. Echigo-Tsumari recognized the shift in the modern paradigm ten years ago and has developed regional communities based on this idea. The development of regional communities has been an attempt to establish diversified values by finding the potential of regions. It contrasts to the modern values which are equated in only monetary terms. The very regions that have been lagging behind and have not been able to catch up with "modernization" are the ones that have the potential to offer these values. In the context of this global trend, other communities such as the Setouchi region, Kamikatu Town, Kamikoani Village, Okura Village and Niigata City are using the Echigo-Tsumari as a regional development model. By connecting regions, Echigo-Tsumari will become a twenty first century model as a regional development centre through culture and art.
Artists from various different cultures have participated in ETAT and it has been widely acclaimed as an international art festival with the participation of artists from 32 countries for the first Triennial, 23 countries for the second and 45 countries for the third Triennial. Art and collaborations through art has enabled communication between artists and local residents who do not share the same language. The works of artists have reflected the world all over the region. Artists from thirty eight different countries will participate in the fourth ETAT and cooperation and there will be collaborations with Asialink Australia, Hong Kong Arts Centre, China Academy of Art and the city of Nantes in France. Artists will settle in the region and discover the uniqueness of the land as well as foster a global perspective.
Collaboration with Universities
Universities and professional schools now involve themselves in the region as places of learning. Kyoto Seika University will have access to the old Karekimata Elementary School for their activities. Tokyo University of the Arts will utilize the old Senda Elementary School with other universities such as Tama Art University, Tokyo University and Osaka University. Tokyo College of Photography and Nihon University College of Art will base their activities in abandoned houses. Many other universities and seminars will participate in events and work towards the establishment of regional communities through exchanges and collaborations between students and local settlements.
Echigo-Tsumari Art Field
Over the past several years, we have been working on the regeneration of the Echigo-Tsumari region. Instead of making the region simply a place for holding art events triennially, we are trying to transform it into a place where residents and people from outside the region can work vigorously though the utilization of the existing art works and establishments and welcome people to the region throughout the year. Our goal is to make Echigo-Tsumari a home of culture and art that attracts people around the world to help assist the development of a regional identity by calling the region "Echigo-Tsumari Art Field".
NPO Organization: Echigo-Tsumari Satoyama Collaborative Organization
A NPO organization called Echigo Tsumari Satoyama Collaborative Organization was established in July 2008 to help assist with the development of a regional identity and the self-reliance of the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial. The organization will provide solutions to various issues underlying in the regional community through activities such as utilization of abandoned houses and closed schools, revitalization of deserted land and creation of increased employment opportunities. The organization is made up of community residents and supporters who live outside of the region. Their activities are based on the following three concepts - the ETAT, the Home for ETAT and the development of communities through culture and art. For the Echigo-Tsumari Art Field, the organization will take the six months of snow season into consideration and try to make the region to be the place where people around the world can come together even during winter.
26 July - 13 Sept. 2009