Art for art’s sake. So the saying goes. Why can’t art be for the community’s sake, and yet still be art?

Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale shows that it can be. The world’s largest art festival by total area, this fifth incarnation since its launch in 2000 extends art even deeper than community. In rural, mountainous Niigata, community depends much more closely on nature. Here, art that doesn’t work with its natural surroundings doesn’t work with its community.

The Echigo-Tsumari Art Field encompasses 760 square kilometers of land, which essentially frames roughly 160 pieces of art by Japanese and international artists. The artists represent a range of disciplines, from sculpture and architecture to painting and performance. All artists must work with pre-existing buildings or land features. Their endeavors require ingenuity in addition to artistic skill. Many of the projects also require considerable time until completion.

The ultimate result transcends mere beautification of the surroundings. Visitors, likewise, experience more than simple inspiration and stimulation. This festival revitalizes the area. It makes living more comfortable. It heals. The works of art reveal new ways that we can not only coexist with nature, but also enhance each other. Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale is basically a roadmap for a world developing too quickly.

Most of the art projects are large-scale and involve the construction of something, whether a sculpture, outdoor structure with interactive capabilities, or a building with some kind of practical utility. Several of the projects require renovating or repurposing older buildings, and are works in progress. One such project, entitled “Deai” (fateful encounter), envisions the creation of a “community house” where architecture, art, traditional crafts and of course the community come together.

Live-painting duo Gravity Free and kindred artist Bubb are undertaking the project with corporate sponsorship from Keen. Not due for completion for some time, Deai makes uses of an empty house that would have probably fallen into disuse in the rural settlement it occupies. The trio plans to give it a new beginning by overhauling its exterior appearance and renovating its interior to make it suitable for exhibitions, workshops, meetings, banquets and other mixed uses. The second floor will have a rest area that also sells traditional handcrafted goods from the area, such as straw sandals.

That woven pattern of straw has become a motif for the painters, and the tessellating diamonds will adorn both the exterior and interior. By 2015, they hope to complete an adjoining garden and open-air bath.

What the Deai house really needs, though, is people. Keen will likely host events there that interact closely with the seasons. And through Gravity Free and Bubb’s widespread connections, many artists will no doubt seek to use the space in creative new ways, drawing additional guests.

A community already exists in the little hamlet. Through art, it’s about to get stronger. If Japan ever needed an answer to rural towns in decline, this is it.


大地の芸術祭 越後妻有アートトリエンナーレがそれを証明して見せてくれる。世界最大規模の国際芸術祭である大地の芸術祭は2000年に初めて開催され、3年に1回開催されるトリエンナーレ形式をとりながら今年で5回目を迎え、これまでアートの世界を深く掘り下げてきた。特にこの新潟の山間部ではコミュニティーと自然の関わりは密接で、ここでは自然環境と共存できない芸術はコミュニティーとも共存できない。




「DEAI」を手掛けるのはライブペインティング・デュオのGravity FreeとアーティストのBubbの合計3人、そして企業スポンサーとしてKEENがこれに加わる。制作期限は設定していない「DEAI」プロジェクトは、しばらくの間空き家になっていた民家を利用し、外観をきれいに直し、屋内も手を加えて展示会、研修会、ミーティング、宴会、その他様々な用途に対応できるように改装する予定。2階には休憩スペースを設け、その傍らで草鞋(わらじ)など地元の手工芸品の販売も行なう。


しかし「DEAI」の中心となるこの民家が本当に必要としているのは人々が集まる場所としての機能。KEENは四季折々の季節感を出したイベントをこの民家で開催する計画を練っており、またGravity FreeとBubbが持つ幅広いコネクションを活かし、たくさんのアーティストたちがこのスペースを様々な形でクリエイティブに利用するようになれば自然と人が集まるスペースになってゆくだろう。


About Gravity Free

“8g” and “djow” have been doing live painting together for over ten years. Koe Magazine first featured them in issue #8, over two years ago. Our paths have crossed many times since then at music festivals all over Japan. Now their popularity and recognition is exploding. We recently spotted one of their murals in Wasserfall, a German beer bar in Shibuya, and they’ve even painted an advertisement for Kirin. Despite their commercial success, they’re still painting for community causes and small music events. We salute that spirit!

Gravity Free について


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