The 6th Nakanojo Biennale ran from September 9, 2017 to October 9, 2017. This year was a full, multidisciplinary schedule which hosted a range of domestic and international artists. The biennale showcased new, and often site responsive works in mediums of: installations, performance, video, drawing, and painting among others. Director Tetsuo Yamashige ambitiously welcomed over one hundred-sixty individual artists as well as artist groups in this one month time frame. He recognizes the institutional and systematic navigation that most artists need to deal with in regards to traditional gallery structures, art fairs, and museums, among others. He does not criticize these structures but rather saw issues with access to space, time and resources because of the amount of artists that seek exposure for their current ideas. Realization of the Nakanojo Biennale twelve years ago to date was the result of a desire to offer an alternative platform for artists to cultivate and present their works.
Yamashige’s objectives for the Nakanojo Biennale this year were multifaceted. He wanted the Biennale structure to include an in residence period before the start of the arts programming in order to give artists the time and space required to make new works, to develop connections, and to begin to form a relationship to the place in which the work would be realized. It is believed that from this place of communal exchange that true meaning can develop, take form, and be shared. This year, the exchanges were in the forms of artist groups traveling over from various global locations. Their projects manifested in group or solo realizations. The thematics of the artist exchange this year were variant: ‘Osmosis’ (Poland), ‘Distant Relatives’ (Bulgaria), ‘Na & Na’ (Thailand), ‘Interwoven’ (China), ‘Neither Black, Nor White’ (Israel). Hopes that local culture will continue to be shared and passed down as a result of this biennale are clear.
Because an additional core concern is cultural exchange, Yamashige contemplated the rich impact that art could have on a community such as Nakanojo. Today the town stands as a model for what is possible through the power of human connections. Additional events that happened alongside the arts programming were: community based workshops, opening and closing receptions, and a market, among others. Yamashige believes that unique cultural locations such as the town of Nakanojo cannot always be comprehensible unless it is able to viewed by the locals through the exchange artists traveling to the location. In this way, perspectives and experiences are shared which result in close relationships founded on appreciation of art, culture, and open-mindedness.
The location of the town of Nakanojo is within the prefecture of Gunma. This area is particularly known for premium onsens, and natural beauty as seen in the rural, and seemingly timeless space sparsely covered with older wooden homes and notably warm people. Over the last decade due to the biennale, artists have settled and made Nakanojo their home. The artists invited to participate in the Biennale were also asked to spend time in residence in the mountain villages of Nakanojo. The purpose was to develop deep connections to other participating artists through exchange of ideas, among others. The opening ceremony of the Biennale is a local collaboration, which includes children and adults, and forms of Gakudan (traditional orchestra) and Kagura (sacred dance), among others. Artists are invited to collaborate in these productions which makes for shared inspiration and immediate connections.
Impactful works presented this year includes Kyoko Fujiwara, an artist based in Tokyo. She is interested in fabrication of installations through working with the materials iron and glass. She addresses the boundaries inherently created through the realization of these works as they are evocative of barriers, impracticality, and even impossibile function, among others. Additional concerns is the tension between the fragility and strength of the material combinations. Her work Figment was a series of exposed glass sheets, affixed into the larger skeletal structure comprised of an iron framework. The entirety of the room was taken up by the installation; the glass sheets formed steps which undulated between an ascending and descending flow. The looped, circular pattern of the installation was the key to understanding that the structure was inspired by a musical scale.
Arthur Huang, currently living and working in Tokyo, brought Daily Drawings Network (2017) to the Nakanojo Biennale this year. His intricate installation was built off concepts of systems and interconnections. The drawings themselves, delicate in their formation, are evocative of transportation maps, distance tracking devices, and cellular models, among others. In addition to his arts practice, Huang works at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute Research Center. In the past, Huang has created walking maps of his personal distances traveled over time, which were methodically applied to the exterior of eggshells. The fragile, delicate, and considered nature that Huang applies to his works, as evidenced in ‘Daily Drawings Network’ is compelling. He provokes and leaves the viewer with a question as to what their own self constructed patternings may look like. Perhaps it would take on the form of self constructed constellations?
For more information, including forthcoming documentation of the 6th Nakanojo Biennale artist projects, an extended statement of intent from Director Tetsuo Yamashige, among others, please visit: http://nakanojo-biennale.com/english
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