Theme of Sapporo International Art Festival 2017“How do we define ‘Art Festival’?”

The theme of the second Sapporo International Art Festival is, “How do we define ‘Art Festival’?”

What exactly is an art festival? This is a question that has stuck in my mind since I received the offer to become the guest director. What is art? What does it mean to hold a festival for it?

One of the activities that I have been heavily involved in since after the 2011 earthquake is creating a new festival that has never existed before. The festival I mean is not just providing a place to sing and dance – although yes, those are important – but more than that. The festival I am imagining is creating, with our own hands, an intense place where our view of the world will be drastically changed after being there. This time, elements such as art, international and Sapporo are also involved. So, what shall we do?

The more I thought about these things, the more I began to think that these questions were too good to keep to myself. This is a citizen participatory art festival, so there are as many answers as there are citizens, and I feel that there is no need for us to find only one answer. Instead of looking for specific answers or arguing about these questions, I think it is better to just get hands on, to create something with each other, and see what comes of it. If there are 100 people, then there are 100 ideas, and they don’t have to all face the same direction. Rather, by not facing the same direction, they react to one another, and create noise and something unpredictable. We must embrace the magnanimity to accept these results as richness, otherwise we cannot change the way we view the world.

This is an art festival that has just begun, with the vast northern land as its stage. Let’s create an inclusive and at times unconventional art festival that can only take place here, listening attentively, having eyes wide open, and absorbing with our senses, while still honoring and making use of the previous art festival model, and the things that the people of Sapporo and Hokkaido have made up to this point. Forget about what art is, what music is, and instead strive to create a new kind of art festival that says, “this is what Sapporo is!” I have a good feeling that I will be able to do that with the people here.

Otomo Yoshihide
Guest Director, Sapporo International Art Festival 2017

Sub-theme of the Sapporo International Art Festival 2007When Bits and Pieces Become Asterisms

It might seem rude to use the words “bits and pieces” (meaning junk) in the sub-theme. Actually, I think they are pieces of trash. Please excuse the choice of words, but I think this term is very important for the art festival in Sapporo.

When I received an offer from the Sapporo International Art Festival, Moerenuma Park first popped into my mind. The park is a legacy of the world-renowned artist Isamu Noguchi and a one-of-a-kind park representing his playground concept. This used to be a vast dumping site; a graveyard of junk. When Isamu Noguchi chose this site, he said, “I will use art to regenerate the ground damaged by humans. This is my work.” The construction of the park began in response to a request to create a park for Sapporo residents, and the Sapporo International Art Festival began with a minor civil movement. These two stories are linked with each other in my mind.

I thought that Isamu Noguchi’s Moerenuma Park should be a starting point, and this art festival should begin here with my work placed here. It should begin with placing portable record players, which were once used by everyone for listening to music but then dumped, in Moerenuma Park, a place previously used as a dumping site. This is a means to trace back to Isamu Noguchi’s concept of regeneration in my own way. I also thought that the question of “how do we define an art festival?” would help involve many people in the work, leading to collaboration to create an art festival unique to Sapporo. In this way, I determined a direction for this art festival.

In Sapporo Art Park, which is located on the other side of downtown Sapporo from Moerenuma Park, Christian Marclay, who greatly affected me when I was in my twenties, and other artists who are born between music and fine art will exhibit their creations. Their creativity gives new life to pieces of junk and abandoned/neglected things. This seems to act in concert with the regeneration mentioned by Isamu Noguchi. So, it may be a good idea to place a useless robot made from pieces of junk by Nam June Paik in Moerenuma Park. Pulling pieces of junk out of the basement may also be good. A bunch of ideas kept coming up.

Downtown Sapporo is located at the center point between Moerenuma Park and Art Park. We have sought cooperation from many residents to use various places that are not originally exhibition sites in the city center as art stages.

I got a hint from Retro Space Saka Hall, a museum that has been independently operated for a long time. The director of the Saka Hall adds a glow to things that have been abandoned and thought less important. I found the sense of regeneration mentioned by Isamu Noguchi in these things. Various works will be showcased in the downtown area. They include not only pieces that fall between music and fine art, but also all things that could be categorized somewhere between art and life, such as TVs, streetcars, specters and food, as well as ordinary designs, folklore and science. These represent today’s Sapporo, Hokkaido and the world we live. Like those in Moerenuma Park, these pieces of work will help us to face the things we have dumped and to find the future.

It is impossible to look around the venues in this art festival in one day. The fact is, it takes a whole day to look around only Moerenuma Park, and the distance between Moerenuma and Art Park is 25 km. This vast area is dotted with many pieces of work that fall between music and fine art or between art and life, like stardust. Individual pieces of work are all different, but it seems to me that they are in concert with each other. They are all pieces of work created from junk, trash and unnoticeable and abandoned things.

A single artist can create only a single piece of stardust. If these pieces of stardust connect together to form an asterism, however, you will witness the regeneration mentioned by Isamu Noguchi. I believe it is the viewers, not the artists, who can perceive such asterisms. Do not give up because you cannot look around in one day. You may be able to see just stars by focusing on one venue. The same combinations of stars may have different shapes when viewed from different angles. Even a single star has a precious narrative of reconstruction behind it, and when more stars are joined, the overall image gains more depth. Such groups of stars may differ in size, and some viewers may still view them as bits and pieces. There are as many interpretations and narratives of reconstruction as there are viewers. This is what SIAF2017 is all about. Depict your own asterisms