Setouchi Island Visit, Japan

Neon’s Adrienne Hart travelled to the Setouchi region of Japan in early February 2019. As a participating artist of Setouchi Art Triennale, she visited several islands in the Seto inland sea to find a site for ‘Puzzle Creature’, which will be performed as one of the many artworks during Setouchi Art Triennale’s Autumn season…

Teshima Island

Teshima Island

After a much needed post flight sleep, I took a boat with Hiroki Ohishi (Art Front Gallery) and Momoyo Homma (Reversible Destiny Foundation) from Takamutsu Port to Honjima island. We hired bikes and at first came across more cats than people! A friendly elder pointed out artworks and when informed that I was a visiting artist participating in Setouchi Art Triennale she requested ‘something spectacular’. The permanent Setouchi artworks on the island echo Honjima’s maritime heritage and we came across a beautifully preserved port town that was once a center of trade and shipbuilding during the Edo Period (1600-1867). 

Our next stop after a lunch of soba noodles was Takamijima island. Takamijima is suffering from severe depopulation and has less than 30 inhabitants. We came across two fisherman gathering their octopus pots and climbed empty cobblestone-walled paths to a former school. 

The next day we took a boat to Teshima island, home to Teshima Art Museum and permanent sound installation Les Archives du Coeur ("Heart Archives") by Christian Boltanski. Our hearts skipped a beat or two on encountering a wild boar and a short car ride to Shima Kitchen took in spectacular views. Monthly birthday parties are organised by Art Setouchi for the island people in the restaurant, which aims to connect people through ‘food and art’. Spending time on this magical island you would never have guessed that it suffered from illegal industrial waste dumping. After a court ruled in favour of the islanders in 1996, Teshima is very much a reversible destiny story! 

More about Setouchi Art Triennale.