Past Setouchi Triennales


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2019.02.22 Restoration of the Sea ー Fram Kitagawa

Exploring Setouchi #36

The Setouchi Triennale is an international art festival with an unusual approach. Each island in the Seto Inland Sea where the festival takes place has its own unique personality. Artists capture features of a particular island’s topography, scenery or lifestyle and express these through art.
With each Triennale, the number of visitors from other countries has been increasing. When asked why they come, many say it’s because they want to see great contemporary art or to explore the islands. But when they leave and are asked what they enjoyed the most, they add to this list such things as talking with the islanders, tasting local food, and participating in traditional festivals.

Photo:Shintaro Miyawaki

Most people who come to the Triennale are urban dwellers. Cities are packed with stimulation and excitement. There’s so much to consume and so much information. This has its attractions, especially for young people. But before long, people realize that they are overloaded with information and are dancing to the market’s tune. Most of all, they are shocked to see that nothing there engages all their human senses to the full.

Photo:Shintaro Miyawaki

I think that most people who come to Setouchi want to experience the beauty of this natural setting and the way of life nestled within it; to bask in the flow of Setouchi time. Unlike art found in the world’s many cities, Triennale works are connected to the sea and are born and nurtured through local participation. How could they not be fascinating!
Long ago, our ancestors saw birds flying or fruit floating in the sea and assumed that there was land somewhere in the distance. They carved boats from tree trunks or tied logs together and paddled off into the sea to find out. Our ancestors, Homo sapiens who emerged from Africa over 200,000 years ago , scattered across the earth, driven by curiosity. Those that arrived safely on some distant shore built simple dwellings and planted the seeds they had brought with them.
Our ancestors were all sailors, fishermen, farmers and carpenters. The journey of the Setouchi Triennale is a journey to explore our own DNA. That, I believe, is what “restoration of the sea” means.