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At the Setouchi International Symposium 2010 on the Inland Sea Rethinking Affluence Today

The Setouchi International Art Festival 2010, which was held from July 19 to October 31 on Naoshima Island, Kagawa Prefecture, and a number of islands in the Seto Inland Sea, recently closed after attracting many visitors and much attention. Mr. Soichiro Fukutake, chairman of Benesse Corporation served as general producer of this international art event which aims to be held every three years. Over 920,000 people visited the exhibition, far surpassing initial attendance projections of 300,000. For all those who were involved in this festivals, it was a grand success and I offer my congratulations.

Naoshima, the principal venue of the festival, is the site of two museums with collections of art work from Europe and the United States, including several works by Claude Monet, as well as the Art House Project and other artworks exhibited in the residential and natural environment. The Art House Project converts old, abandoned houses on the islands into the venues for contemporary art installations by artists both in Japan and abroad. I have been to Naoshima three or four times and have visited a number of these projects.

True to its name, this festival venues were spread throughout the Inland Sea. Ninety-eight works were exhibited not only at the principal venue of Naoshima, but also the surrounding islands of Teshima, Megijima, Ogijima, Shodoshima, Oshima, Inujima, and Uno and Takamatsu port. On this visit, the shapes and styles of contemporary art, set within quiet, remote towns or on hillsides, sometimes looked somewhat grotesque to me. The artworks, however, seemed to softly animate the sites and islands that had become emptied and opened the hearts and minds of people. This was a power that I had not experienced in Japanese-style or Western-style painting. It must have been the power of contemporary art.

During the three-month art festival, the Setouchi International Symposium 2010 was held for three days from August 6 to 8 on the theme "What is our true cultural affluence? Redefining civilization in the 21st century." As a project, it was organized to search for new possibilities and developments in the Setouchi Inland Sea region.

On Day 1 (Friday, August 6, 2010) a panel on the abovementioned main theme was held on Benesse House on Naoshima. On Day 2 (Saturday, August 7, 2010), working sessions on different themes were held on four islands. The Naoshima session focused on "Art Points the Way to the Region's Future"; the Inujima session on "From Satoumi to Multi-island Sea"; the Teshima session on "New, Prosperous Eating and Nutritious", "Lifestyle-Agriculture and Economy," and the Shodoshima session on "New Possibilities for Tourism in Shodoshima."

Day 3 (Sunday, August 8, 2010) was a general symposium that summed up the discussions of the previous two days with a report on the four sessions in the morning at the Kagawa International Conference Hall in Takamatsu city. This was followed by a general symposium in the afternoon.

I attended the symposium on all three days, and on Day 2, chose to attend the working session on Tejima Island. This month's Director's Message is a summary of my thoughts.

On Day 1 of the symposium on Naoshima Island, J. M. G. Le Clezio, French author and Nobel laureate was scheduled to give the keynote address titled "Culture Today" in the morning. Unfortunately, due to his health, he was not able to attend and gave the address in the form of a videotaped message from his home.

The Keynote Symposium panelists in the afternoon on "What is our true cultural affluence? A message from the islands of the Seto Inland Sea to the world" consisted of Yoichi Funabashi (Asahi Shimbun, editor-in-chief), moderator; Harold James (Professor, Princeton University); Nayan Chanda (Journalist; Director of Publications at the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization); Hiroshi Shimizu (Scientist; Prof. Emeritus of Tokyo University); and Shinichi Nakazawa (Professor, Tama Art University).

Based on the address and discussions on Day 1, I felt that while we had certainly attained material affluence, we had also lost an inner richness. What we have is not true affluence and something must be done. In the keynote address, Mr. Le Clezio talked of how, through his wartime childhood experiences and writing literature, he came to feel the necessity of living together with other cultures in order to achieve a society without war through peaceful revolution. He voiced his hopes for art and literature in restoring our relationship with the environment and nature which has suffered since the twentieth century, in particular, since WWII.

In the afternoon, the symposium discussed political, social and cultural change due to world economic globalization, and panelists contributed views from their respective disciplines with Harold James addressing the issues in terms of economic theory; Nayan Chanda from the viewpoint of cultural history; Hiroshi Shimizu from the Field Theory, and Shinichi Nakazawa introducing the theory of Quesnay's model.

Much was beyond my particular specialty and difficult to understand, but Nayan Chandra's presentation on how Japan confronted globalization and started down the path to war with reference to historical events starting with Marco Polo and the silk industry in the Meiji and Taisho periods was especially interesting and informative.

Noting that modern Euro-American civilization is based on the idea that we exist for the taking, which differs from Asian point of view, Hiroshi Shimizu stated that it is imperative that we try to change this view to the concept that we have things to exist. Shinichi Nakazawa asserted that today's economy, which lacks a system that links internal and external nature, was in need of the theories of the eighteenth-century French economist, Francois Quesnay. We need an economic theory based on a model that incorporates the energy of external nature through human labor into internal nature, or human life, as a natural gift through human labor.

On Day 2, I took part in the Teshima Working Session on "New, Prosperous Eating and Nutritious Lifestyle-Agriculture and Economy," which was coordinated by Kazuhiro Ueta, Professor, Kyoto University, Graduate School Economics Research, and Yukari Takemi, Professor, Kagawa Nutrition University. The panelists were Yoshiharu Doi, culinary researcher; Hiromi Kanamaru, food environmental journalist; Yoko Niiyama, Professor, Agriculture Research Department, Kyoto University; and Piero Sardo, Director, La Fondazione Slow Food per la Biodiversita, who came from Italy.
In addition, there were ten participants from the local community (nine woman and one man). It is food that makes a region prosperous, and in light of the new developments of the twenty-first century, the Seto Inland Sea will need to convey a strong global message and appeal from a local standpoint. Teshima is known an industrial waste site, and the islanders have been working to solve the problems arising from this, a concern that was also voiced by the islanders.

We were all then treated by the island residents to a meal made of local ingredients from the sea and mountains, which I enjoyed very much. The afternoon symposium focused on questions about what constitutes delicious food, and each of the speakers discussed food-making using local ingredients, the responsibility to the next generation and food system, the role of slow food in protecting biodiversity, and the Slow Food International movement that strives for local production for local consumption and the revival of small-scale agriculture.

On Day 3 of the symposium, reports on working sessions were given and a general discussion by speakers of each session took place. The moderators were Taeko Nagai, cultural journalist formerly with NHK Broadcasting, and Koichi Kabayama, Chairman of the Organizing Committee and Professor Emeritus of the University of Tokyo, and they stressed the need to redefine culture based on human qualities.

Having attended the symposium over three days, I was left with a number of thoughts and impressions. First, I felt that Mr. Fukutake, the general producer, was more just than a collector of contemporary art, but someone who with a philosophy and practice of harnessing power within art to make culture and society better. Art movements seek form and shape, and in the process, sometimes even become oppositional. Art today does not just pursue beauty, but also incorporates ugliness. It does not use only paint, but also wood, concrete and other materials. It has moved beyond the museum to the outside environment.
And now art has expanded onto the remote islands of the Seto Inland Sea and moved into industrial waste sites, showing ever new transformations and the power to move people. This art emerged after the end of World War I in Europe, but through Mr. Fukutake's efforts, it has come to the islands of the Seto Inland Sea. In fact, on October 16, a new museum, Teshima Art Museum, opened on Teshima Island, a toxic waste site.
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