To the Earth and Art: A trip to fill you with life

The landscape, livelihood and communities of Echigo-Tsumari have been connected to the earth through agriculture for a 1,000 years. Nestling among, and nurtured by, mountains and rivers, whose colors change with the seasons, this area beyond the snow-covered Joetsu border represents the very archetype of the Japanese “satoyama,” the spiritual home of our people.

But with the exodus of its young people to jobs in the cities and the increasing abandonment of agriculture, the area has suffered an identity loss. And the year before last the area was hit by both a bad flood and a severe earthquake, while last winter brought record-breaking snowfalls. But an outpouring of sympathy and help from many people and mutual cooperation between them has enabled the area to weather these hardships, and now, wrapped in the firm embrace of its mountains, its communities await the spring.

With renewed strength, vitality and vision, the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial 2006 will welcome you in July.

In addition to the 130 artworks produced in the past two triennials, works scattered over an area of 760 square kilometers of mountains, rivers, terraced paddy fields ( tanada) and beautiful villages, works by 200 groups of artists from 40 countries will be newly produced and installed.

The artists and supporters, who over the past three years have been working together with local people to prepare for the upcoming Triennial, have also been helping communities repair the damages from the earthquake and heavy snowfalls. We are convinced that their works, highlighting as they do the beauty and richness of this “satoyama,” will, along with the wild grasses and flowers that will be appearing again after the long months of snow, liberate our bodies and senses and enable us to feel the life, enveloped in nature, which we live only once, and which links us to others.

The cream of Japan’s ikebana world will create flower arrangements, which will be redone every week, at village houses in the valley. The crystallization of earth created by pottery masters will be on display in old abandoned houses of a mountainous village where only five families live. Sculptures rising up at passes will look down with you at the setting sun sinking into the blocs of mountains. A Noh stage will be built out over a pond, on which you will see the surrounding scenery reflected. A closed-down school-turned museum will allow visitors to feel the presence (give visitors a sense of déjà-vu) of the children who used to go there. The essence of contemporary art will be on view in vacant buildings on a shopping street. . . . I believe that the joy of visiting such places, enhanced by the heightened awareness of the earth beneath our feet, the wind in the trees, the fragrant grasses around us, will fill our senses, open them and revive our sense of wonder. And at the end of our “ satoyama tour” in the evening, a delicious meal, saké, and a hot-spring bath at our inn await. Come and visit Tsumari this summer for a magical mystery tour the likes of which you have probably never experienced before.

Fram Kitagawa
General Director
Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial