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Some news from the Setouchi islands and their art
The April 2023 edition
How about I gave you some actual news from the Setouchi islands today? I know a certain number of you have subscribed to this newsletter for precisely that, and these pieces of news have been pretty rare. It’s not entirely my fault. The thing is that there hasn’t been much news to share lately. Partly because not much has been happening, partly because I’ve been going to the islands much less than usual, so I didn’t get as many unofficial and informal pieces of information about this or that compared to what I used to get.
However, we’re in April, and the cherry blossoms are starting to fade, which means, it should be the beginning of the Art Setouchi season. And it is. Kind of, sort of.
As a reminder, every year when there is no Setouchi Triennale (the next one is in 2025), a certain number of permanent (or at least long-term) artworks are open some days (usually on weekends and holidays) on most islands.
Things changed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. No artworks were open in 2020, and only a few for a few days in 2021. However, despite being much more low-key than in the past, the Triennale happened last year. So what about the Art Setouchi 2023 season?
It’s kinda happening. And kinda not.
There are two main issues. First, despite the fact that most people in the West like lying to themselves about it, the pandemic is not over. Sure, a lot of the restrictions have been lifted, in Japan too, but luckily, most people here are still mindful and careful about it. So, inviting many visitors to the islands when there is no manpower to manage them is not the best idea. This leads us to the second issue. Art Setouchi, even more so than the Setouchi Triennale itself, heavily relies on the volunteers from Koebi-tai to run properly. And since the pandemic started, their numbers have been decimated. The long-term locals are still around and still active, but a big number of Koebi-tai volunteers usually do it short-term, or very occasionally, or come from afar, and so on. Well, the short-term members are gone (especially college students, they were a big part of the members) and haven’t been really replaced. It will take time to recruit new ones. It may not happen in numbers large enough before 2025. Your guess is as good as mine for this.
So the situation is as follows at the moment.
The Art Setouchi 2023 has officially started, but the calendar is only published month by month (usually the calendar of open artworks is available at least for the next three months, sometimes for the entire season) and for April… Well… Only the Benesse artworks (the art on Naoshima, Inujima, and most of Teshima) and the ones that are independently run (some on Shodoshima for example) will be open. All the other artworks will remain closed, except for the outdoor ones, it goes without saying.
There is one good piece of news, though. Thanks to the calendar, even if most sites are closed, I finally know what art from the Triennale is still around and what has been dismantled. This means, that I can finally update my site and my art guides. One project I have this year (Will I have the time? That is the recurrent problem these days) is to turn these art guides into bigger guides about each island. A guide with only the Art Setouchi artworks is a bit redundant with the official site, and the guides that are available on other major sites that shall not be named are usually of poor quality and content.
Let’s hope I find the time for these.
Stay tuned for more.
And before we part ways for the time being, here are the useful links to know and follow:
My website is devoted to the Setouchi islands and that you probably already know: Setouchi Explorer.
More precisely its art guide pages: Setouchi Art Guide.
If you want to know what else I’m up to on the web and want to follow me elsewhere, I made a page just for this: DavidB on the web.
Of course, if you haven’t signed up for this newsletter, or you liked it and want to share it, you can do either or both with thanks to the two buttons below.
Stay safe and take care