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Summer in Setouchi
Japanese islands, art, heat and more
Good evening (or morning, or afternoon), and welcome to this new section of the Liminal Web. And welcome to Substack for some of you.
To make sure no one is confused, a few explanations first.
I used to have two newsletters. This current one, Liminal Web, on Substack, here, and another one on another service called Revue. That other newsletter was solely dedicated to my corner of Japan (called the Setouchi region), its islands, and its art festival. It turned out that trying to manage two newsletters was impractical for all sorts of reasons, and I recently decided to move one (Revue) into the other (Substack).
It’s a bit of a risky move. Will my subscribers to Liminal Web care about my Japan adventures? Will the people who’ve been following me for the Setouchi Triennale appreciate being moved around and being sent e-mails about topics totally unrelated to their favorite art festival?
Well, I hope you won’t mind and that you’ll give a shot at the “other parts” of the newsletter. However, if you find yourself totally uninterested in the other sections, you can just unsubscribe from the parts that you don’t care about while still remaining subscribed to the parts you like.
It’s simple. If you’re reading this from your e-mail, just click on the title or on the “open in browser” link. Then, when you’re on your internet browser, go to the top right corner and click. In the menu that appears, just click on “manage subscription” and there you can check and uncheck whatever you want. Just be just careful to not uncheck everything as you’d be totally unsubscribed and that would be sad, right?
The process may be slightly different if you’re reading from your phone. I’m old school, I rarely read anything longer than tweets on my phone, so I’m not sure how to manage subscriptions there (probably in a similar way, but menus may be organized differently)
Oh, one last thing before we start talking about our topic of the day. New subscribers to the newsletter (who used to be subscribers of the “Revue” newsletter) are free subscribers by default (someone e-mailed me after the move and was unsure about it). At the moment, there is no difference in the content that paid subscribers and free subscribers receive (I’m not a fan of paywalls). The option to become a paid subscriber is only there if you feel that my work deserves compensation (my work on my blogs more than on this letter) and you can afford it. I don’t exclude having some small exclusivities or previews reserved for paid subscribers in the future, but that’s not something I’m planning to do just yet.
Alright, let’s talk about what this section was created for.
Today’s topic is the
Setouchi Triennale 2022 summer session
Oh no, another introductory paragraph. I’ll be quick.
In case you don’t know, the Setouchi Triennale is a major art festival in my corner of Japan, and the main topic of my blog Setouchi Explorer, and this is what the subscribers coming from the other newsletter follow me for. :-)
Back in early July, I wasn’t really sure how to approach this summer session. Spring had been very low-key. I only went to Shamijima, Megijima and Ogijima. The coronavirus was still around (yes, in Japan, we still care about it and don’t pretend it’s gone), and I was quite busy and tired. It was a shame because there were much fewer visitors than the previous years (because foreign tourists weren’t there, but also a lot of Japanese visitors preferred to stay home - see the previous parenthesis).
How was summer going to be?
Three of the artworks I was expecting the most were making their debut in the Summer. So, there was that. I even got lucky enough that I could help “create” one of them (click here for more details).
However, as the date of the opening session approached, two uninvited guests came and overstayed their welcome for the whole month. The climate crisis and the pandemic!
Summer can be brutal in Japan. I don’t know what it is, but the heat can be unforgiving and often is. I lived a few years in Florida, and I’ll take a Floridian summer over a Japanese summer any year. And I’m talking about a regular summer here.
This summer, like many other places in the world, it was worse. It feels that August was just one giant month-long heatwave. The temperature almost never went below 35 degrees during the day (that’s 95 in Fahrenheit, I believe - come on Americans, it’s really time you start using the metric system, this is becoming embarrassing) and around 27 minimum at night (around 80°F?).
On the first day of the summer session, I went to my favorite island, Ogijima. The goal was to be one of the first visitors to Ogijima Pavilion (that’s the artwork I helped with a few days prior).
Here is a glimpse of what it looks like and if you want to see more, just click on the picture.
However, it was so hot that after that, we just went to see another artwork that was debuting that day too (not on my blog yet, coming soon, hopefully), then we met with Oscar Oiwa and his daughter, and returned to Takamatsu, the heat was just too unpleasant.
For the next two days, we went to Shodoshima. We had the car this time, the heat was going to be more manageable, right? Yeah… Not really…
Sure while we were in the car, it was bearable thanks to air conditioning. Still, the kids in the back were quite hot, and every single time we left the car, it felt like inviting a heatstroke. It was very difficult to enjoy art in these circumstances.
Our first stop was still great though, as I got to see Xiang Yang and his wife again. We met three years ago and kept in touch since. Xiang Yang was there to introduce his new art, a “sequel” to his installation from three years ago. It’s called “The shore that we can reach” and it’s beyond amazing.
I haven’t blogged about it yet (I’m not too happy with the pictures I took, I was hoping to return there before the end of the summer and, unfortunately, it didn’t happen. Hopefully in three weeks or so).
I filmed a video shortly after the inauguration, though:
The rest of the weekend was full of art… and heat… I took lots of pictures, and filmed a little more, but didn’t post much on my blog.
So far, you can only see:
Again: a public art sculpture that’s more interesting than it seems at first sight, but that’s a little short of mindblowing.
Eyes of Nature: a pretty fun “tree house” '(tree platform). The post also contains a virtual visit of the place (that’s fancy for “a video I shot with my phone while walking”)
And a giant with an insane name I’m not even trying to remember that was resting. See below (and click on the picture for more):
And… That’s all…
Yes, I didn’t write much more on my blog. And I didn’t really return to an island for the rest of the month. These three days were that excruciating as far as the heat was concerned and to make things worse, the latest variant of Covid-19 managed to do what no previous variant managed to do: spread all over Japan like wildfires. For the first time, Kagawa - and the rest of Japan - had dangerous levels of infection, basically levels similar to the ones in the Western world when it still bothered to count them. That plus the heat was enough to make us stay home for most of the month. I went one more day to Ogijima with the kids (to take part in a workshop organized by Team Ogi), we also went to see the new art in Yashima (the big flat hill in the eastern part of Takamatsu).
Unrelated to the Triennale, I did go see Ai Yamada’s solo exhibition in town. If her name sounds familiar, it’s because you may have seen her amazing installation on Takamijima three years ago. Unfortunately, she’s not part of the Triennale this year, but she had this small exhibit instead. I hope we see her again sooner or later.
Summer is over. The festival is on hiatus for a few weeks and will start again on the last weekend of September. Hopefully, the weather will be nice at last. I won’t be able to take any days off (the Fall semester at the university starts at the same time) but I guess my weekends will be busy, providing Covid infection numbers go down (they’re currently down from last August, but still much higher than they ever were before that August spike).
I’ll be busy if I go to all the places I need to go to. I’m not sure I’ll manage to write on my site. I’ll try to write here a little. Otherwise, be sure to follow me on social media (click on the logo below)
OK, I guess that’s all for now.
I hope to see you very soon here or there.
A couple of things before I let you go.
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Alright, everyone, that’s all for now. Once again, welcome to Substack if you’re coming from the old newsletter. The place is more fun here, you can even comment and like the post. :-)
Take care, and stay safe.
DavidB… in Setouchi