In the post-COVID-19 era, the question of how we might recover a sense of daily life and socio-economic activity in order to build a sustainable and more equitable world is an urgent one that the entire world will face. 2022 will be a period of recovery from this pandemic, during which we will see new propositions being called for from all domains of life, whether environmental, political, economic, or cultural, in order to address the structures of contemporary society that have been thrown into sharp relief by COVID-19. The act of confronting this reality and creating a future amid uncertainty, during this particularly barren and unpromising period, is also an obligation that is being demanded of all of us who live in the present time.
Art, including contemporary art and the performing arts, has always reflected the times, pursued the truth, and proposed new values for the future in the face of uncertainty throughout its history. Since the 1990s, Western-centric values have branched off in multiple directions. In today’s increasingly complex world, we are seeing an increasing emphasis on the qualities of diversity and inclusion, which demand understanding and respect for diverse cultures. In particular, the vulnerability of our social structures as exposed by the pandemic has had a profound impact on the work of artists and art institutions, while the international art community has been demonstrating its solidarity in confronting social issues such as discrimination and inequality, in an effort to seek out models for a sustainable world.
The theme of the international art festival Aichi Triennale 2022, “STILL ALIVE,” was inspired by a series of works by the Aichi-born conceptual artist On Kawara, who continually dispatched the fact of his own existence during his lifetime using telegrams starting in the 1970s. This international art festival to be held in 2022 will offer a multi-dimensional interpretation of the words “STILL ALIVE,” revisiting the origins and sources of contemporary art while also focusing on the gaps between domains that have come to be classed according to fixed categories, all the while shuttling back and forth between the past, present, and future. Through the medium of art, Aichi Triennale 2022 promises encounters with uncertainty, the unknown, a diversity of values, and overwhelming beauty, while also serving as an opportunity for thinking about how we can create an ideal, sustainable future together. COVID-19, on the other hand, has curtailed transnational activities and projects, and directed our attention to the regions where we actually live and work. In terms of “regional rediscovery,” one of the distinctive characteristics of art festivals held in different cities, Aichi Triennale 2022 will also incorporate the proud history, local industries, and traditional culture of Aichi Prefecture, exploring the question of how to rejuvenate and revive these elements by taking the present time as a starting point, while also promising to be a creative response to the question of how to connect local cultures around the world to a wider global context.
In order to contemplate the theme “STILL ALIVE,” Aichi Triennale 2022 will embrace the following visions. They do not exist in isolation: rather, they are interrelated and sometimes at odds with each other in terms of how they make up the entirety of this international art festival.
Thinking about the theme of “STILL ALIVE” while shuttling back and forth across a time axis that stretches from the past to the future
- Thinking about the survival of the Earth and human beings one million years into the future
- A focus on raising awareness and making propositions that will ensure that the Earth will continue to exist beautifully, and humanity will live in peace a hundred, or even a million years into the future, by understanding the contemporary world from a more macro perspective based on the workings of nature and the laws of the universe. An awareness of environmental issues and sustainability is something that inherits and builds on the history of the Aichi Triennale, which was established as a legacy of Expo 2005 Aichi, Japan.
- Thinking about how to revive the diversity of stories of the past in the present era
- A spotlight on the history of the Earth and humanity, and a reassessment of local contexts from around the world in light of the contemporary. Up until the Edo period (1603-1868), Aichi Prefecture was the land of two provinces, Owari and Mikawa. Subsequently, during the Sengoku and Azuchi Momoyama period (1467-1603), the region produced numerous military commanders, including three national heroes who made important contributions to the unification of Japan. History is often made up of narratives that have been deemed legitimate and various other stories, told from different perspectives and handed down through the generations. Aichi Triennale 2022 will bring the world’s diverse stories back to life in a present day context.
- Thinking about how to survive in this day and age, in this present moment
- The unprecedented health crisis brought about by the 2020 pandemic and the discrimination and inequality with respect to racial, gender, and ethnic differences brought to the surface by the COVID-19 pandemic have caused us to reconsider the gravity of life associated with each and every one of us. The rising number of suicides, especially women and children who are taking their own lives, is another major challenge facing Japanese society. At Aichi Triennale 2022, we will ponder the meaning of life in these difficult times through powerful expressions where the act of living is strongly linked to artistic creation.
Revisiting the origins and sources of contemporary art while also focusing on the gaps between domains that have come to be classed according to fixed categories
- Revisiting the origins and sources of contemporary art
- The 1970s, when On Kawara began his “I Am Still Alive” series, were an era that saw the flourishing of conceptual art, which emphasized the concept and meaning behind the work rather than its visual expression. This approach still underpins global contemporary art today. While Aichi Prefecture has been the place of origin of internationally acclaimed conceptual artists such as On Kawara and Shusaku Arakawa, Aichi Triennale 2022 will also showcase conceptual art from around the world.
- Reconsidering traditional crafts and the artistic production of indigenous culture in the context of contemporary art
- Aichi Prefecture is home to a number of unique cultural traditions, including local industries, traditional crafts, and culinary practices. The rich natural environment consisting of sea, mountains, and rivers has also led to the development of its ceramic and textile industries. Since the modern era, ceramics and textiles have come to be regarded as “crafts” that are distinct from fine art, but recent years have seen a reassessment of the development of modern art in a wide range of cultural spheres and a reappraisal of artistic practices that straddle both craft and fine art, as well as the artistic production of indigenous peoples. Aichi Triennale 2022 will seek to liberate these artistic domains from our preconceptions of them, and to reconsider them as living, contemporary forms of artistic expression.
- Reconsidering artistic practices that deploy text and symbols
- In addition to his “I Am Still Alive” series, Kawara also created works that use numbers and texts, such as dates and the time at which he woke up. In a contemporary society with highly developed social media networks, communication using short words and symbols has become more prevalent. Aichi Triennale 2022 will also have a focus on poetry and other text-based forms of artistic expression.
- Experiencing art through the body and the five senses
- Forms of art experienced through the body and the five senses are a direct reminder of being alive. Aichi Triennale 2022 will pay particular attention to performance art as discussed in the context of contemporary art, while continuing the legacy of succeeding to past editions, where contemporary art and the performing arts coexisted alongside each other. Here, too, the festival will explore ways of integrating these two forms in an organic way without being bound by the frameworks and spaces associated with the respective fields.
To live is to keep learning. Encountering the unknown, a diversity of values, and overwhelming beauty
- Passing on experiences and a sense of emotional excitement to future generations through learning programs
- Works of contemporary art are often said to be difficult to understand when one encounters them for the first time. Learning about the stories behind their creation, and the eras and cultures in which the artists lived, however, can help us to empathize with the emotions and consciousness of people in distant parts of the world, or those from different generations. Through a variety of learning programs, Aichi Triennale 2022 will seek to deepen one’s understanding of the works of art and ensure that the experiences and emotions gleaned at the festival will become etched in one’s memory, providing one with wisdom, knowledge, and a sense of spirituality that can be applied to the rest of one’s life.
- Inspiring with beauty
- The poet William Wordsworth once proclaimed that his heart leaps with joy when he beholds a rainbow t in the sky. This was a state of mind that he wanted to preserve throughout his life. In the same way, the Aichi Triennale 2022 will seek to move and astound through the overwhelming beauty of art, producing inspiring encounters and experiences and a wellspring of positive energy that will help us to live for tomorrow, in each and every moment that life brings our way.
Artistic Director, Aichi Triennale 2022 Mami Kataoka
Translated by Darryl Wee