Volcano · Art · Human - Residency Project in Kumamoto, Japan

prof. Yasuyuki Saegusa
(Faculty of Art, SOJO University, Kumamoto)

In Kumamoto Prefecture, artist in residences and art festivals are held in the Aso area surrounded by volcanoes. ‘Genesis Exhibition’ Art Fest was held for 6 years from 2010 to 2015 at the Aso Folk School in Takamori Town. In addition, the residency project ‘Artist-in Aso’ sponsored by Kumamoto Prefecture was held from 2014 to 2018. Both were held at Aso Volcano, a special location which has become a cross-cultural exchange art event site.

‘Artist-in Aso’ is a group of 5-7 artists staying in Aso's municipalities for three months. They stay in an area with old Japanese culture and engage in cultural exchange with residents there. Every year, artists from many countries apply for the project but 24 people have been invited (7 in 2014, 7 in 2015, 5 in 2017, 5 in 2018), of whom five were Polish. They interacted with many Japanese people, experienced nature and culture, and created new art works.

The ‘Genesis exhibition’ started in 2010 centering on exhibitions and discussions at elementary schools under the message ‘Let's listen to the voice of the earth apart from a human-centered viewpoint’ with the theme of ‘volcano · art · human’. Nature sounded like a manifesto or a prophecy. The unprecedented natural disaster, the Great East Japan great earthquake, occurred on March 11, 2011, the following year. A massive nuclear accident also occurred, so Japan experienced devastating blows. In August of that year we held the exhibition ‘Genesis – 2’. We set up an outdoor installation mainly with refugees from the earthquake disaster, with Ichi Ikeda, one of Earth Art's leaders there. The installation made with Kaya* was struck by a thunderstorm in the summer, and the fire was released at the end, connecting the heaven and the earth. Drought was followed by the heaviest torrential rain, in 50 years in 2012. A wide area of Kumamoto was hit by significant flood damage. Among these repeated natural disasters, an exhibition was planned in 2013 with the theme of ‘What should we leave in the future?’ Activities from a series of Genesis exhibitions centering on themes such as ‘nature, art, and human beings’ led to an invitation from Tomasz Wendland of Poland to present at ‘We Curate’ in the Venice Biennale in June. In October 2014, at the international conference ‘Post Global Future’ in Poznan, Poland, we presented the activities of the Genesis exhibitions. At the same time Kumamoto Prefecture's cultural project ‘Artist in Aso’ began in Aso, and Katarzyna Szeszycka came from Poland to begin to create a residence.

For the 2015 ‘Genesis Exhibition’ we invited Tomasz Wendland, the organizer of the Mediations Biennale, to be a panelist on a discussion with the director of the Kumamoto City Contemporary Art Museum. Finally, two artists from Poland, Pawel Jasiewicz and Agnieszka Roznowska, have participated as resident artists from ‘Artist in Aso’.

* Kaya is a plant with a long stalk which looks like straw.