Collaboration between Local and Non-Local Actors in the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial
This article deals with selected contemporary art projects that have involved the collaboration of heterogeneous actors in the framework of the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial, which started in 2000 in southern Niigata Prefecture. Originally initiated as a revitalization plan to tackle depopulation and obsolescence in this vast rural area, the triennal has been envisaged and implemented by the Tokyo-based commercial gallery Art Front Gallery (AFG) in cooperation with municipal and prefectural agencies. I will examine how the collaboration between local residents, non-local artist(s), and volunteers has evolved in three projects that were all carried out in mountain villages. The first project entitled “Ubusuna no Ie” was initiated by a Tokyo-based editor and his staff for the 2006 festival, involving the restoration of an abandoned house, which now serves as a space to exhibit pottery. As a result of the project, the village women have started a restaurant in the house, which has been an enormous success, attracting hundreds of visitors per day in August 2009. The second project implemented in 2006 involved the cooperation of a British artist group called Grizedale Arts with the locals in a secluded marginal village called Tōge in order to find ways to revitalize the village. The third ongoing artwork is concerned with promoting a brand of traditional Japanese paper (washi) by combining it with contemporary design and involves the cooperation between the vernacular washi production site and a Yokohama-based artist. Introducing a model to examine the development of kyōdō [literally: “working together”] by defining various stages of cooperation, the key issues I intend to explore are as follows: (1) What are the main factors that influence the implementation of the project, the intensity of cooperation, and its success? (2)What stages do we observe in the individual cases discussed here?