ประสบการณ์จากญี่ปุ่น โครงการแลกเปลี่ยนทางศิลปะนานาชาติ The 15th Abiko International Open-Air Art Exhibition
Before going to the International art program in Abiko City, Japan, I asked myself …in this exchange program trip, what will I exchange, what will I change and with whom?
The project was organized by the artists and citizens of Abiko, a community located about 50 kms. from Tokyo. The goal was to host an exchange of views between local artists and artists from outside the community, both Japanese and foreigners from Asia, Europe, and North and South America, and more importantly, to stimulate exchanges between the natives living in the community, in terms of traditional culture, and ways of life - food, cooking and community activities. All the artists at the project get help from local volunteers, which is very heart-warming, since the average age of the local people is between is between 60-70 years old, in spite of their age, most of them still in pretty good health.
The main objective of the project, which has been held for 15 years now (1998-2012) is to enable people to understand the roots of their culture and the importance of forests and the natural environment through the arts. Recently, this peace-loving community was suddenly cut in half by a major highway, aimed to provide more convenient access to other cities, followed by the construction of major buildings like condominiums, and naturally enough, the local residents were not happy about it.
Thirty artists participated this year. Each participant ate with the others and joined discussions and exchanged experience in the arts, as well as their views and comments on what interested them. The organizers arranged a central building for the foreign and Japanese artists to share together, and provided bikes so that each of us could ride from our houses to the other locations at which meetings were held. Every morning, we cycled to the main building, and having breakfasted there, prepared materials for our art work, and then each of us would go to our working spaces, including community areas such as shrines, cemeteries, public libraries, exercise parks and the bamboo groves in the middle of the community. We worked outdoors for 10 days, even when it rained. Each evening, we would take turns to do the cooking for the others. Naturally, every artist tried his best to find ingredients similar to those of his own country so as to offer the dishes from every country the artists came from.
To create my project, I prepared myself by thinking up activities to suit the actual situation and environment we would be in. I chose to work in a community cemetery which was in a peaceful and shady glade mainly of bamboos, but with a number of other trees.
I decided to base my projected installation art activity using ropes and hand-made mulberry paper on the Thai sueb chada - the life renewal ritual well known to us in Chiang Mai, attaching the ropes to four of the biggest trees, where they would move with the wind and speak for themselves, and the indigenous birds would sing harmoniously. Many of the other artists used bamboo, stone, soil, logs and so on to harmonize with their art concepts. The art creations constructed in this project were called ‘Installation art and the Art of the Land’.
The opening of the exhibition on October 27, 2012, presided over by the regional governor, was held at a community art and cultural centre in a venerable century-old Japanese building. Everything went well but what was of most importance was that we were encouraged to walk around enjoying the work of all the participating artists.
Those who attended and participated in this exhibition, as well as the artists themselves, included the families and children of the community, media representatives and visitors from outside the community who had heard about it and were interested.
There were public sessions at which the artists described their own works to explain to the audiences what they thought of them, how they created them, what materials they used and so on. And then audiences members were invited to ask questions and the artists would provide answers. I think it was very worthwhile, a real exchange between local people who didn’t have any particular skills in art creation, and artists who were creating major works of art, so as to engender mutual understanding.
Chiang Mai is also arranging exchange programs of various kinds with neighbouring countries, at the same time we are preparing for the Asian Community (AEC).
But the question is …What do we exchange?…We exchange what…with whom? Or, do we change what…with whom?
Having relative advantages or disadvantages in respect of others is not as important as who tells us to exchange and change. In this case, the people of Abiko were the ones who were asked, and decided that they wanted a cultural exchange so that others could come and see their lifestyle. They wanted to let others to be aware of their problems so that they could receive comments all the more value since they came outside. Once strangers had seen and learned about the art and culture of Abiko city, they could understood the lifestyle of local people and respect what they had seen.
This is what I call, the beauty of exchange, since it doesn’t matter what we exchange or change as long as we respect each other, then it is not necessary to give importance to ‘advantages’ or ‘disadvantages’ – leading, I believe, to a happier world.
Abiko Open-Air Art Exhibition Committee
In July 1998, the Abiko Open-air Art Exhibition Committee was inaugurated by Abiko city’s citizens and artists. The committee’s purpose was to inform the citizens of the importance of their environment and culture. The exhibition theme was to be appreciation of forest, water and culture, and its intention was to create an independent annual art project, using ‘the citizens-owner project system’ to raise group consciousness.