Humans are constantly confronted with issues caused by capitalism and the drive for efficiency, such as the disparity between rural and urban areas, a declining birth rate coupled with an ageing population, and environmental problems. The last decade has seen a number of high-profile rural projects that use art and architecture to rethink and reconnect people’s everyday lives within natural surroundings.
This exhibition, Symbiosis: Living Island, introduces to us a project that architects, artists and curators have been working on for the past 13 years, on a small island called Inujima in the Seto Inland Sea, together with the local population and the Fukutake Foundation. Symbiosis is a term used in ecology to mean living together altruistically. Art, architecture, landscaping and other activities modelled on organic mutual aid, where everything is inter-connected, can act as catalysts for symbiosis to join together people’s lives, food, history and environment, thereby revealing latent capabilities and making them all work as one. The aim of the exhibition is to show the world the aesthetics and practice of such symbiosis.
Inujima is a genkai shūraku, a term referring to ‘borderline hamlets’ in danger of disappearing due to depopulation. It has an area of just over 130 acres (0.54 km2) and a circumference of 2.25 miles (3.6 km), meaning it can be circumnavigated on foot in an hour. It is currently home to only 25 households, and more than half of the inhabitants are over 70 years of age. For this project, Yuko Hasegawa was appointed artistic director by the Fukutake Foundation, and architect Kazuyo Sejima was invited to work with other architects, artists, foundations and residents on a variety of island initiatives.
There are five pavilions (exhibition galleries), together with outdoor exhibits. Over the last four years, the landscape projects have expanded to include a botanical garden, facilities for special stays, a bar, workshops, seminars and more. Even if it is hard to increase the current population, it is hoped that this will open up the island as a platform for art and culture, and create an ecosystem that encompasses the inhabitants’ everyday lives.
The exhibition is structured as a route around the island, with artworks, pavilions and other project sites installed here and there as dioramas, offering an overview of the relationships between them. It includes models of the artists’ works, video creations inspired by the island, and a film documenting all the activities, including interviews with local people. These wide-ranging works combine to convey a vision of Inujima as a living entity. This, then, is our proposal to the world: symbiosis as a potential blueprint for the future.
Director of the 21st Century Museum, Kanazawa, Japan
Main Exhibition Page