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Published: August 13th 2011
36 degrees celsius. Naoshima. I can feel the salty smell in the air and the stickness of my skin. As I walk in a forest on the small island, the sun emits maximum heat, birds and cicadas chirp away in the lush green. I am tired, sweaty, and thirsty. Spoiled by the abundance of vending machines in the metropolitan areas in Japan, I blame myself for not storing enough water beforehand.
Naoshima, one of the many small islands in the Seto Inland sea, is not so well known to some Japanese people, but a popular destination for those who love art.
Naoshima hosted the International Art Festival (瀬戸内国際芸術祭) last year. In the past 20 years, artists came here and created their works of art. Until now hundred of artworks are scattered on Naoshima, Inujima, Teshima, Megijima, and many other small islands in the Seto Inland sea.
What's great about this project is that these artists brought their inspirations and aspirations here, and they left islands their beautiful artworks, which must had been the best gifts the islanders have ever received.
The 105-day festival last year brought about 1 million visitors to the islands. I can imagine how
these contemporary art works had facilitated dialogues between the islanders and the visitors. Now that the festival is over, the islands still continue to receive art enthusiasts. The whole island is like a large museum with many outdoor art works which are surrounded by nature and hidden in nature.
Going on foot and checking out each one of them (especially around Benesse Art Site) is like an art treasure hunt. In order to protect the beauty of nature, there are no big sign boards to point you to the right direction, all the signs are quite low-key and well-blended with the surroundings. That makes the whole thing more interesting. Thank god the island is really not that big.
One of the most well-know artwork on Naoshima is Kusama Yayoi's pumpkin. Actually there are two of them, a red and a yellow. Kusama Yayoi is the queen of polka dots. I've watched a documentary movie about her. Her world seems to be full of polka dots. Her clothes, her artworks, I wonder if her brain neurons are in the shape of polka dots. I used to think that polka dots are so boring, childish, even a bit naive. But
since when had I started to change my perception and think that this pattern of infinite dots with irregular sizes is actually not that bad. The two pumpkins are both placed on the beach, facing the vast and peaceful Seto Inland sea. Under the blue sky, oh I have never thought that polka dots could be this beautiful.
I visited Lee Ufan Museum. I like the architecture of the museum more than the artworks actually. From outside, the museum comes as one with the surrounding nature. But once you step into the building, it feels like entering another space and time which the architect Ando Tadao had created. Have you ever read Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami? The feeling I had was similar to the first scene when the main character entered the elevator.
Anyways, the Chichu museum was another building designed by Ando Tadao. The artworks insides are amazing as well. My favorite are Claude Monet and James Turell's Open Field.
Looking forward to the next few days on the islands!
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