The attractive port city of Yokohama, where traces of Japan’s historic port-opening can be seen, is the home of the Yokohama Triennale, which has established itself as one of the largest festivals of contemporary art in Japan.
After departing from the Bashmichi subway station in Yokohama, I could sense a lively atmosphere, accentuated by the energetic music of what sounded like a brass band. I soon realized that this was part of the Yokohama Jazz Promenade, a popular gathering for jazz enthusiasts. Together with the Yokohama Triennale 2008, the city was a sensory paradise, with visual and audio entertainment.
The Yokohama Triennale is an international art exhibition that has been held once every three years, since its founding in 2001. The event is planned and sponsored by such organizations as the Japan Foundation, City of Yokohama, and NHK. During a 79-day run from September 13 through November 30, the exhibition’s main venues included the Shinko Pier Exhibition Hall, BankART Studio NYK, and Red Brick Warehouse No. 1, a former warehouse building that has been transformed into an impressive cultural facility. I decided to tour the exhibition venues in the order listed in the event’s information brochure.
Shinko Pier Exhibition Hall: Built at Shinko Pier, the historic site of the port of Yokohama, in August this year, the hall served as the primary exhibition venue of the Yokohama Triennale 2008, which included the display of various forms of works by about 30 artists. The venue also houses a café and gift shop.
BankART Studio NYK: Located within a three-minute walk from the Bashamichi subway station, this building originally served as a distribution center, at the time of its completion in 1952. It is has since been renovated into a multi-purpose art and cultural space, where works by about 20 artists are on display.
Red Brick Warehouse No.1: A red-brick warehouse reminiscent of the late Meiji Period, this converted structure has served as a regular venue for the Yokohama Triennale since its inaugural event in 2001. The hall on the third floor was used to stage performing arts, a primary emphasis of this year’s triennale.
After touring the main exhibition venues, I made my way to the rooftop of the Yokohama International Passenger Terminal, which offers a panoramic view of the Yokohama harbor and city. Even here, there was an event performance, entitled “H BOX,” that featured a mobile screening booth, which looked like an oversized piece of aluminum luggage.
The Yokohama Triennale 2008 featured a wide diversity of works by 74 leading artists from 25 countries, including Yoko Ono (Japan), Fujico Nakaya (Japan), Hermann Nitsch (Austria), Douglas Gordon (U.K.), Matthew Barney (U.S.A.), and Paul Chan (China). Various works by Korean artists were on display as well. Of note, a dramatic “Ring Dome” installation work, situated alongside the Triennale Information Center, was a collaborative effort by Korean architect Cho Minsuk and Joseph Grima of the U.S.A., made out of hula hoops. This work also earned high acclaim at the Milan Furniture Fair (Salone Internazionale del Mobile) in April of this year.
The theme of the Yokohama Triennale 2008, “Time Crevasse,” was intended to encourage people to step out of the abyss of their everyday life, in which they are inundated with an overflow of information, and to peer into a crevasse of time. During the process of selecting the works for the 2008 exhibition, Artistic Director Mizusawa Tsutomu placed an emphasis on artists who included performance aspects in their works, in line with the designated theme.
As such, this year’s event was highlighted by the presentation of cutting-edge creations and site-specific works, which complemented the host city, in an effort to attract a broad cross-section of art enthusiasts and area residents. The exhibition was also supplemented by related activities, including a symposium, workshops, and gallery sessions, during with visitors could meet with artists in an informal setting.
The Yokohama Triennale 2008 provided a comprehensive overview of the world of contemporary art. In particular, it was an opportunity for me to broaden my awareness of the boundless creativity of contemporary artists, whose innovative works are beyond what someone like me could even imagine. International art exhibitions serve to introduce recent developments of the artistic world as well as the local charms of the host city. As for Yokohama, which will celebrate the 150th anniversary of its port opening in 2009, it has already established itself as a city that embraces artistic and cultural pursuits.