Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Paisan in Midori Pine Forest, Japan, 2001

Paisan Plienbangchang, ‘Art in a Pine Forest,’ in the Silpa Wattanatham column of Siam Rath Weekly News magazine, 7 – 13 Sept. 2001, Yr.48, Vol.15.

I went to Japan. (In fact, I hope to avoid people complaining that I bring personal matters to discuss in the column.) There are some things which have stories connected with them worth telling – life, points of view, people’s attitudes. The sky, the air, living – it all reflects cultures similar to or different from our own. It’s all worth talking about.

It was summer in Japan. I went to the city of Yokohama, an important port city from historic times. It is the nation’s second largest city. There are many foreigners working there. Yokohama bay is a port which sends goods all over the world. As far as the eye can see, when you go past by car coming from Tokyo, you can see tall buildings – concrete blocks rising into the sky like mountains of glass. Looking at them invites the imagination to consider what life is like in such cities. How pleasant or how hurried is life there?

In 2002, Japan and Korea will be co-hosts for World Cup Football. Yokohama has been chosen to arrange the competitions in this sushi nation. Certainly, everywhere you go and all over the city, you see signs of World Cup Football in department stores and advertisements. Souvenirs are numerous during the countdown, as in all big events.

If anyone goes to visit Yokohama from September through November this year, they will have a chance to see the 2001Yokohama International Triennial of Contemporary Art. It is a really big festival and an important one. Leading artists from many places round the world have been selected to join this big exhibition. Thailand will also be in the spotlight of this international event, represented by Nawin Lawalchaikul of ‘taxi-meter’ and ‘samlor’ fame, and the owner of ‘Pad Thai Inter,’ Rerkrit Tirawanit.

The event has been organized by the Yokohama Museum of Art, but the artworks are found not only at the museum itself, but also scattered round in various places - at old dockside factories, for example. Investment is required – a big budget - to do an art festival like this. But you should know that it’s not money alone that makes it possible. You have to know and understand about art and culture and how to communicate; about taste in the city and the people who live there. The image of the city is developed by the leaders of the city or province: it is created.

I don’t know who in Thailand has such vision and far-sightedness. On that day in Japan, I walked from the railway station many hundreds of meters past department stores and large factories, passing through crowds of busy or curious people. I went into the Yokohama art center. (It is set apart from the department stores.) It is a very big place, suitable as a center of learning and beauty; a place for modern art and for visitors who choose to come and appreciate. Though the entry fee is not cheap, people still come to admire. The whole situation is rather different (a tiresome thought) from the fight we have with the wrong ideas of our own Bangkok governor.

From Yokohama the train carries us in about half an hour to Kanakawa, one of that city’s satellite towns. I had a chance to join the summer festival in the forest there. Kyo-so-Gaku: the name is strange but translates ‘the creativity and sound of wood,’ or ‘created from the imagination of wood and the sounds of nature.’ The event covered about two weeks, during which time artists came to live there, make their works, and exchange ideas together.

The leader of the event this time was RYOKO INO, whom we called Ino-sang. She is a very able woman, another person with heavy responsibilities this year. The coordinator for the various works was AKATA SUKI (HARADA), a Japanese artist known to many Thai artists. Participants came from many countries in ASEAN – the Philippines, Korea, Singapore and Thailand, and from Japan as well. Budget was supplied by the City of Yokohama and from private agencies.

This event has been going on since 1997. There have been events for children and art, and sometimes for music. Every time, however, the organizers emphasized the aspect of neighborhood cooperation, and the place is a pine forest which is not far from the city of MIDORI KU.

If the city is a way of speeding and hardening things up, and making colors more gaudy, this mountain forest is the opposite. It is an area of contrast with [the speed, hardness and gaudiness of the city]. Many times, walking out from the dormitory along the road and entering this pine forest, I felt the cool darkness of the woods and the very tall pines, and listened to the sounds of cicadas and crickets, so very loud and teasing the imagination. But I could not remain for long because the mosquitoes bite mercilessly: you can’t stand still. You have to keep moving all the time. Many artists have lotions and sprays to keep the mosquitoes off when they work in these places. If anyone thinks making art in nature is easy, just let them try!

The works are site specific to this natural pine forest. The artists have ideas and create various works, but the people have something to do with it. Nature and the environment bring them together. We all sat together, exchanging ideas, arguing and chatting, learning from each other’s different experience from different places, birthplaces and cultures. Art is something that draws and intrigues and which brings people into relatedness.

All the people who organized the event were responsible and eager to help with the work. It was as if some discipline were being practiced in working together. Many works were made by people who were art students rather than artists, and they joined in making the artworks too. Exercising their brains, the works began to take shape. Preparations took from 10 to 30 days before artists could begin, or even before they arrived. Furthermore, during some periods young people were allowed to come in and make art, as well, drawing, painting and playing in the surrounding forest. Parents used some leisure summer time to bring children to play and picnic there.

Really, if you look at it - a summer art festival plein-air or the like - it’s not the artists who are most important. Making art with feeling connected to the site, directly or indirectly, draws people to that place. They come to see and to support what is positive and to correct weak points.

The artists themselves got experience in making their art in the pine forest and in the area of their own heart.

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