On Wednesday, April 27 Japan Society hosted Country of Dreams: Art Festival as Social Change, a presentation and discussion with contemporary artists Marina Abramovic, Cai Guo-Qiang, Emilia Kabakov, and Midori Yamamura. The discussion was moderated by Yukie Kamiya, Gallery Director at Japan Society with an opening video message from Fram Kitagawa. The artists discussed their respective works for the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial, a festival in an area known for the exceptional rice it produces. In addition to providing insight into time-based artwork in public spaces, Country of Dreams provoked substantial wanderlust for the tradition-steeped Japanese countryside.
Marina Abramovic presented on her installation “Dream House,” a renovated minka structure that provides guests in the four-room house the opportunity to participate in a dream incubating experience. Completed for the 2000 Triennial, “Dream House” is still open seasonally to guests, though Abramovic noted that the waiting list is quite substantial. If donning a primary-colored hazmat-inspired sleeping suit and drifting off to dreamland in a coffin-like box is your jam, “Dream House” is the perfect getaway.
Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang brought a piece of his heritage to the 2000 Triennial in the form of a Dehua kiln, deconstructed and transported from the artist’s home city in Fujian Province, China. Rebuilt on site in Echigo-Tsumari by the local villagers, Dragon Museum of Contemporary Art is both an installation and a museum. Hosting other art-world heavy hitters including Kiki Smith, DMoCA should technically deteriorate over time due to the harsh winter conditions in the Echigo-Tsumari region, but the villagers take such good care of it that it’s still functional to this day.
Drawing on their socialist histories, Russian-American artists Emilia and Ilya Kabakov activated a rice field with poetry, landscaping and sculptures of traditional rice farmers in their work “The Rice Field” (2000). Viewed from a platform on the opposite bank, viewers see a cohesive portrait. The duo returned to the Triennial in 2015 with the sculpture “The Arch of Life”.
Country of Dreams was an academic treat for anyone with a moderate to severe obsession with contemporary art-stars. Couple that with bringing public art projects to picturesque rural areas and the perfect evening of intellectual titillation ensued.