Aichi Triennale Artistic Director on the relevance of art in a post-pandemic world

Mami Kataoka, the Artistic Director of the Aichi Triennale 2022 in Japan, talks to STIR about the ongoing exhibition that features 100 international artists.

by Shraddha NairPublished on : Oct 09, 2022

The Aichi Triennale is an unmissable event if you are in and around Nagoya, the Japanese port and manufacturing hub located less than two hours from Tokyo in Japan. Hosted every three years since 2010, the 2022 edition brings together visual and performance art works from a hundred artists across the globe. This time around, the curatorial theme works to encapsulate the feeling of a pandemic hangover. Captioned Still Alive, the showcase considers what it means to be a participant in the new world and our consequent relationship with contemporary art. Artistic Director of the 2022 Aichi Triennale and Director of the renowned Mori Art Museum, Mami Kataoka, speaks with STIR about her vision for the ongoing festival.

Installation view: Reflecting Memory / Réfléchir la Mémoire, 2016, Kader Attia | Aichi Triennale | Kader Attia | STIRworld
Installation view: Reflecting Memory / Réfléchir la Mémoire, 2016, Kader Attia Image: ToLoLo Studio; Courtesy of Aichi Triennale Organizing Committee, and Kader Attia

The Aichi Art Centre in Nagoya City is the primary venue for this Triennale, showcasing the main body of work. However, there are various limbs spread across the Aichi Prefecture, all within an hour's travel from central Nagayo City – Tokoname City, Ichinomiya City and Nagoya's Arimatsu district. This fractioned format of showcasing integrates the experience of the Triennale with the coastal district's culture, simultaneously increasing access and outreach.

Installation view: Specimen Roo,2022, Shiota Chiharu | Aichi Triennale | Shiota Chiharu | STIRworld
Installation view: Specimen Roo, 2022, Shiota Chiharu Image: ToLoLo Studio; Courtesy of Aichi Triennale Organizing Committee, and Shiota Chiharu

Sixty per cent of the works on view comprise newly commissioned projects by the Triennale, while the rest are existing artworks. Kataoka tells us how she envisioned this year’s event. She says, “The preparation for this Triennale started during the pandemic. There were millions of people dying across the world and life itself was being questioned. I wanted to see how art could still be a means to consider the meaning of life. I also wanted to explore the history of conceptual art in this Triennale, and I wanted to embed this narrative into the exhibition.” The theme Still Alive draws our attention to the environmental, political, cultural and economic effects of the pandemic. The exhibition asks the viewer to consider the idea of time, which is reflected in the curation of works, representing both traditional and avant-garde. Kataoka says, “I wanted to see how contemporary art could have dialogue with local craft tradition and how locally rooted history can be in dialogue with the global art scene. All these opposing ideas could co-exist in one frame. So, the artists were chosen according to the given space, and the story of their work.”

Installation view: Transference Harmonies/Armonías de transferencia, 2022, Pablo Dávila | Aichi Triennale | Pablo Dávila | STIRworld
Installation view: Transference Harmonies/ Armonías de transferencia, 2022, Pablo Dávila Image: ToLoLo Studio; Courtesy of Aichi Triennale Organizing Committee, and Pablo Dávila

The idea of time is one that has been grappled with in every culture. All religions have their own mythologies and constructs of the past, present and future, and how they are each interrelated. Kataoka tells us about one artist’s reflections of the same. She says, “On Kawara’s idea of time shows how the microcosmos is equal to the macrocosms. Everything starts from one moment, here and now. There is always correspondence between the micro and macro. On Kawara was painting the dates of that day for nearly 50 years." On Kawara was a modernist and conceptual artist of Japanese origin, born in the Aichi Prefecture, who lived in New York City for the larger part of his life. On display at the Triennale is his series of telegrams I Am Still Alive, which also serves as inspiration for this Triennale title. Kawara’s works are intrinsically tied to the concept of time, using action and art event to mark the passing of time. In his I Got Up (1968-1979) series, the artist sent out a postcard every day for about 10 years, each with a short message noting the time he arose from his bed that day. Kawara’s work is, in many instances, the visual result of repeated action over a long period of time. Through this practice, the artist invites us to contemplate our very own existence.

Behind the scenes of Aichi Triennale 2022 Video: Courtesy of Aichi Triennale Organizing Committee

Mexican artist Pablo Dávila brings together his study in film and Tibetan Buddhism with Transference Harmonies. The installation uses a large digital LED screen, 1800 by 5000 pixels. The work uses a processor to convert a vast range of randomly generated numbers which combine black, white and two shades of grey into every possible permutation and combination of pixels. Kataoka says, “It talks about the uncountable, the length of human breath, also taking into account our concept of time.” Taiwan-based Hsu Chia-Wei creates a virtual reality installation based on the popular video game Minecraft. The work ties together past and present by examining connections between people, places and materials through narratives which are often excluded from conventional history. Each artist approaches this year's theme with a diverse toolkit of materials and perspectives, building a network of pathways for viewers to use as a map to navigate the philosophical implications of Still Alive.

A portrait of Mami Kataoka | Aichi Triennale | Shiota Chiharu | STIRworld
Mami Kataoka, Artistic Director of Aichi Triennale 2022 Image: Ito Akinori; Courtesy of Aichi Triennale Organizing Committee

The Triennale itinerary is replete with a line-up of tours, music and theatre performances and screenings. The exhibition includes a number of Japanese artists, showing the organisation's support for local art-scape. Some noteworthy artists on view are Cao Fei, Chiharu Shiota, Gabriel Orozco and Kader Attia, and many more. Lectures, talks, interviews and research are available to online viewers across the world. Aichi Triennale is on view until October 10, 2022.

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