The snake in many Eastern traditions has often been a symbol of rebirth, metamorphosis and yet of the infinite renewal of life. This edition of the Okayama Art Summit, with its title being ‘If The Snake’ focuses on the state of transformation of the world in general as well as art. It is directed at stimulating discussion and thought around what constitutes art exhibitions. Many of the artworks exhibited in this edition, therefore, present imagined intelligent life forms as they would exist in a fictional universe where humans would not necessarily lie at the centre of civilisation.
The snake, then, is a metaphor for these in-between states of evolution and transformation, providing a link between all that is discontinuous and highlighting that which continues to remain transitory. Perhaps, the exhibition then is symbolic of the human condition in the present times where the continual rush towards the material is posing larger existential concerns regarding nature, survival, evolution, technology, and sustainability. How then will the snake change its skin and transform remains an enigma.
‘If The Snake’, according to the organisers of the Okayama Art Summit, represents a living entity, through which navigate heterogeneous things, chemical and algorithmic processes, as well as different intelligent life forms. The inherent dynamic characteristics of the worlds, proposed by the artists, and the conditions of their co-presence, endlessly grow particular modes of uncertain and unpredictable continuity. The entity is an infant complex system in formation. People are exposed to its indifference. The exhibition is just one in an infinite possibility, one hypothesis, of its existence.
The Okayama Art Summit 2019 is the second edition of the Japanese contemporary art fair, which earlier took place in 2016. It is being held in Okayama, Japan, from September 27 to November 24, 2019. The triennale exhibition is being directed by French artist Pierre Huyghe, who was a participant of the Okayama Art Summit 2016, the latter being directed by artist Liam Gillick. Okayama Art Summit with its international direction tries to stand out in the crowd of an increasing number of biennales and triennales.
The second edition of the Summit builds on the rich historical legacy and cultural heritage of the city. Okayama sits within western Japan’s Setouchi region, which is increasingly recognised for such art attractions as the Ohara Museum of Art, the Naoshima ’art island’, and the popular contemporary art festival Setouchi Triennale, whose fourth edition will partly coincide with the Okayama Art Summit in September and October 2019.
The exhibition is being produced by Ishikawa Foundation’s president, Yasuharu Ishikawa, and the works will be exhibited across several historical and cultural sites including the Former Uchisange Elementary School, Tenjinyama Cultural Plaza of Okayama Prefecture, Okayama Orient Museum, Okayama Castle, Hayashibara Museum of Art and more.
This edition will exhibit the works of 17 international artists, including Tarek Atoui, Matthew Barney, Etienne Chambaud, Paul Chan, Ian Cheng, Melissa Dubbin and Aaron S. Davidson, John Gerrard, Fabien Giraud and Raphaël Siboni, Glass Bead, Elizabeth Hénaff, Eva L’Hoest, Fernando Ortega, Sean Raspet, Lili Reynaud-Dewar, Pamela Rosenkranz, Tino Sehgal, and Mika Tajima.
The event offers visitors the opportunity to not just delve into the world of art exhibits, but also to interact and engage with the artists and their underlying thought processes to experience something that transcends the boundaries of the original work and the place and time in which it is exhibited.