Cultural festivals as they should be

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Cultural festivals as they should be


It looks like a disk-shaped spaceship that landed in the forest. The interior is quite vast. Water is slowly flowing from tiny holes on the floor, and these droplets flow down in various shapes. Visitors need to take off their shoes and keep quiet. Touching or stepping on the water is also prohibited. The concept is a blessing of existence and an appreciation for all things alive. As I walked carefully, I focused my attention on the movements of the water drops. I spent about 40 minutes there, and I felt like I had paid a visit to a church or a temple.

Teshima Art Museum in the small island of Teshima in Kagawa Prefecture, southwestern Japan, hosts a single piece of artwork titled “Matrix.” The small island with a population of 1,000 was branded a “junk island” after an industrial waste scandal in 1990. An environmentally-friendly policy and the arts revived the island. The museum was created by artist Rei Naito, 52, and architect Ryue Nishizawa, 47. Since it opened in 2010, it has been attracting visitors from Japan and other countries.

Last weekend, I visited the Setouchi International Art Festival, which was held on 12 islands of the Seto Inland Sea and Takamatsu and Uno ports. Due to my short itinerary, I only visited two islands, Teshima and Ogijima. I had lunch at Shima Kitchen, a restaurant in Teshima that is an artwork in itself, and viewed Tobias Rehberger’s “What You Love Can Make You Cry” and Susumu Kinoshita’s “101-Year-Old’s Silence.” Ogijima is a tiny island with a population of 160, and the three hours I had spent was not enough to appreciate 23 artworks. “Onba Factory” used strollers as art, and “Corridor of Time” expressed the past and present with umbrellas. The installation artworks used the abandoned houses and actual living spaces on the remote island, thanks to the cooperation of the local residents.

Koreans also host events similar to those on the Japanese islands. Recently, the Ihwa-dong Village Museum exhibition opened, and Dongpirang Mural Village in Tongyeong is a permanent outdoor museum. Byeol Byeol Art Village in Yeongcheon, North Gyeongsang, is also famous. Yet, there are still not many community-driven art projects, and visitors often display bad manners. When an event becomes popular, shallow commercialism dominates recklessly. A cafe opens up in the Hanok Village in Jeonju every day, and among the four cities that have earned the “Slow City” designation, Jangheung has already been excluded and recertification is postponed for Sinan.

The villages hosting the Setouchi festival are strictly controlling vendors and restaurants operating without permits. Visitors greeted each other and lined up to appreciate art.

When I returned home on Sunday night, the Seoul International Fireworks Festival was on television. More than 30 people were injured in the crowd, and the festival left tons of waste. Is this how a cultural festival should go? October is supposed to be a month of culture.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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