National Performance Network > What We Do > Funded Projects > International Program Profiles > If it’s Tuesday, it Must Be Beppu: A Travel Diary

If it’s Tuesday, it Must Be Beppu: A Travel Diary

by Renata PetroniMap of Japan

Renata Petroni, director of NPN’s International Program, chronicles the fall 2012 visit of the U.S. curatorial team to Kyoto and Tokyo, with a unique combination of national history, reflections on urban design and artistic insights.

The NPN Asia curator team, comprised of Yolanda Cursach (Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago), F. John Herbert (Legion Arts, Cedar Rapids), Dawnell Smith (Out North, Anchorage), Kyoko Yoshida (U.S./Japan Cultural Trade Network president and project facilitator) and MK Wegmann and Renata Petroni (NPN staff) traveled to Japan October 2-8, 2012 to see a wide range of live work and to meet with NPN Japanese counterparts for the U.S./Japan Connection, an exchange project of the NPN International Program developed in partnership with the Japan Contemporary Dance Network (JCDN). Unlike past trips that featured longer stays, this trip blazed through three cities in six days — four actually, if we count the city of arrival.

The U.S. curatorial team arrived in Fukuoka on October 2 where we spent the night in an anonymous hotel waiting to take the train in the morning to Beppu, the first stop on the journey. Located in Oita Prefecture on the island of Kyushu in the south of Japan, Beppu is a small city of about 100,000 people, famous for its unique and visually stunning volcanic hot springs known as the Eight Hells of Beppu. The largest spa in Japan, the city offers a number of onsen (hot springs) that, together with the Eight Hells, are the main economic engine of Beppu — four million people each year visit the famous hot springs.

Ryokan Yamada Bessou in Beppu - photo Renata PetroniImmediately after checking into a stunning ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn) recommended by Nori Sato, the director of the Japan Contemporary Dance Network, the team attended a five-hour working meeting with the JCDN partners to discuss the structure of the exchange. In a previous meeting held in Yokohama in February 2012, it became clear that the different needs and structures of the two networks, as well as the different funding systems in Japan and the U.S., required a flexible reciprocity structure. As NPN is a network of presenters and JCDN is a network of producers who support the creation of new work and are not set up to present existing work, a reciprocal exchange had to be designed with multiple components.  Since the touring component of Japanese artists coming to the U.S. was a clear-cut decision, the discussion focused on the creative residency/presentation of U.S. artists in Japan. Although the practical and economic details of the exchange are still to be worked out, the outline of the structure is in place.

Beppu ExhibitFollowing the meeting, Mr. Sato invited all the participants to visit an abandoned shopping arcade, which was the site for the visual arts and site-specific dance festival that he organized in an attempt to revitalize the area. The day ended with a communal meal in a traditional restaurant.

The following day, the U.S. team took two trains to Kyoto, a city of about 1.5 million inhabitants located in the center of Japan on the island of Honshu. Kyoto, established in the 8th century A.D., was the first capital of Japan and the seat of the imperial court until the mid-19th century when the capital was transferred to Tokyo, following the Hamaguri rebellion that destroyed a large part of the capital.

Designed on a grid like the Chinese cities of the time, Kyoto is a compact and efficient city with hundreds of temples ranging from small shrines to towering edifices overlooking the city from the surrounding mountains. In Kyoto, the U.S. curatorial team visited the Kyoto Art Center where they saw a film installation by Billie Cowie and a dance workshop by Tomohiko Kyogoku. We also met with Yusuke Hashimoto, the director of Kyoto Experiment, a three-year old festival that is joining the ranks of the important national festivals. The following morning, we spent a few hours visiting the spectacular temple of Sanjusangen-do with its 1,000 standing sculptures of the god Kannon before attending several performances at the Nuit Blanche, a visual arts and performance festival, which started at 6 p.m. and lasted through the night. The team’s energy was exhausted by 10 p.m. but not before we attended a dance performance by Selenographica and a spectacular media event by the collective Machideco International who made the Manga Museum outer walls come alive through projection mapping. At the French Institute we attended Dance in Building 2012, an interactive dance/theater performance by local dance/theater company Monochrome Circus.

Asian curators meetingThe fourth day found us heading east to Tokyo, where we were hosted by the Tokyo Dance Triennale. After checking in, we traversed Tokyo by subway to meet with the producers of the Setagaya Theater, an impressive complex of three theaters and rehearsal spaces that produces and presents large-scale works. After the meeting, we hopped on the subway again to go to a symposium on dance organized by the Triennale. On our last day in Japan, the team met with members of Faifai, the Tokyo-based theater group selected by the U.S. curators to tour in November/December 2013; with Kenji Matsumoto of the Japan Foundation; and with the director of the Tokyo Dance Triennale. We also attended Love Fire, a performance by Israeli choreographer Jasmine Goddard, and Japan Focus, a showcase of Japanese choreographers including Hideto Heshiki, Maki Tabata, 21st Century Geba-Geba Dance Company and Mikiko Kawamura.

On October 8th, the team left Japan with a great sense of accomplishment. Jet lag and exhaustion did not take away from the thrill of seeing new sites, meeting a number of new colleagues, seeing interesting work and making strides in formulating the structure of the U.S./Japan Connection project.

photos by: Kyoko Yoshida and Renata Petroni

January 2013


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