Tachikawa International Art Festival, 2001  

Like a Trojan horse
the work of Thai artist, Surasi Kusolwong, has snuck into the citadel of consumerism -- the Japanese department store. Surasis art is about giving, not buying or selling. It usually involves the free distribution of knickknacks from a Thai market to up-market contemporary art gallery-goers around the world.

This is his first piece sited in a store, the Isetan in Tachikawa, and generated mad shopper scenes as people pressed to receive his market offerings. This opening frenzy was recorded on video and is on display near the stores main entrance on the second floor. The video is surrounded by a few remaining samples, which are set against large photographic images of their market origins.

These plastic trinkets and cheap toys make a colorful yet humble contrast to the consumer glitz that surrounds them. This new stealth approach, of sneaking art to the people, is part of Tachikawa International Art Festival, 2001.

Conceived of and directed by Fram Kitagawa, Tachikawa International Art Festival, like his other art projects, is interwoven into a social redevelopment project. Tachikawa once a military base, is now a thriving and expanding urban center in the Tokyo Metropolitan area.

Art is a focal point in the redevelopment plan. As part of this festival about 16 international artists are exhibiting work in various locations around the downtown region of Tachikawa. Also concealed among the designer labels in the Isetan shop windows and part of the festival, are radiantly colored and embroidered traditional clothing from Africa.

An antique toilet, a tea cup, coil of rope, huge wooden needles, and oversized tea towels, combine in an enigmatic installation by Australian artist Neilton Clarke. His piece titled 'Drop' is like a word association game with various elements in the display connecting with the title to give multiple readings.

From teardrop to the verb-form, 'dropped, the associations run freely through the work, revealing the complexity and humor of language like a good English teacher. In spite of the disparate meanings in the installation, it has a strong coherence through color and form.

The backdrop to the piece, like much of Tokyo, is covered in tiled panels and each element has a familiar, antiqued patina. In the adjoining Granduo store window in the main station entrance, is a piece by Mexican artist Jorge Ismael Rodriguez.

It is done in the style of pop-up childrens book illustrations where Rodriguez has hung painted cut outs of his undersea fable. Linda Dennis paintings in the Shin Suzuharu building deal with tradition. Dennis has reduced various patterns used in traditional art and craft to simple geometric forms and then covered them in layers of paint. Scraping away varying amounts of paint by the public reveal elements of the patterns hidden underneath.

Included in the festival, from November 2 - 10 in the Amyu Tachikawa Exhibition Space near the civic offices (south exit from the station), is a display which includes the work of international artists, Francisco Infante (Russia), Do-Bold (Mongolia), Wang Xiao Ming (China) Lee Sungbo (Korea) and Toho Shozen (Taiwan).

Concurrently in this space is a selection of work by international students from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. A visit to the Tachikawa International Art Festival is an odyssey thorough modern suburban Tokyo and there is much to discover.

On weekends, there are art associated events and workshops connected with the festival, as well as, a fine permanent display of contemporary outdoor sculpture. However, not everything is easy to find in the area nor always open and I strongly recommend checking the festival website or telephoning for program details, dates and times.

through 10 November Tachikawa City center - various locations Tel. 042.527.7196 Check festival website for details and map - www.tachikawa.net/artfes/ Chuo line, Tachikawa station