Fukutake House Asia Art Platform, Setouchi Triennale (Japan)

Along with six Asian arts residency centres, Asialink Arts, Australia was invited to participate in the Fukutake House Asia Art Platform, Setouchi Triennale, Japan.

2013 marks the second incarnation of the Setouchi Triennale, an international arts festival that uses art for social change. The Setouchi islands are losing their unique characteristics due to declining economies and an ageing population. The Triennale aims to encourage a new generation of visitation to the islands - and it is working - In 2010 the festival attracted 930,000 visitors over 100 days. 

The inaugural Fukutake House Asia Art Platform opened during the summer season of the Triennale on the island of Shodoshima. This international arts residency platform used art and food to question ‘How have we, Asian regions, faced the globalisation?’ Each participating country was asked to address how they are confronting the homogenising wave of globalisation, while drawing comparisons to the local situation.This innovative platform involved a residency for the Asian arts residency centres with their selected artists; an exhibition; a chef workshop; and symposium. It required diverse collaboration between the arts residency centres, as well as with the local community. It was more about the process than the product, and more about initiating a dialogue around globalisation, than finding solutions.

Australian Executive Chef Andrew McConnell and Chef John Paul Twomey conducting a Chef Workhop with local Shodoshima participants Photo: Eliza Roberts

The site of the residency was poignant – an abandoned elementary school that reminded us of the plight of the island where the average age is 65. It was as though the lunch bell had just sounded and all the kids had run out to play. Photographs of the teachers and artwork by the children still lined the corridor walls four years after the school’s closure. As a universal symbol for youth and future ambition, the school was a monument to the predicament of the island, but at the same time, it served to re-energise the local community through its reincarnation as the venue for this platform.


Beyond the school grounds, the island was re-inventing itself too. Once famous for local granite quarries that have now been replaced by imported stone, Shodoshima has lovingly transformed itself into the ‘Olive Island’ in an attempt to reinvigorate the economy. From the olive plantations stemmed olive paraphernalia such as olive-patterned seat covers and olive ice-cream. Like the introduced olive to Shodoshima, Australia is an island that is subject to the importation of external influences. While older traditions are dwindling in the face of globalisation, new fusion cultures are being born. 

Fukuda Elementary School, Shodoshima Photo: Kanagawa Shingo

Melbourne artist Jackson Slattery examined this commonality through his residency exhibition Monument Within A Sculpture. Using repetition and replication, Slattery emphasised the impact of introduced elements to the island. Similarly, Andrew McConnell’s Chef Workshop introduced local Shodoshima participants to ‘Modern Australian’ cuisine, which borrows techniques and flavours from different cultures to create fusions. Fukutake House Asia Art Platform involved wide-spread collaboration over an intense period, resulting in real and ongoing
friendships. It was a residency model that embraced art and food as universal mechanisms that transcend cultural and language barriers, to discuss a global issue.

Jackson Slattery, Monument Within A Sculpture: Part 2 (installation shot)
Photo: Kanagawa Shingo

About the author

Eliza Roberts is Arts Residencies Manager at Asialink, Australia and Board Member of Res Artis. Based at the  University of Melbourne, the role of Asialink Arts is to encourage dialogue and develop opportunities for cultural exchange and engagement between Australia and Asia based on the principles of partnership, collaboration and reciprocity.