08/16/2022 by

Step onto Inujima's art island this summer with Symbiosis: Living Island, exploring the extraordinary living art project has been transforming the landscape and the lives of the inhabitants of Inujima Island in the Seto Inland Sea since 2010.

On show at Japan House London until 4 September 2022Symbiosis: Living Island presents a masterclass in how to breathe new life into an isolated island community through art and architecture which directly engages the local community and celebrates its surroundings.

The tiny 0.54 km² island of Inujima - once a thriving industrial hub for the copper refining and stone quarrying industries - has seen a steady decline in population with just 50 of its elderly residents remaining today. The Fukutake Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the promotion of regional culture, has been responsible for the celebrated Benesse Art Site Naoshima project that has developed the neighbouring islands of Naoshima and Teshima. In 2009 the foundation approached curator Hasegawa Yūko, Director of the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, and internationally renowned architect Sejima Kazuyo to help provide a creative lifeline for the extraordinary Inujima landscape.

Inujima is now home to five art pavilions and several evolving outdoor exhibits, all designed and created by artists from across the globe - including Nawa Kōhei, Kojin Haruka, Asai Yūsuke and Olafur Eliasson – with the aim of rejuvenating a local population which thrives on sharing their 'art island' with visitors from all over the world.

Upon stepping into the exhibition space, visitors are transported to the island via both the sights and sounds of everyday island life, all designed to provide a visual sense of how the art, architecture, landscape and inhabitants of Inujima experience a symbiotic relationship.

Occupying the central space of the gallery is a 1:100 diorama of the island, a series of sculpted metalwork routes representing the pathways that traverse across the island landscape.

The art and architecture of Inujima is further brought to life via architectural models and photography which demonstrate how the 'Art-House' structures utilise existing buildings and spaces on the island, repurposing and reimagining their everyday function.  The exhibition also features oral testimonies from residents who chat enthusiastically not only about their involvement in the project and the ongoing importance of working in harmony with the island's existing assets, but how the project has transformed the lives of the islanders and restored their faith in its future prosperity.

The exhibition continues on the Ground Floor with a full-scale replica of part of Yellow Flower Dream by internationally renowned Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes. Created especially for installation in A-Art House in 2018, the site-specific artwork functions as a stained glass-like structure that aims to capture the energy and vibrant colours of Injuma's natural landscape.

Hasegawa Yūko, curator of the Symbiosis: Living Island exhibition said: "The island of Inujima is a place that embodies an harmonious eco-system. Through our work, we wanted to create an example of how an island and its community can be revitalized and enriched by living together with art. I hope that visitors to the Symbiosis exhibition will experience the same enrichment from their interaction with the Inujima 'Art House Project', not only exploring the concept of symbiosis in their own lives but to maybe even visit the island one day".

Simon Wright, Director of Programming, Japan House London said: "We are delighted to be able to bring the story behind the extraordinary island of Inujima to life at Japan House London and the work of two remarkable Japanese cultural leaders. Symbiosis: Living Island explores the transformative impact the Inujima 'Art House Project' has had on, not only those who live and work on the island, but those who travel from afar to visit."

Symbiosis: Living Island is open now until Sunday 4 September 2022. Admission is free and booking is recommended.

Autumn exhibition at Japan House London

This year, Japan House London's autumn exhibition will explore the art of master woodworkingOpening Thursday 29 September 2022, the exhibition will shine a light on the densely forested Hida region of Gifu Prefecture in central Japan, famous for its master carpentry. Featuring a variety of materials, techniques and products that represent the reflect the breadth of skill passed between generations of Hida craftspeople – visitors can explore woodworking from Japan's most innovative woodworking region.

For centuries the region has been known for the quality of its timber and highly skilled carpenters. An initiative in the beginning of the eighth century CE saw woodworking skills provided to the imperial capital in place of taxation, such was the importance of the carpentry techniques originating in this area of Japan. Today, the practice of woodworking flourishes in Hida and the quality of the region's craftsmanship is respected worldwide. It was the extraordinary skill of Hida craftsmen that built many of the famous shrines and temples still seen in the ancient capitals of Japan today. 

Visit japanhouselondon.uk for further information.