Hirofumi Matsuzaki’s column for Asahi Art Festival

Hiro recently wrote a column about Studio Kura’s Artist in Residence Program for Asahi Art Festival, a network that connects many art projects in Japan. Here is an English translation, hoping that you will understand better his feelings about the Residence Program.

After I graduated at a certain university in Hiroshima, I lived in Germany for five years as an artist. I did my best to join as many artist in residence programs in Europe as I was able to.
I was a bit jealous of Europeans having art so blended into their cities, so when I decided to come back to my homeland Itoshima I thought I would have to build an environment before working on my own art. So I decided to build a base. And remembering the residences I had been to, I thought it should be a place where artists gather and create while building a connection to the place.

In 2007, I founded Artist in Residence Studio Kura with the purpose of inviting foreign artists. At first I wondered if there would be any artists willing to come to such a rural, small residence, but as soon as I put the website up mails started coming. And now there is even a school in Singapore which is sending us every year the student who graduated with the best grades, something we call the Studio Kura Award.

The best thing about running this residence is rediscovering the beauty of Itoshima’s people, products and history together with the artists, at the same time I am introducing to Itoshima the artists’ diverse ways of thinking and expression. As of today, we have welcomed 24 artists from 15 countries. Artists keep coming to this place despite being in the countryside and not having too good installations. In order to meet their expectations, we are always working on the kind of daring projects that would seem unpursuable to public institutions, and on becoming a residence program more closely related to our region and environment.

The same local people who were surprised seeing a foreigner and asked “What are you doing here?” have got more and more used to spotting foreign artists walking through the fields, and now they kindly ask things like “You’re staying at Mr. Matsuzaki’s place, right? Where are you from? What are you working on?”. Some elderly people even decided to start learning English to be able to communicate with these visitors from different countries.

Artists come from really far places. Then they meet these people and this land. Ideas and inspiration appear, then new people, objects and places trigger a chemical reaction and art is born. This moment is what excites me the most. Every time I see it, I become a prisoner of this feeling. I think the vague idea I had of the base I wanted for art has to be a space where this kind of encounters happen.

Agricultors, fishers, programmers, designers, architects, and people of many other occupations come to Studio Kura to meet the artists in residence. And with such people joining hands with the artists, in last year’s spring we started the Itoshima Art Festival. As a result of joining Asahi Art Festival, I also got to meet art project representatives from all over Japan. Once again, many different things got connected. I am really thrilled to see what kind of artistic chemical reaction happens next, and how it broadens our horizons.

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