Uno is a nice quiet port town on the Okayama side of the Setouchi Triennale. My own thought is that Uno will be one area that is overlooked in the Setouchi Triennale. Uno doesn’t have a lot going for it as there really isn’t anything to see or do there. Doing a quick search, I found only one solitary hotel in the port area, so travelling to and from Uno would have to be done primarily via Okayama. It is a very small place that only needs an hour or so to cover. Things tend to be spread out a bit but for a short visit, you won’t be disappointed. The only problem with the art is that most of it is very interactive and requires a bit of explanation to appreciate it more than the face value of it. Thankfully I ran into a nice older gentleman who was a volunteer guide in Uno and a volunteer for the festival itself. He was kind enough to offer some insight into how the artwork was made as well as what we can do to enjoy it a lot more.
Upon disembarking from the ferry from Teshima, I started to get my bearings as Uno was completely new to me. I had never been in that port and I knew that the area would be relatively small. I didn’t need to do too much to learn about the area but I was confused because the art was spread out. I saw what looked like the first piece of art. It was an interestingly decorated micro-van and a strange couple of people standing by it. It turned out to be one of the artworks, “abandon/hope” by David Sylvian. Curiously enough it is also titled “resonance with UNO” in the official guide book but on the website they used abandon/hope. This art is actually pretty unique. Utilizing a photo from “Paradise” from Nobuyoshi Araki, David Sylvian’s work is actually a soundtrack rather than a physical piece of art. Curiously enough, there is a third title for this artwork, “Too Close To Being Far Away From Everything” by Taylor Deupree. Ultimately, you get a small badge from which you can listen to a special soundtrack of background music and sounds. It is meant to be worn and listened to for nearly an hour. The sounds you hear are sometimes a little scary as it feels as if you are walking with a ghost nearby. My only problem with the art is that the badges didn’t work properly. While it was designed to be capable of being fast forwarded, I always ended up having to restart it instead. The art is free, but you must put a 2000 yen deposit in order to use it, but you do get it back when you return it, and you can keep it for a few days if you really wanted to.
From the port, you can also easily see the first artwork, “Paradise”. It is a series of billboard sized photos along the main street in front of the port, but they were a little creepy for my own liking. They featured dolls and monsters with various flowers. It was interesting to see the composition together but I didn’t “get” the message. I then ventured over to “Memory of Ships Hull” by Atsushi Ozawa. Comprised of an old anchor set near the port and a ship propeller near the wharf, both pieces collect various metal works products from nearby industries and placed them on top of the two main items. It created a very insightful piece of art that made me wonder about the local industries and if they would continue to survive. Probably the most impactful artwork was “Chinu – the Black Sea Bream of Uno” by Yodogawa-Technique. The art was a large fish made out of garbage. The garbage was collected over time from the nearby river and the garbage of various colours was composed into the giant fish. It was striking to see so much garbage and to realize how much trash was going into the rivers by accident. The last work I saw was “Una” by Mio Shirai. It was the converted event hall space that had various tents and a small outdoor stage. You may not even notice it because it seemed pretty normal in general, especially after seeing so many pieces of art. Inside the hall, you can see a few special exhibits and at times you may even get to see a concert. The exhibit had some interesting works from other various artists including videos and other aural exhibits. It was one of the stranger exhibits to see and I honestly didn’t really get it either. From the summer edition, there will be several more artworks available to see in Uno but unfortunately I won’t be able to see them.
One of the highlights of my day was the extra 40 minutes I had waiting for my ferry to Takamatsu. I was preparing to head to the ferry terminal when a nice old gentleman, the one we met as we disembarked from the ferry, came up and struck up a small conversation with us. He was very knowledgeable of the ferry schedule and he was a volunteer guide for the area. He had worked as a young man on the many ferries that departed from Uno. He told us a great story about the history of Uno. It was once a large shipping port with most of its ships transporting rail cars. This was before the Seto Bridge was completed, so the only rail link between Honshu and Shikoku would have been via ferries from Uno to Takamatsu. There was a huge area the size of several football fields where the train cars would come in to be placed on to ships and subsequently taken off of the ships. You could see rails 6 wide and then when they entered the ships, they were 4 wide. It was amazing to hear the story and see the visual differences of the rail yard and how it was before and how it is now. He had a great photo board where we could see the images with the real backdrop. It is amazing to see such a difference and hopefully they can change the future so that Uno can be an interesting place to visit.
Uno was a place that surprised me. I don’t plan to ever visit Uno again by itself, but I would visit again if I go to the next Setouchi Triennale. The port is a very nice place with some good characters there. It does require a little luck in meeting nice older people who can give you a little advice and a little history. I would really enjoy the town more if I had the nice older gentleman as my full guide for the entire time I was in Uno. He is even a little famous as I saw him on TV a couple times promoting the art festival. Like all of the other communities I saw during the Setouchi Triennale, except for Naoshima and Takamatsu, the communities are still dying and in need of revitalizing. I’m not sure that I agree with spending money to revitalize some of the communities. It might be too expensive but at the same time, these are beautiful places that just need the right industry to make it viable. I hope they can do something better to encourage people to visit but it is unlikely if you ask me. For now, their hopes will have to continue to rest on the Triennale.
Uno is part of a series of posts on the Setouchi Triennale. Follow the links below to read more about the different aspects of the Setouchi Triennale.
- Dru’s Great Setouchi Triennale 2013 Misadventure
- EAT&ART TARO on Shamijima
- Food of Inujima
- Teshima – Kou and Ieura
- Teshima – Karato
- Eating on Teshima
- Ogijima (Part I)
- Ogijima (Part II)
- ONBA CAFE
- Naoshima (Benesse Art Site)
- Naoshima (Honmura & Miyanoura)
- Naoshima (Transportation)
- Takamatsu Revisited
- Takamatsu (Setouchi Triennale Edition)
- Ferries in the Setouchi Triennale
- Setouchi Triennale (Uno Port Page)