The Presence of Absence (Setouchi Triennale)

Leandro Erlich continued his “The Presence of Absence” on Megijima for the 2016 Setouchi Triennale.  3 years ago it was a nice place with the restaurant/cafe IARA running in collaboration with the Triennale.  I thought it was a very interesting but I missed one of the original artworks that made up “The Presence of Absence”.  When you visit, you may have to wait to see the main artwork in the courtyard but the courtyard art is still as interesting as ever and if you are seeing it for the first time, I recommend enjoying it for as long as you can.  There is also a second artwork located inside a tatami room that I had missed in 2013 but made up for it in 2016.  The second artwork may be called “Double Tea” and the courtyard work may be called “The Presence of Absence” as Leandro Erlich lists the tatami room as “Double Tea” on his official website.

The Presence of Absence

Note:  The following has major spoilers for the artwork and can ruin the enjoyment of seeing it for the first time.  Do not read further if you wish to be amazed by the artwork for the first time.  If you have seen it before or plan to never see it in person, feel free to continue.

If you must wait to see “Double Tea”, you can just wait outside and enjoy the main courtyard inside the restaurant.  The rock garden is really peaceful and you really need to be quiet to enjoy it.  If you arrive during the quiet time, just give it a minute and you will soon see the artwork come to life.  You will start to hear footsteps on crushed rock which makes you want to look into the rock garden.  If you look closely, you will see footsteps come to life as if a spirit is walking through the garden.  It was amazing the first time I saw it but the second time I saw it, it had lost its luster as I wasn’t surprised by it.  That being said, I still enjoyed it and still contemplated what it meant to me.

The Presence of Absence

“Double Tea” is just as interesting and requires 2 people to fully understand everything.  You enter 1 room and it is nothing more than a simple tatami room with a table and cushions in the around the table.  Take a seat near the entrance and just enjoy the peace.  When you look to the central wall, you will see a nice mirror where you can enjoy yourself as a guest in the adjoining room.  When you move to the inner cushions, you will notice that you disappear.  This is a pretty simple trick by making a copy of the room in an adjacent compartment and then adding a mirror to one doorway and nothing in the next.  It was a fun way to enjoy the artwork and I already had an idea of what would happen based on the photos on the official website.

The Presence of Absence

The Presence of Absence is an artwork that I really didn’t spend much time enjoying this year, but that was due to the summer heat.  When I reflect on the artwork, it was much better than I thought than when I was there.  I was also not surprised by what happened as things were more predictable.  It is too late to take the information away but it was a wonderful exhibit nonetheless.

Note:  Photos are not allowed inside the building.