Karato is one of the wider areas of Teshima. There are two main areas of Karato, the harbour/port area and the hillside area. The main route for the festival, assuming you start at Ieura, starts by heading around the north side of the central mountain before going through a short valley. The path then winds around a steep hill before arriving at the port. It is a nice and scenic route along the north side of the island but unfortunately from the bus you do tend to miss a lot. Considering I like to take photos as a hobby, taking the bus is not the most productive way to experience the island let alone bring opportunities to take photos. Cycling can allow you to see a lot of the island in a shorter time but photo opportunities are few and far between, especially with a large camera. For my own personal route from Karato, I took the bus out to Karato Port and walked around that area before taking the bus up the hill to get to the Teshima Art Museum. I then walked the rest of the way back to Ieura.
Arriving in the early morning on Teshima meant that I had a lot of free time. Taking the bus also meant I had a lot of free time. I arrived in Karato Port around 8:30am and had nothing to do for about one and a half hours. The main art project I wanted to see was located about 1-2 km away from the port and didn’t open until 10am. This meant I had a lot of free time so I took a small tour of the small village area next to the port and went to a tiny tea house where a nice old lady entertained me and my friend. We then headed to “No one wins – Multibasket” by Llobet & Pons. It was a simple basketball backboard that was in the shape of Teshima, along with several baskets. There were several basketballs next to the exhibit so I did what any natural westerner would do. I grabbed a ball and played a little basketball for about 10 minutes. It was fun to play and I worked up a small sweat but it was the most fun art installation of the entire festival. Down the road was the “Les Archives du Coeur” by Christian Boltanski. Christian Boltanski is a French artist who wanted to create an archive of heartbeats to open our eyes to our own mortality. The installation is a permanent exhibit next to the beach. The main art is a dark corridor lined with small mirrors and a solitary light in the centre. You hear various recordings of heart beats as the light pulsates to the beat. There is another room where you can select heartbeats and listen to them with a view of the beach and a recording room. I found the piece to be interesting but the 1500 yen price to record your own heartbeat was a bit steep for me, so I opted not to do it. From Les Archives du Coeur, I headed back to Karato Port and took the bus up the hill to the Teshima Art Museum. It is the major installation by Benesse. The tour of the museum starts with a walk around the grounds to see the rice fields of the surrounding hill and the Seto Inland Sea and Karato Port below. You then enter the main museum which was designed by Ryue Nishizawa in collaboration with the artist Rei Naito. It is essentially a large concrete dome with two holes cut into it. You are asked to be quiet so that the sounds of nature can enter the dome. There are also several holes in the ground. Some of them have water coming out of them while others are drains. It creates a very lovely looking floor but beware that your feet could get wet. Also be aware that some areas are “off limits” due to the flowing nature of the water and staff will ask you to move away from that area. It was a nice place but like most of the large scale Benesse museums, I was let down overall.
Karatoka is an area just above the Teshima Art Museum. It is home to 4 installations, with “Storm House” by Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller being the closest to the Teshima Art Museum. Storm House is one of the most memorable houses of the entire festival. It is a 10 minute “show” where you enter the small 2 room house and take a seat on the tatami floors. It starts with a simple aural experience as you hear the birds chirping. You then start to hear thunder and then you see flashes of lightning. The rain starts to pour harder and harder until the peak of the storm cuts the power. As the storm passes, things start to calm down and return to normal. It was a complete immersive experience that was very interesting and could challenge Disney in creating a lifelike experience. I then headed to “Shima Kitchen” by Ryo Abe. It was not so much art as much as a restaurant with artistic looks. There was a large outdoor terrace with a very interesting roof and the restaurant was done in collaboration with chefs from the Marunouchi Hotel as well as the obachans of Teshima. It was lovely to have lunch there and I highly recommend it to everyone. Behind Shima Kitchen was “Your First Colour (Solution In My Head-Solution In My Stomach)” by Pipilotti Rist. Utilizing a small store house behind Shima Kitchen, this artwork was very boring for me. Using a round screen suspended in the second floor, viewable through a hole in the floor, you can enjoy watching images of tulips and other relaxing things. I found it to be too simple so I didn’t stay for a long time. I then proceeded to “Particles in the Air/ Karato” by Noe Aoki. It was a series of rusted metal disks that were welded together and formed, for a lack of a better description, halos in the sky. It was located next to an old shrine where there was free flowing well water for you to wash your hands as well as get a drink of water. While I was there, a TV crew was also there and they asked me and my friend a few questions. They worked for Nishi Nippon TV but unfortunately I won’t be seen in Tokyo as the show is only for Okayama and Kagawa. From Particles in the Air / Karato, I walked all the way back to Ieura with a stop at “Tom Na H-iu” by Mariko Mori. It was one of the installations that I wanted to see as it was a white stone located in the centre of a pond that was surrounded by a bamboo forest. It was also located in an area that was difficult to access at times. It was so difficult to access that they offer rubber boots for the rainy season. While the art didn’t live up to my expectations, it was a very tranquil setting and I felt at one with nature. The white stone itself is hollow and I learned after visiting that the stone only lights up if a supernova in the universe is recorded. Unfortunately I didn’t see that on this trip.
While Teshima is a great island to visit, it felt like Naoshima, only more spread out. The major museum was as spectacular as when I went to the Chichu Museum on Naoshima. It was overly simplistic without getting my spirits up. I found more delight in seeing all of the smaller works, the art houses, and meeting the older generations still on the island. There are a lot of stories to be heard on Teshima but you really have to get out there and listen to them. Lots of the obachan are willing to tell you a story if you are willing to listen to them. With all the obachan I did meet, I was surprised I didn’t get more sweets. Unlike the Tokyo obachan, the obachan of the countryside are pretty sweet and will provide you with more stories than you could ever imagine.
Bonus Video: Just a short video of the ferry from Takamatsu to Teshima. I just thought the old man was really cool.
Teshima – Karato is part of a series of posts on the Setouchi Triennale, and half of a two part series on Teshima. 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
- 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