Disasters Japan

Polish festival shows solidarity with earthquake hit Japan

Villa Tokyo still expected to go ahead despite natural disaster

TOKYO. With Japan still coming to terms with the tragic effects of one of the largest earthquakes on record, Warsaw’s Raster gallery has nonetheless committed itself to staging an arts festival in Tokyo this summer. Following on from a similar event staged in Iceland last year, Villa Tokyo is planned as a collaboration between European and Japanese galleries, alongside live music and film screenings.

Speaking to The Art Newspaper, Agata Jastrzabek, a Brussels-based curator who is helping coordinate the project said, “We have already planted a seed of Villa Tokyo and the ground turned out to be much more receptive than expected. The project took off before the deeply sad natural disaster. Our partners in Japan are convinced that Villa Tokyo needs to happen, which is the crucial reason for us to continue. They want to see it as a post-quake spirit booster.”

Funding for Villa Tokyo is set to be provided by Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with some money from the budget being set aside to promote the country during its six-month presidency of the European Union, which begins in July. The Polish embassy in Tokyo will also support the festival, while Japanese partners include New Tokyo Contemporaries, an association of young galleries, and the more established galleries, Tomio Koyama and Taka Ishiii. Apart from Raster, European galleries have yet to confirm their participation, but all off those which took part in 2010’s Villa Reykjavik have been invited.

In taking the concept of the Villa festivals, which originally began in Warsaw in 2006, to Japan, Raster has inadvertently now planned events in two of the world’s most geologically active regions. Preparation for Villa Reykjavik was itself disrupted by an extreme natural event, after the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano, though the festival did go ahead on time.

Explaining the choice of Tokyo for this year’s event, Jastrzabek suggested that it had been other similarities with Iceland that had originally drawn the team’s attention. “Japan like Iceland is an island, where people eat lots of fish, love nature, are culturally and traditionally very different from the rest of the western globalised world. On the other hand, Tokyo can easily be seen as an opposite to Reykjavik; in terms of space, density, robotics and technology.”

Jastrzabek acknowledged that work on Villa Tokyo had understandably been slowed down by the natural disaster, but is still hoping the festival can open in late August. The final decision to go ahead will, however, take into account any health risks related to radiation leaks caused by the damage to Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant.

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