An early start was on the agenda today as we had planned to go by ferry to Teshima, one of the islands close to Naoshima and part of the Setouchi Triennale 2016. An art festival set on 12 different islands in the Seto Inland Sea. The first boat was to leave Honmoura port at 8.05. Twenty minutes later we arrived at Ieura port on Teshima.
To get around the island and to see the different art works we had to rent bikes. We were not allowed to take ours on board due to the small size of the boat. We found a bike rental not far from the port and hired electric bikes, as we wanted to be back at 13:00 for the boat back to Naoshima to visit the Benesse art sites. Teshima seemed even more remote than Naoshima and there were plenty of abandoned buildings. Trying to get people to visit these remote islands was one of the reasons behind setting up the art festival. Many of the younger population on Teshima had left over the years, as they did not seem to have a future here and moved away to the bigger cities.
Our first stop was Il Vento, a crazy house/restaurant, camouflaged by patterns, stripes and dots, inside and out, by German artist Tobias Rehberger. We felt slightly dizzy after walking through it and could not imagine sitting there to enjoy a coffee or even food as it was also intended to be a restaurant.
We cycled on to Teshima Yokoo House, by Tadanori Yokoo, which was turned into an art installation with a colourful Zen garden. Jerome really liked this house as it had a glass floor inside and we could see the water flowing underneath into the garden.
Before moving on to the next artwork we stopped at a Café for a coffee and some of the delicious, straight out of the oven, cheese rolls. We were very conscious of the time and decided to move on faster than we would have normally done.
The Needle Factory by Shinro Ohtake was the last artwork here in Ieura port for us to see. The artist, together with the local people had placed an unused wooden hull from a shipyard in Uwajima. The idea behind it was to make people aware of the history of Teshima. The needle factory used to be a big employer for the local woman, but had closed decades earlier to due the fading demand. Today most locals live off fishing and the rice they produce.
We cycled on, leaving the village behind, up a curving road, we were glad we had hired electric bikes, to Tom Na H-iu, a sculpture by Mariko Mori. The sculpture was set in the middle of a pond inside a thick bamboo grove. The sculpture is connected to a computer of the Kamioka Observatory and glows every time a supernova explosion is detected. Needless to say we were not lucky enough for it to happen. Jerome said afterwards that this was his favourite artwork of all.
Further up the hill, past lush green rice fields, backed by the blue Inland sea we reached the village of Karatooka. Dotted though the village were several art works and restaurants. I would have loved to stop at Shima kitchen, to sit on the wooden boards in the shade and enjoy a lazy lunch.
From now on it was down the hill, the warm breeze barely cooling us, to Teshima Art Museum. We assumed we would be able to get tickets straight away but were proven wrong. The next available time slot to enter the museum was an hour later. We were not aware that our Triennale ticket did not grant us instant access to all the art sights; also we had to pay an additional entrance fee on top.
We decided that an hour would give us enough time to ride all the way down to Karatohama to visit Les Archives du Coeur, an installation where we listened to recorded heart beats of people from all over the world. If you wanted to you could have your heartbeat recorded and added to the collection against a fee of 1,540 Yen. The archive was housed in a hut on a deserted beach with hundreds of dragonflies buzzing around us.
The cycle back to the Teshima Art Museum would have been muscle tearing if we had not had the electric bikes. We entered the museum along the path winding through the forest to the entrance of the dome like white washed structure that peeked out between the green terraced rice fields. We took off our shoes and entered the building. Inside we found a peaceful, tranquil space with a huge round hole in the ceiling that is open to the elements of nature. We sat down and noticed some water drops running down the floor. In fact water slowly drips and seeps onto the floor through small ping-pong sized balls and tiny holes in the concrete floor. I wish we could have stayed here for longer but we had to rush back to Ieura to get our ferry back to Naoshima. We had expected there to be more in the museum than “just” the building, especially after paying the extra entrance fee.
Teshima was a gem of an island and I know now that I would plan in an overnight stay to have more time exploring and seeing the other side of the island.