The Art of Aomori

Posted by on Sep 25, 2011 in Aomori, Travel Volunteer Journey | One Comment
The Art of Aomori

No matter where you are in the world, towns can be pretty boring. And it’s very easy for them to fall into the mould of being dull rather than daring, having functionality rather than flair. With the global economy the way it is, perhaps small towns with few obvious resources would be justified in sticking to the basics, too…

But thankfully the artists of the world don’t settle for that, and once in a while, they’re given huge spaces to do exactly as they please; spaces like Towada City in Aomori. In the bygone days of yore, this town reared Japan’s warhorses, but today that equine past is largely captured by huge bronze statues in the street, and in the corners of menus in selected restaurants (horse is regularly eaten here).

Today, while there are a number of natural attractions in the surrounding countryside, if you took away the artwork from the city centre, you’d be left with… Well very little, save for the grand show of cherry blossom every April.

However, the Towada Art Centre ensures that everyone has plenty to look at all year around, things that – whisper it – are far more colourful and spectacular than the aged trees. Their collection of very modern art has been curated from artists around the world, from Costa Rica to Australia; from Argentina to Korea. Of course there’s a strong Japanese representation too.

As you might expect from such an eclectic mix, the work on show is tremendously varied. Inside the main gallery, Katy’s favourite was Takashi Kuribayashi‘s Sumpf Land, a two story, two world installation that give you the impression a polar bear might be waiting to pounce, but gives you… Something different entirely. To say any more would be to ruin the experience.

For me, the best on offer was Ron Mueck’s Standing Woman, a giant weird, wonderful beast that is perhaps the most unsettling sculpture I have ever seen. We weren’t allowed to take pictures to show you the oddity in full, but other people – shame on them – have.

Mercifully the no-photography, no-touching rules don’t apply outside of the gallery, and in Towada the creative space has long since spread to the high street. So away from the sweater-round-the-neck, chin-stroking luvvies (like Katy), ordinary folks (like me) can gawp at the the colourful bits and bobs, make up their own minds, and even squeeze off a few pictures.

Hooray for Towada’s artists! Hooray for what they do!


Our time in Aomori prefecture was made possible by:

The talented people at BUNACO, to whom Jamie would like to apologise for destroying one of their bowls. You can read all about them here.

Makoto Seito, who worries too much about her English because she’s an excellent guide around Hirosaki.

Everyone at the Towada Art Center, and the Towada Association for International Relations. Especially the well-travelled Mr Shirayama, who was always telling stories, laughing and insisting we eat more!












1 Comment

  1. Sandra Levine
    September 25, 2011

    I am enjoying your posts and photographs very much, but I wish the type were darker. It’s a bit difficult to read on the computer.