• Greetings

    photograph SAITO Sadamu

    The AMABIKI exhibition is set in the hills and hamlets of the former Yamato village, in Sakuragawa city, Ibaraki prefecture. With the support of the local residents, the AMABIKI has been operating as an artist-run exhibition since its first season in 1996. What started out with only seven stone artists now involves a large family of artists who convene for a general meeting every month to discuss exhibition details such as installation areas and the route the exhibition course should take.
    The last exhibition, AMABIKI 2011, was titled ‘In the Midst of Winter’, and showcased sculptures amid the attenuated colors and harsh chill of winter. The exhibition, which showed finished sculptures that fitted perfectly with the snowy backdrop and mid-winter theme, was unfortunately cut short by the Great East Japan Earthquake. The exhibition area, largely dependent on the stone and agricultural industries, suffered from the earthquake. Fortunately, the 42 sculptures in the exhibition all remained in one piece, showing the high level of safety management that was carried out for the installation of each work. It was such a shame that the artists couldn’t showcase their work for the whole intended period.
    This, our ninth exhibition, showcased the sculptures of 38 artists for two and a half months between September and November, amidst the fallen leaves and beautifully tinged hills of autumn. Perhaps the best part of this exhibition was the excitement of navigating by yourself through the brisk autumn air and beautiful scenery to each sculpture location. With a lot of repeat visitors and an overload in bookings for the interpretive bus tour from day one, this exhibition was definitely a success. This was our first exhibition since the Great East Japan Earthquake, and involved making installations even safer than before, and having another look at the relationship and impact the artists and exhibition have on the local community. On behalf of all the artists I would like to extend my greatest appreciation and thanks to everyone who came to see the exhibition, and of course to everyone who assisted with the preparation and running of the AMABIKI 2013.

    December, 2013
    AMABIKI 2013, Executive Committee

  • Going Around by Bicycle

    After the exhibition period had been finalized I came to Amabiki to look at the exhibition area. That was this time last year. The fields were filled with rice about to be harvested, and in some fields harvesting had already begun. Because the exhibition lasts for three months, the surrounding environment inevitably changes from the time the exhibition starts to the time it ends. And therefore the exhibits must be visible through the fresh green of the sultry summer to the cooler nights that announce winter’s approach. Over the course of six months I kept coming back, to be inspired by the environment and to find the perfect place for my creation, a place where my sculpture wouldn’t clash with or get in the way of any of the other exhibits.
    However, at that point I didn’t know who would be bringing what kind of exhibits, and therefore I wasn’t really thinking about how my sculpture would fit in to the exhibit as a whole. I chose a location on the promise that each exhibition would be self-contained and discrete unit. But as soon as the exhibition opened, you could see each artist’s individual personality begin to come through and merge giving the exhibition an organic life of its own, bringing the area to life and creating an almost living creature of sculpture and scenery. We expect people that ‘make things’ to lack a sense of cooperativeness with others, but through this exhibition I have realized that joining forces in our expression benefits both the individual and the group as a whole.
    As a participating artist I am a person that ‘makes things’, but this does not mean I am profound in the wisdom of art. Some exhibits are very straightforward, while others are a bit more difficult to understand. For example, if there was nudity. The sculpture title would be ‘Woman’, People feel a sense of relief. Humans feel relieved when they see things that they understand. But can we really say that this ‘touches’ us? The reality is that there are many things that become uninteresting when we know their purpose.
    A map and pamphlet, with short comments from each artist, is made available at ‘Sitrus’, the first sculpture in the exhibition. The comments vary, with some very straightforward descriptions to short poems by artists who can’t express their thoughts in any other way. Viewing the sculptures in light of these comments makes going round the exhibition that bit more interesting.
    The concrete objects and scrap metal on the side of the road, which could be mistaken for part of the exhibition, are just fallen down road signs. Some of them might carelessly catch your eye and have you thinking ‘Look at that! I wonder who the artist is? It’s quite good!’ Looking at these as you take in the intended sculptures is perhaps an unexpected way of enjoying this exhibition.I first participated in the second AMABIKI exhibition in 1997. Since then I have continued to be involved with the installation and removal of exhibits. For this exhibition, I spent the two weeks set aside for installing the sculptures driving around the various locations in a 4-tonne truck.So, even though it had become a route with which I was familiar, I decided to ride a bicycle around it to take another overall look at the exhibition in preparation for writing this piece. Travelling around the exhibit at a speed somewhere between walking and driving, I noticed a lot of little changes that hadn’t previously realized to me before. When I was a child I had to walk 8km to get to school. And it was through scenery very similar to this. I still remember the big rocks left in the middle of fields, the stacked of pile of old cars and scrap metal, and thinking that it looked like they all just existed as part of the natural environment. I think the foundation for creating my sculptures lies in those things I didn’t understand as a small child.
    While most of the artists in this exhibition vary in age and profession, we are all professionals who want to make a living from sculpting. Not even a psychic could take one look and correctly interpret these exhibits, which have evolved out of an extended prosses of trial and error. In fact, in some cases, not even the artists themseves completely know the meaning behind their work. So, how is someone else able to understand? But it’s not about understanding. Don’t look at something mysterious and try to draw rational conclusion about it. Sculptures are made to be looked at as they are, in their full mysterious entirety.
    Lastly, I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to everyone who came from far and wide to view the exhibition, and to the local Amabiki community, for the various facets of support they provided in helping make this exhibition a reality. In particular, I would like to say a special thank-you to the landowners, with whom we shared ‘the space’, and with whom the artists grew close. We are all very grateful. I believe that AMABIKI is providing new possibilities as an expressive ‘space’ in what is already a saturated arts scene.

    MATSUDA Bumpei, participating artist

  • I am the Secretary

    ‘AMABIKI’ is not hosted by any public bodies. It is widely known as an exhibition run by the artists themselves. The participating artists organize the executive committee and are responsible for the various duties involved with running the exhibition. I am the Secretary. It is my job to write up the minutes from the monthly committee meetings. People often comment on how difficult or tedious my job must be, but I actually quite enjoy it. The discussions quite often get heated and people start talking faster, making it difficult to catch what everyone is saying, but it’s interesting because each artist has his or her own way of expressing their opinions, their own choice of words and tone of voice. Some artists express their ideas very logically, while others find it difficult to find the right words. This difference in character carries over to their work.
    The day after each meeting I go over my notes and write up the official minutes. In the meetings members discuss issues until everybody is satisfied with the solution, and I try to show this in the minutes by documenting all the points of view. However, with 40 assertive artists at each meeting, this can sometimes be a formidable task. Doing this kind of work after every meeting has given me an objective view of the AMABIKI, the challenges being faced and the way in which each artist responds. The time I have spent on has been very valuable, helping me understand my own relationship with the AMABIKI and deepening my thinking on art and sculpture.
    In addition to myself as Secretary, each participating artist is responsible for a set duty, such as catalogue making, signage and event planning. We call this current system the ‘AMABIKI Way’, but it never used to be such plain sailing. I joined the exhibition in its third year, and while even back then the theory was that the exhibition would be run by all the artists, in reality only a small group were doing all the work, and it was starting to cause problems. The following year the number of participating artists increased and with it so did the amount of work, causing an array of problems, including the obvious difference in how little or how much some artists were committed to the running of the exhibition. Our current system lets us overcome such issues, and trial and error has made the artists more aware that this is their exhibition. Of course the current system isn’t completely perfect and improvements will continue to be made.
    And so the ‘AMABIKI2013’ exhibition has begun. Many visitors have already come to view the sculptures and the surrounding hillside scenery under the autumnal Amabiki skies. I wish I could take time off from my committee duties during the exhibition, but of course I cannot. If something were to arise during the exhibition period that required the committee to convene for a meeting, I would of course need to take the minutes. I hope my quiet dedication to the job now will pay off for future exhibitions.

    YAMAJO Rei, participating artist

  • Documents of AMABIKI 2013

    Documentation of AMABIKI 2013

    First Planning Preparation Committee Meeting
    * Seven members called to gather and hold the Planning Preparation Committee. The discussions covered confirming the intent to hold the exhibition, as well as safety concerns regarding the installation of the artwork.

    Second Planning Preparation Committee Meeting
    * Report regarding the Lifelong Learning Division by a representative of Sakuragawa City. * Discussed the exhibition period, installation areas, and the pre-exhibition. * Confirmed scheduled participation of new artists.

    Third Planning Preparation Committee Meeting
    * Decided upon the exhibition period. * Discussed installation areas and scouted candidate sites. * Exchanged ideas regarding the pre-exhibition. * Discussed and decided upon the nomination method for new artists.

    First Preparatory Committee Meeting
    * Nomination of new artists. * Further discussion regarding the installation areas.

    Second Preparatory Committee Meeting * Approval of new artists. * Observation of the proposed exhibit route, and deciding of installation areas. * Confirmation regarding the handling of meeting minutes.

    Third Preparatory Committee Meeting
    * Self-introductions by all members. * Determined the Executive Committee chairperson and officers. * Report and explanation of current status of accounts. * Decided upon the amount of the participation fee. * Observation of installation areas by all members.

    First General Meeting
    * Inauguration of the Executive Committee * Discussion regarding exhibition name and sub-title, and designs for posters and flyers. * Confirmation of schedule. * Reports and explanations by officers regarding issues including subsidies, accounts, exhibition site management, the pre-exhibition, and insurance.

    Second General Meeting
    * Exhibition name set as “AMABIKI 2013” with exchange of opinions regarding the sub-heading. * Decided upon a designer. * Distributed desired installation site questionnaires. * Report regarding various subsidies. * Reports and explanations by officers regarding issues including the pre-exhibition, social events, the web site, and guest reception.

    Third General Meeting
    * Further discussion regarding the sub-heading. * Considerations for security during the installation and takedown of works. * Reports and explanations from officers regarding issues including guest reception, bus tours, subsidies, social events, the pre-exhibition, and the exhibit site.

    Fourth General Meeting
    * Report regarding matters to confirm with Sakuragawa City. * Decided to not use a sub-title this year. * Discussion regarding the safety of exhibit installations. * Submission of desired installation site questionnaires. * Reports and explanations from officers regarding issues including subsidies, the pre-exhibition, social events, volunteers, and accounts.

    Fifth General Meeting
    * Report of meetings with Sakuragawa City officials. * Discussion regarding the content for printed materials. * Reports and explanations from officers regarding issues including volunteers, the pre-exhibition, and accounts.

    Sixth General Meeting
    * Report of application for subsidies to Sakuragawa City. * Report of viability of desired installation sites. * Discussion regarding contents of pre-exhibition. * Reports from each officer regarding budget estimates. * Discussions regarding the holding of the opening ceremony. * Received proposal for volunteer-sponsored event, “Yamato-nadeshiko-an” * Reports and explanations from officers regarding issues including volunteers, social events, subsidies, and bus tours.

    Seventh General Meeting
    * Confirmation of sculpture installation sites and surrounding arrangements as well as restoration of sites to their original conditions after sculpture removal. * Reports and explanations from officers regarding issues including city relations, public relations, subsidies, and signage.

    Eighth General Meeting
    * Introduction of new Sakuragawa City representative, who explained usage of the microbus and the opening venue. * Plans presented for opening ceremony and opening party. * Discussion of contents of pre-exhibition (information center). * Proposal presented for provisional exhibit route. * Report regarding poster and flier contents. * Reports and explanations from officers regarding bus tours, volunteers, bicycles, city relations, and insurance.

    Ninth General Meeting
    * Proposed venue route taken by all members, and problem areas were modified. * All members visit the opening ceremony venue, the “Ueno-numa Yasuragi no Sato Campsite” * Introduction of new Sakuragawa City representative, who explained scope of city cooperation. * Reports and explanations from officers regarding posters and flyers, public relations, accounts, volunteers, and from the Secretariat.

    Tenth General Meeting
    * Confirmation of on-site toilets and parking lot. * Received proposals for events and workshops to be held by Sakuragawa City. * Received proposals for “Yamato-nadeshiko-an” and the “Handmade Buckwheat Noodle Appreciation Society” * Update of address records. * Confirmation of draft data for poster and flyer. * Reports and explanations from officers regarding bus tours, social events, guest reception, bicycles, comments, and accounts.

    Eleventh General Meeting
    * Received explanation regarding cooperation from “Sakuragawa Mirai Juku” (a community development group). * Poster and flyer content revision, and confirmation of the number of print run. * Discussion regarding workshops. * Organization of sending destinations for printed materials. * Reports and explanations from officers regarding issues including social events, bus tours, city relations, signage, captions, installation and takedown of works, accounts, guest reception, and bicycles.

    Twelfth General Meeting
    * Preparation work for sending out printed materials (posters and flyers, etc.) * Received explanation of workshop by the teaching artist. * Cautions regarding safety management during installation and unload of sculptures. * Reports and explanations from officers regarding insurance, volunteers, guest reception, social events, installation and takedown of works, signage, captions, and city relations.

    * Starting operation at the venue, start delivery and installation of works. Installation of works using large cranes. * Installation of signposts and setting up Information Centre. (21.Sept.)

    Staging AMABIKI 2013.
    * 15:30 – Opening ceremony and Party (Ueno-numa Yasuragi no Sato Campsite. * Satellite exhibition “AMABIKI posters in the past years and several small works” to publicize the latest AMABIKI to citizens of Sakuragawa (“Makabe den-sho kan / Makabe folklore Museum”).

    Thirteenth General Meeting
    * First bus tour. * Consideration of measures to take when problems arise at the venue during the exhibition. * Reports and explanations from officers regarding issues including the catalog and comments, subsidies, city relations, the web site, and bus tours. * Setting up Rest House by “Yamato nadeshiko-an” (a volunteer group) and “Sakuragawa Mirai Juku” (a community development group).

    Fourteenth General Meeting
    * Second bus tour. * Discussion regarding closing party. * Reports and explanations from officers regarding the catalog, accounts, signage, volunteers, and takedown of works. * Explanation from “Mirai Juku” regarding the photo contest. * Award ceremony of photo contest. (11/24)

    Closing of AMABIKI 2013.
    * Fifteenth General Meeting
    * Editing and proofread catalogue. * Clear venues * Starting removing all works. (11/25-)

    Sixteenth General Meeting
    * Preparating to send the catalogue.

    About the Executive Committee of AMABIKI 2013
    In March 2012, we held the preparatory general meeting towards the next exhibit. We discussed the new exhibit, and other issues such as the form of the exhibit, the composition of the participating artist membership, and etc… Eventually we decided to hold AMABIKI 2013.
    We organized the new executive committee of AMABIKI 2013, in September 2012, with all participating artists as the committee members, and shared out various tasks for working towards the exhibit. The plenary sessions of the executive committee took place once a month, hearing reports from the members in charge of each tasks discussing and deciding on matters raised.
    AMABIKI 2013 opened on the 22nd of September, with the events such as bus tours taking place during the exhibit, and it closed on the 24th of November 2013.

    Executive committee managers:
    AMABIKI 2013 took place through the below division of labour.
    Executive Committee chairman / Vice chairman / Secretariat / Accounting / auditing / Moderator / Secretary / PR / Subsidies / Press / Website / Sign planning and installation / Poster, fliers and catalogue / Venues / Municipal reports / Bus tours / Captions / Sculpture delivery and removal / Reception / Information Center set up / English translating / Opening ceremony / Volunteers / Venue management / Social events / Pre-exhibition / Rental cycle