More Positive Energy
The Sixth Yokohama Triennale

Until the mid-19th century, Yokohama was just a small fishing village. But in 1859, an international port was opened here, marking the start of Yokohama’s rise to become Japan’s second largest city. The opening of the port also meant the end of sakoku, the rigid economic and cultural isolation of the country from the rest of the world. Over the coming decades, Yokohama developed into a major center for trade with the West and a site of exchange with other cultures. Today, the city near Tokyo is also the showplace for the country’s most important art exhibition, the Yokohama Triennale for Contemporary Art.

Islands, Constellations & Galapagos is the strange-sounding title of the sixth triennale. With the audacity of historical seamen, who only had the stars to guide them, this exhibition intends to explore island-like and yet linked cultures around the world. The triennale focuses on the question of what role art can play in today’s society, in a time shaped by the paradoxical simultaneity of rising nationalism and the inexorable advance of globalization. The triennale sees itself as a forum for debate on isolation and connectivity, differences and commonalities, and would like to have an impact on society in general. Parallel to the main exhibition, the Yokohama Round is being held, a series of public discussions where the subjects of the exhibition are publicly debated. For example, Rikrit Tiravanija moderated a discussion on Utopia / Community / Living together with Wael Shawky and Tatiana Trouvé.

Around forty artists from around the world were invited to participate, including Olafur Eliasson, Jenny Holzer, Map Office, or Paola Pivi, artists whose work is also included in the Deutsche Bank Collection. The Chinese art star Ai Weiwei is also present in the Yokohama show. He directs his attention at one of the most urgent problems of our time, the more than 60 million refugees around the world. On the façade of Yokohama Museum of Art, he has placed hundreds of bright-orange safety vests. The installation Safe Passage, previously on view at Berlin’s Konzerthaus and Vienna’s Belvedere, is a memorial to all the refugees who have drowned on their way to Europe. In the words of the artist, “We have to break up all those boundaries and share the same values, and be concerned about other people’s pain and tragedy.”

Ai Weiwei sees humankind as a unity, and this is a thought that is also taken up in Joko Avianto’s contribution to the triennale. He has woven more than 2,000 meter-long bamboo rods to create gigantic snake-like form that winds its way though the Grand Gallery at Yokohama Museum of Art. The Indonesian artist uses a traditional material to create a very topical symbol for humanity’s “connectivity,” for mass of individuals unified organically as a whole.

Works that refer directly to Yokohama can be seen at Red Brick Warehouse. Erected at the harbor in 1913, the former customs building is one of Japan’s few brick buildings and is today used as a cultural center. In this historical location, which stands for Japan’s economic opening, Tsuyoshi Ozawa presents his latest project about a Yokohama-born art historian and philosopher from the Meiji Era (1868–1912), during which Japan developed to become a modern global power. Ozawa mixes fact and fiction and depicts a view of his country in search for a new identity. In contrast, Christian Jankowski takes a look into the future. With his typical humor, his new video accompanies a therapist who massages sculptures in public space, seeking to bring their qi back into flow and thus to insure more positive energy in the run up the 2020 Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo.

6th Yokohama Triennale
Until November 11