I’ve been back from Japan for a week or two now, working on sorting through the 1200 photos I took over there, and starting to get back to work in the studio. Now that the the whole crazy japan trip has finally sunk in, and I’m no longer jet lagged, I figured I should try and compile my thoughts on Design Festa into a blog post.
Design Festa was great, but really, unlike anything I could ever imagine. I think for the most part, nothing in my experiences could have given me an idea of what I’d gotten myself into. (Think one part art fair, one part Japanese school festival, one part burning man.) It really boiled down into 16 hours of interacting and talking with people, across a culture and language barrier, about art. And when it comes down to it, that’s pretty cool.
Design Festa is made up of a maze of tiny little art cubicals. There’s about 1500 booths, many with different artists each day, so it’s practically impossible to see everything. It’s loosely divided by type, ranging from 2-D art to clothing to a darkened zone for lit sculptures and installations. Artists get a chunk of floor – either one or two tatami mat’s worth – and do anything that they might want with it. I get the feeling the more people get their both to show off their work then to make a profit from the show. Installation, performance art, and just hanging out were quite common. In fact, the booth walls (which you had to rent) were designed for you to attack with ink, acrylic, and almost anything you wanted.
There were also several stage areas where you could sign up for a time slot. There was a constant stream of really cool and different performances going on at all time, from 20 pieces bands to very happy girls playing taiko. There were a surprising number of different ninja gymnastics dance groups. (They did backflips to music while holding swords, in ninja garb)
While I’d seen photos of all the individual parts of the show online, there was nothing out there that could give me a feeling of what it would be like to actually have a booth there. In the end, while there were a number of things I might have changed, I would go back again in a second. It was just so cool to be able to interact and talk with artists and art fans from all over the world. (I speak a little Japanese, and folks generally spoke English). I got to talk about using a traditional Japanese kiln in America, about ceramics, and about Seattle. I got to watch the crowds streaming by, in everything from pink frilly dresses to Godzilla suits, to a troop of knights in armor (Europeain, not samurai). In short, it was an amazing chance to spend a weekend dedicated to art, in all of it’s strange, strange forms.
I recommend spending some time exploring the design festa flickr pool – there was so much more stuff out there than I could photograph.