Located between a beautiful mountain range and the sea, the port city of Kobe is known for its acceptance of foreign culture. Although people enjoy a peaceful life in this comfortable area, hasn’t the city unwittingly lost sight of its enterprising spirit? TRANS- is an art project that sets out to “transcend and move beyond” at a time when Kobe, which is slowly falling behind the times, should be at the vanguard of glocal cities. This project clearly differs from the succession of art festivals that have been held around the world in recent years in that its scope is limited to a very few artists. Moreover, we have deliberately avoided using a museum or exhibition facility as the primary venue. Artists do not simply make works to decorate a place. They create mechanisms using the town and people of Kobe as materials. These strange entities abruptly appear in ordinary landscapes. How will people encounter and respond to these things?
The venues for this project, Hyogo Port, Shinkaichi, and Shin-Nagata, are areas with historical links to Kobe that are located west of the urban districts of Sannomiya and Motomachi. Long before the present-day port was built, the harbor was established by the 12th century military leader Taira no Kiyomori. In the Edo Period (1603-1868), the harbor, known as Hyogo no Tsu, flourished as a commercial entryway to the region. Then in the Meiji Period (1868-1912), these areas prospered due to the development of heavy industries. Following a series of changes in the urban structure and the 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, much of the life went out of Kobe and these areas inevitably began to decline. But it was precisely for this reason that the town became an attractive motif or material for a certain type of artist.
Gregor Schneider was born in Rheydt, a small town in northwestern Germany with a population of less 15,000 people. Despite his urge to leave, Schneider continues to use the town as his artistic base. He is particularly adept at adding an imperceptible twist to the private space of a house and the normal flow of time, and evoking invisible terror. Meanwhile, Miwa Yanagi, who has created extraordinary theatrical spaces in the closed world of photography, turned to full-fledged drama productions in 2011. Two years ago, she used a mobile trailer to stage an outdoor production called The Wing of the Sun. Next fall, Yanagi is planning to mount a spectacular marine production at the port in her hometown of Hyogo Ward, Kobe.
How will the two artists’ audacious efforts influence the future direction of Kobe? Expectations are high.
Born in Rheydt, Germany in 1969. At the age of 16, Schneider started working on Haus u r, a life-time project in which he renovated his own house by constructing a room within an existing room. At the 2001 Venice Biennale, he represented Germany and won the Golden Lion. Since then, he has been working on large-scale installations that induce unrealistic experiences of distorted time and space; for instance, by building a road standing straight up like a façade as an entrance of an Indian temple, or by stretching big water pipes in and out of the museum in Spain like a maze. He also participated in the Yokohama Biennale (2014), Skulptur Projekte Münster (2017), and many other international art festivals. Schneider is a professor at Kunstakadmie Düsseldorf and lives in Rheydt.
Born in Hyogo ward, Kobe in 1967. Yanagi completed a postgraduate course in fine art at the Kyoto City University of Arts. With her photographic series of works employing computer graphics and special-effect makeup, such as Elevator Girls and My Grandmothers, she strives to provide insight into issues surrounding women such as youth and aging. She represented Japan at the 2009 Venice Biennale. Since 2011, she has begun undertaking projects in theatre and has staged a theatrical production of Zero Hour: Tokyo Rose's Tape both in Japan and oversea. At the Port City Kobe Art Festival in 2017, she presented a stage trailer, a vehicle that tows a container that turns into a stage, used for an open-air-performance of the play Nichirin no Tsubasa (The Wing of the Sun). Yanagi is a professor at the Kyoto University of Art and Design and lives in Kyoto.