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YOKOHAMA TRIENNALE OPENS THIS WEEKEND

Billed as “the first large-scale international exhibition to be held in Japan,” the Yokohama Triennale, titled “Mega-Wave,” seems to find itself in the same paradoxical position so many international art shows now find themselves in: The more it tries to establish itself as a must-visit destination, the less you thrill at the prospect of spending fifteen or eighteen hours in flight to get there. Its shiny list of well-recognized artists and curators, carefully designed to generate interest and critical attention, makes it feel, in fact, too much like other large international festivals.

Like last year's “Media City,” held in Seoul, the show seems geared more to introduce contemporary art to a local audience than to offer up a Japanese vision to an international one. The roster of 110 artists, including Maurizio Cattelan, Pipilotti Rist, William Kentridge, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Krsysztof Wodiczko, Joseph Grigely, and Zhang Huan, and a twelve-member international committee that includes De Appel's Saskia Bos, Hans-Ulrich Obrist, and Francesco Bonami, are certainly not unexpected choices. The work on view is presented in seven venues, ranging from the ultra-modern, sleek Pacifico Yokohama Exhibition Hall to an old, rather run-down-looking warehouse called, simply, Red Brick Warehouse No. 1. These venues are complimented by a handful of outdoor installations, including previously shown works such as Freight Train, 2000, a modified box car by Yoko Ono, and an ongoing installation of mirror balls by Yayoi Kusama started in 1966. There is also a fireworks display orchestrated by Cai Guo-Qiang, to take place near Yokohama's Rinko Park (perhaps a subtle reference to philosopher Theodor Adorno's famous comparison of art to fireworks?).

“Our aim is to transcend the conventional framework of art and boldly promote greater exchange and dialogue between a broader range of fields, including science, philosophy, and other areas of art,” write the four artistic directors of the Triennale: Shinji Kohmoto, senior curator at the National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto; Nobuo Nakamura, director of the Center for Contemporary Art in Kitakyushu; Fumio Nanjo, the Japanese Commissioner for the 1997 Venice Biennale; and Akira Tatehata, professor at Tama Art University in Tokyo. The statement echoes the words of Yuko Hasegawa, curator of this year's Istanbul Biennial, and Luigi Settembrini, director of the Bienal de Valencia, which made its debut in June.

There are, however, a few surprises in the mix, such as Indian mixed-media artist Anita Dube, the quasi-legendary Australian performance and Net artist Stelarc, and Brazilian-American biotech artist Eduardo Kac (whose Hotlist appears in Artforum in September). With the addition of the fashion design team Viktor and Rolf from the Netherlands, known for their dramatic, architectonic products, to the lineup, this variety of “all-inclusive” curating has reemerged in several biennials and triennials of late.

“Mega-Wave” is on view from September 2 through November 11.

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