Sapporo International Art Festival 2020


What is SIAF2020?

The Sapporo International Art Festival (SIAF) is an artistic event held in Sapporo, Japan once every three years, and SIAF2020 will be its third edition. For the first time in its history, the event, launched in 2014, will take place in winter, which Sapporo is famous for. SIAF2020 promotes contemporary art, media art, and communication design. A special interest lays in media art because Sapporo is a part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (together with Košice and Linz).

Both previous editions had only one curator – Riuychi Sakamoto, who is a composer and sound artist curated the first SIAF, and a musician Otomo Yoshihide was a curator of the second edition. This time organizers have chosen a new formula of cooperation – SIAF2020 will be a compound of contemporary art, media art, and communication design, with three curators responsible for these parts: Taro Amano, Agnieszka Kubicka-Dzieduszycka and Kanoko Tamura.

Of Roots and Clouds – Sinrit/Niskur (Ainu language)

Of Roots and Clouds is a topic of the third SIAF, planned for winter 2020. Roots reaching deep into the earth and clouds drifting in the sky are the symbols that perfectly describe the generous natural habitat of Sapporo and the island of Hokkaido. They can be viewed as the lower and upper limits of human activity on the planet, which causes and is subject to different cycles of changes. Clouds themselves take part in one of these cycles: vapors liquify and create rain or snow, infiltrate the ground and then, after accumulating in rivers, seas, and oceans, return to the sky. Nowadays the huge amount of information generated by society accumulates silently like snow, which faced with their real agency often makes us feel confused.

Earth has also roots of different kinds, micro- and macro stories, whilst not only birds and clouds, but also invisible nets created by technology appear in the sky. It is believed that even natural biological cycles, which used to be considered immutable, are endangered. For two decades scientists have been alarming that the world has entered the Anthropocene era, in which human activity has such a large impact on the planet’s geology as major earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. Although this theory has its opponents, thanks to artists and their works it becomes an appeal to show how our actions can destroy the planet on which we live.

Contemporary art reminds us more and more that we cannot focus only on human matters if we want to solve current political and social problems, overcome the challenges of everyday life and save the world for future generations. In other words – these times require from us broadening our imagination beyond our everyday life – looking over the blizzard before our eyes and asking where it came from, where it is going – and seriously think about the future.

In these difficult times, creators of SIAF want to look critically at history, geography, and culture of Hokkaido to point out a more conscious way to shape our paths towards the future. The proposed method is to re-examine their relationships from an art perspective, and Sapporo with the Moiwa peak towering over it is ideal places to illustrate the contemporary (post)human condition – as one of the species living on Earth. Since 1950 Sapporo has been famous for the well known and popular Snow Festival, which will be an important context for the presentation of works of SIAF artists.

SIAF2020 wants to revive the memory of the Ain culture, their local knowledge and preserve the experiences of the colonized community. The city of Sapporo was founded in the mid-nineteenth century as a result of Japanese colonial expansion. The first anthropologist who researched the Aynu culture was Bronisław Piłsudski, the brother of Józef Piłsudski. As the first researcher, he recorded Aynu songs using new technology at the time. He lived among the Ayns and established a family in this community. Piłsudski’s descendants still live in Japan. 

Only seemingly studying the history and environment of a given region can seem provincial. Meanwhile, a careful understanding of local conditions can provide universal insight that can help develop the specific shape of a given region. Developing a truly harmonious world that recognizes and accepts different values ​​and cultures is still a global challenge and mission. The works presented at SIAF are intended to provide both local and global perspectives. The goal of SIAF2020 is to create an exhibition that allows visitors to learn to look at the world, fostering the exchange and dissemination of diverse, co-existing perspectives also after its completion, remaining firmly rooted in the Hokkaido region.

Three Areas of Direction

Contemporary Art:
Curatorial Director of Contemporary Art and Director in Chief Taro Amano

The festival will be attended by artists from various environments, both from Japan and abroad. They will create and present works, reinterpreting and confirming their significance. The program will include initiatives that study the particular nature of the region, for example by recontextualizing the geopolitical image of Hokkaido, analyzing the flow of people, things and events in historical terms.

The passage of time is an integral part of the idea of ​​cyclical processes that the theme of the festival evokes. This is related to another key goal of SIAF2020: to consider what we can learn about the history of art and the chronicle of the passage of time. Today, our activities and their memories depend on technology, we need fresh ideas to connect the past and the future.

Media Art:
Curatorial Director of Media Art Agnieszka Kubicka-Dzieduszycka

SIAF2020 will examine how communication and technology, and all the specialized skills, methods, and tools associated with them have always been shaping our way of thinking about society, everyday life, also defining such interdependent concepts as nature and culture. That is why we decided to pay attention to media art as a special insightful way of observing society from the perspective of artistic works using new technologies. The interaction with media artworks is to allow a better insight into algorithm-ruled modernity, the progress of digitization and artificial intelligence referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Critical own reflection in everyday coexistence with technologies is one of the goals set by the organizers.

Communication Design:
Director of Communication Design Kanoko Tamura

The third pillar of the organizational architecture of the festival is the communication design and art mediation section. The goal of SIAF is not simply to provide answers to questions and program shots of festival participants. Including the aspect of communication in curatorial application, from the initial stage of program construction, the organizers plan to study the real role, every contemporary art festival may or should include. At the core of broadly understood communication lies the idea of ​​art mediation, practices, related to works of art, their viewers and their creators. Art mediation activities are based on the experienced WRO Art Center.

Basic information

We are pleased to announce that Agnieszka Kubicka-DzieduszyckaWRO Art Center’s curator and manager of international projects – has been appointed as the Curatorial Director of Media Art of the Sapporo International Art Festival 2020 (SIAF2020), together with Taro Amano, serving as the Curatorial Director of Contemporary Art and Director in Chief.

The Sapporo International Art Festival (SIAF) is an artistic event held in Sapporo once every three years, and SIAF2020 will be its third edition. Launched in 2014, this triennial event has previously been held from summer to autumn, but its organisers have decided to hold SIAF2020 in winter to leverage more of the features and appeal of Sapporo – a city with snowy winters. SIAF2020 will continue to promote local creativity through introducing contemporary art while publicizing what the city has to offer across Japan and elsewhere through works that feature not just snow and winter but that also touch upon themes such as culture in the northern region.

The past editions of SIAF were stewarded by a guest director to be replaced in the forthcoming edition with a team of directors with particular areas of expertise: two Curatorial Directors, who will co-curate and manage SIAF programs, and a Director of Communication Design, who will communicate the appeal of SIAF in an easily understandable way from a visitors’ point of view.

Agnieszka Kubicka-Dzieduszycka has been appointed as a Curatorial Director of Media Art and Taro Amano as a Curatorial Director of Contemporary Art and Director in Chief. They were selected by the SIAF Executive Committee through a competitive process. For the post of the Director of Communication Design, applications will be invited from members of the public at a later date.

More info about the period, venues, theme and other details of SIAF2020 will be announced in summer 2019.

You can download the full text of the SIAF Executive Committee’s press releaseHERE