If you are in Naoshima, a side trip to the neighboring Teshima island is highly recommended. We took a 20-minute ferry ride from Miyanoura Port of Naoshima to Ieura Port of Teshima. At the heart of the island is the Teshima Art Museum that is designed by architect Ryue Nishizawa and artist Rei Naito to resemble a drop of water. Other highlights include Christian Boltanski’s “Les Archives du Coeur” and Teshima Yokoo House. Like in Naoshima, you can either take the local bus or rent a bicycle to get around the island.
Upon arrival on Teshima island, we caught the local bus that took us from the port to Teshima Art Museum set on a hill surrounded by terraced rice paddies. The museum, actually more like a giant concrete shelter, features two large elliptical openings in the concrete walls exposed to the elements. It is an architectural feat to have 25 cm thick walls spanning 60 meters free of columns or visible beams. It is such a quiet and breathtaking experience to sit inside the gallery and listen to the water dropping, foliage rustling, and birds chirping. On the floor is Rei Naito’s installation Matrix which includes small discs, marbles together with rainwater and dew collected through the roof of the structure. You can sit for hours in silence just watching the water droplets form and run across the uneven floor to join other droplets forming larger puddles and then being drained away thru invisible holes. Matrix was created almost a decade after Being Given at Kinza House in Naoshima. Unfortunately, no photographs were allowed inside. But regardless, you really have to be there to experience the beauty of it all and no photograph could have done it justice. Teshima Art Museum was definitely my favorite museum on both Teshima and Naoshima.
From Teshima Art Museum, we strolled for about half an hour to reach Les Archives du Coeur or the Heart Archives inside a small building on the beach. Christian Boltanski is one artist whose primary purpose in art has been to remind us of our own mortality. Visitors can come and make recordings of their heartbeat as well as listen to other people’s recorded heartbeats echoing in a dark and a bit spooky space. There are mirrors inside the main installation or Heart Room with one bare lightbulb that flickers with each amplified heartbeat. The idea here as the artist puts it is that “it’s impossible to preserve something: you can record the heartbeat of somebody, but you can’t stop them dying.” This project has been touring the world collecting heartbeats that are then stored here in the library of heartbeats in Teshima.
We decided not to record our heartbeats but did manage to find some of our friends’. After listening to some heartbeats and reflecting on the concept of mortality, we walked to nearby Karato Port to wait for the bus to take us back to Ieura Port. About 5-minute walk from Ieura Port is Teshima Yokoo House composed of three one-storey old houses that have been renovated and repurposed. Teshima Yokoo House is the collaboration between graphic designer Tadanori Yokoo and architect Yuko Nagayama with the theme of life and death. There is a tall circular tower filled with panels of waterfalls with a mirrored floor. The main structure has translucent red panels everywhere, chrome bathrooms, and a bright iridescent rock garden. In fact, the museum even offers funeral and cremation services to the community.
There are another 6 or so smaller installations on Teshima island but are only open on Saturdays and Sundays. I had wanted to see the Tom Na H-iu installation but unfortunately it was closed for renovation during our visit. Tom Na H-iu is a 15-foot Celtic monolith standing in a pond surrounded by the bamboo forest. This monolith is made of opalescent glass with LEDs inside that blinks every time the Super-Kamiokande Neutrino Observatory detects neutrinos from the death of stars.
After about 3 hours on Teshima island, we boarded the ferry that took us back to Naoshima. There is much less here than in Naoshima but just coming here to see the Teshima Art Museum is already worth the journey.
I am no connoisseur of art but I thoroughly enjoyed this short visit to Naoshima and Teshima and actually instilled in me a newfound appreciation of art, especially contemporay art, in its various forms.
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