Deep admiration and permanent relationship - EU・ジャパンフェスト日本委員会

Deep admiration and permanent relationship

Kostas Georgakopulos|President of the foundation's board, Avant Art

This is the fourth time we have undertaken a project to present Japanese art and artists at the Avant Art Festival.

For me, this is a deep love and an ongoing relationship. I’ve been to Japan a few times before, most recently as part of Mission Music Export Poland, we do projects and events in both countries as a foundation, but by far the priority is these own festival presentations in Poland, and this year for the first time outside of Poland, in Berlin.

It all started a decade ago with a stay in Japan at the invitation of Mr. Kogi and Ms. Hakoda from EU-Japan Fest Japan Committee. Thanks to a grant from this very organisation in 2016, we were able to realise a very large project called Avant Art Festival 2016 Japan, an edition of the festival entirely dedicated to Japanese art as part of the ECOC Wrocław 2016.

This year we realised another presentation, this time also for the first time in Berlin. The invited artists in several cases are already good friends of ours, such as Tommi Tokyo, who played with her Group A at the Avant Art Festival (AAF) in 2016, or the band Kukangendai, whom we are very fond of and know very well, as we realised an artist residency with Hubert Kostkiewicz at their studio in Kyoto in 2019, which ended in a joint concert.

A year later Kukangendai, at our invitation and of course thanks to a grant from the EU-Japan Fest Japan Committee, played two concerts in Poland as part of the Avant Art Festival and in Krakow at the Unsound festival, and after 3 years they played again at the AAF, this time in Berlin. As you can see, it’s a beautiful story and an ongoing, friendly relationship between us that we nurture.

Kukangendai Berlin ©︎ Kazimierz Ździebło

But there are also reverse stories – a year ago the great Japanese producer Shigeru Ishihara played at our festival in Berlin, who we invited to Poland this year for two concerts, and this is certainly not the end of our collaboration with him.

Based on the experience we have gained and the contacts we have made, we are planning a major presentation of Japanese art in Berlin in the autumn of 2024, where mentioned artists such as Tommi Tokyo and Shigeru Ishihara will certainly appear.

Art festivals such as the Avant Art Festival provide an excellent platform to expose the diversity and richness of Japanese art internationally. Japanese artists bring with them not only creativity, but also a deep understanding of tradition, history and modernity, which makes them important festival participants. An artist such as Shigeru Ishihara is a good example.

I can cite some interesting events and stories related to Japanese artists. Similarly, in 2023, the important thing was that all our Japanese artists are very interesting and colourful characters.

There are particularly many interesting stories associated with Shigeru Ishihara aka DJ Scotch Egg – a musician known for his unconventional approach to music and art and his rather eccentric stage performances. The artist is known for using Game Boy gaming consoles in his music. During a concert in Wroclaw, Poland, the batteries in his console started to run out quickly, but instead of stopping the performance, he started improvising and creating live music, using Game Boy sounds and mixing them with electronic beats.

His performances are known for their extreme speed and energy. Audiences often dance at his concerts in a way that seems impossible to sustain for any length of time. It’s a real rollercoaster ride of sound and energy and it was the same in Wrocław and Warsaw.

Shigeru Ishihara is an artist who always delivers an unforgettable live experience and is known for creating unique and unconventional music. His performances attract fans ready for great creativity.

Poil Ueda ©︎ Helena Majewska

A concert by the French prog-rock band PoiL and the satsuma-biwa-playing Japanese singer Junko Ueda was a great experience for me.

I was very curious to see how this project would sound live, in concert, and whether this unique fusion of Japanese tradition and modern sounds from Europe would be well received by the Warsaw audience. In truth, this is a very brave attempt, PoiL’s highly energetic music provides the basis for the Japanese folk stories sung by Ueda. The album ‘Poil Ueda’ explores a blend of modern European music with traditional Japanese elements, creating a captivating and mesmerising performance. PoiL Ueda – a fusion of beauty and chaos, an inspiring cross-cultural collaboration that crosses musical boundaries and which was brilliantly performed in Warsaw and received an exuberant response from the audience – it was wonderful!