The event (that closed yesterday) involved five cities and one town in the northern Ibaraki Prefecture - Hitachi, Takahagi, Kitaibaraki, Hitachiota, Hitachiomiya and Daigo.
This area in known for its art, science and technology links: art activist Okakura Tenshin promoted his activities from this region; the international science exposition was held there in 1985, the four local major mines allowed to develop throughout the years industries such as Hitachi Ltd. and Nissan Motor Co.,LTD. Besides, the local Tsukuba University in Tsukuba City is known for its scientific researches.
Though strongly linked to the local identity the festival was conceived as an international and borderless celebration with 85 participating artists from different countries (13 artists took up residency in Ibaraki, and 8 are Ibaraki-born).
This year the event celebrated a special theme - "Sea, Mountains, Art" - tackled via 100 artworks scattered around traditional indoor venues, such as the Tenshin Memorial Museum of Art in Kitaibaraki City, but also outdoors on the mountainous slopes of Daigo Town and the scenic coast of Takahagi City.
Among the most interesting artists around there was also Tokyo-based Ei Wada. Better known for his trademark electronic sounds generated by analog recorders with reel-to-reel magnetic tapes and for his performances with the Open Reel Ensemble, Ei Wada presented two different events during the Kenpoku Art festival, an installation entitled "Hitachi Denrin Tower" and the performance "Electronicos Fantasticos!"
The former is a totemic sculpture integrating cathode ray tube televisions with a Hitachi colour TV on its top, representing a sort of technological God to worship.
By putting a radio next to the TV screens, visitors received the noise of electromagnetic waves emitted from the television, and the sound synchronized with the blinking of the television sounds.
By approaching or moving away from the TV sets, visitors produced a wide variations of sounds. In this way Ei Wada invited people to create a new musical instruments by using a piece originally manufactured in the industrial Hitachi City.
The same idea - resuscitating old household appliances and transforming them into instruments - was also the main inspiration behind "Electronicos Fantasticos!"
Together with Ei Wada, the locals collected, disassembled and reassembled old appliances and then turned them into new instruments during a workshop in Hitachi.
The results of the workshops were played during "Electronicos Fantasticos!" a sort of final concert (at times reminiscent of Ei Wada's "Braun Tube Jazz Band" performance) that consisted of the artist playing several cathode ray tube televisions as if they were drums.
The highlight of Ei Wada's "Electronicos Fantasticos!" project is that it gave new energy to the local community, trying to teach new skills to the people who worked on creating the artist's instruments. All the pictures showing Ei Wada and other people playing or collaborating together in the workshop, show them smiling and having good fun, revealing in this way that some art projects can have a great social impact on a community.
Yet Ei Wada's works may be considered as inspiring in more than one way as they could be applied to other fields and disciplines, not just to art or community projects: his Open Reel Ensemble provided for example the live soundtrack for the latest Issey Miyake's catwalk show, but his principles about recycling and transforming old junk into innovative pieces could teach a few things to the fashion industry.