June 1, 2013

Yokohama's Artist-in-Residence Program

Koganecho, in Yokohama City. The area developed into a red light district after WWII. Eventually, the city demolished over 250 brothels running beneath the train tracks, built a series of ateliers and gallery spaces, and established an artist-in-residence program. The program, which began in 2009, is funded by the city of Yokohama.

Here, polished wood planks have been set up outside to form a stage. A white wall had been set up at the end, with projectors mounted on the concrete pillars. It seems they are simply left there 24/7, which lets you know what a long way the area has come.

Artists can rent spaces short-term (three months, just long enough for overseas artists to come to Japan without any visa hassles) or up to three years, although shorter periods are preferred to keep up the steady stream of artists and exhibits.

Rent prices vary depending on the size of the space and whether it comes furnished.

The day I visited was a Monday, so most of the galleries were closed.

A not-so-fun fact: Akira Kurosawa's 1963 film "High and Low" (the Japanese title is Tengoku to Jigoku, "Heaven and Hell") was set in Koganecho. The "Hell" referred to Koganecho, but the area was considered too dangerous to shoot in.

A barter system had been set up here: bring something of your own, and any of these things are yours for free.

Preparations for a showing. The photos here show a fairly straightforward use of the rectangular spaces, but the atmosphere differed from building to building. The building next to this one contained a mini-cafe, a clothing rack selling vintage clothing, and a stage for a band to play on at the other end of the room.

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