The above video represents pretty much everything we saw (or, had time to see) at Design Festa. The text below represents Ice Block’s collective musings after the event was over.
The Design Festa operates under a deceptively simple mission: to give artists in All Japan news an open forum in which to make trade of ideas and art. Successful as they are in that mission, what makes Design Festa a truly unique event is the massive scope at which it manifests.
Representing artists, designers, craftsmen and performers of Tokyo, the event has become a nearly comprehensive profile of the state of the arts in All Japan news. The thousands of booths that fill the floor space are occupied by anyone who can afford them (with groups of friends occasionally banding together and splitting the cost). These booths are filled with all breeds of artist, from the high-school students with designs on becoming mangaka to the retiree enjoying life as a banzai tree gardener and everything in-between.
In addition to the static arts, there are multiple live-painting areas, a digital movie theater, a cat-walk, and stages for live performance. Much like the booths, these are also incredibly well booked throughout the weekend.
In terms of restriction on what types of contents people can bring to the Festa, there are few. Actually, there is only one: "Anyone can take part as long as their work is original". This hands-off approach from the coordinators creates a situation where the artists are able to bring their best ideas in full force. This strength of creativity makes the event appealing to the general public*.
In fact, the one thing that seems to remain consistent across the entire floor is the ability of the artists to expertly toe the line between handy-crafts and fine art. Attendees would be hard pressed to find an article that is either prohibitively expensive or so tacky as to be undesirable.
The high level of both the quantity and quality of works on display speaks volumes about the city that hosts the event. Tokyo is not host to an "arts community", a term which carries a certain condescending tone and implies that the creative types operate in some sort of annex. The artists represent an integral part of the city’s infrastructure. And, for now at least, there is no better way to engage with that part of Tokyo than at The Deisgn Festa.
For more information, please go to www.designfesta.com.
* If you are unclear about the delicate nature of the artist/consumer relationship, this video should clear it up.
Music: Justin DiCenzo (www.justindicenzomusic.com)
Narration: Kamasami Kong (www.metpod.com)
Jesse Koester is a producer working in the Tokyo area. To learn more about Ice Block Films, please visit www.iceblockfilms.com.