Kinosaki International Arts Center: Japan’s artist-in-residency for the performing arts

Last year Kinosaki International Arts Center opened in Toyooka City, Hyogo Prefecture, as an artist-in-residency facility for the performing arts.

As far as I am aware, this is the only current centre with an artist-in-residency programme specifically focussed on theatre and dance. While there are plenty of other places and events that commission work from artists and invite them to participate in a research process, KIAC would seem to be the first dedicated centre for residencies. The various things that go on at Toga might be a rival for KIAC’s status, though those are arguably not a full residency in the contemporary lingo.

kinosaki international art center artists residency performing arts japan hot spring resort town

Kinosaki is a hot spring resort town on the Sea of Japan, surely an idyllic setting for a residency programme if ever there was one. KIAC features a hall, six rehearsal studios, as well as accommodation and eating facilities, where artists, performers and other people involved in the stage arts come to stay and create new work. The residency is all-year-round, offering free 24-hour access to the studio and hall for the participants.

The Center is run by Program Director Yoko Nishiyama and funded by Toyooka City. The first year had 25 individual and group applicants from Japan, Australia, Canada, China, Finland and America. Seven were ultimately selected for the residency programme, four dance-based and three theatre-based.

Some of the choice of artists so far does surprise. What are Oriza Hirata and Miwa Yanagi doing here? These are very successful artists who do not need the support of a residency program. Especially in the case of Hirata, he has his own company (Seinendan) and space in Tokyo, so other than his role as an advisor to the Center, surely he could have taken his android theatre version of Kafka’s Metamorphosis somewhere else? Or perhaps the managers hope that some big names will help launch the Center with a bang.

Gripes aside, the list of 2014 fiscal residencies and other participants is quite catholic, including choreographers, dancers, actors, playwrights, artists, a stage designers, a critic, and more. Sometimes we need to be suspicious of places with the word “international” in their name but there have already been plenty of non-Japanese residents. Even the actress Irène Jacob was at the Center for a month last autumn. No doubt the international participation will gain pace, since the town is bound to be an attractive destination for European artists in particular.

However, after opening in April one of the first major things the Center did was host the Japan Playwrights Association Congress, which was revived after a nine-year hiatus. The Congress had a packed timetable of over 50 events, including performances, symposia, readings and seminars. It was a success, attended by a total of 7,400 people.

As Nishiyama explained to The Japan Times last June, a big challenge for the Center, like so many other similar facilities, is how to integrate with the local community in a way that is fruitful, sincere and unpatronising. This will no doubt be a cumulative process that will not happen straightaway. Surely free performances and regionally themed, yet valuable creative projects by the residents

The English website is a bit of a disaster right now, with whole sections apparently missing and what is there looking like it was typed by a spider with acute Tourette syndrome. This may change when the 2015 fiscal year begins.

The upcoming 2015 residencies start in July, continuing until March 2016. The residencies have yet to be announced but will last a minimum of three days and a maximum of three months. Judging by last year’s calendar, residency applications for the 2016 fiscal year will probably open in July this year. Ahead of this the Center is currently undergoing renovation work until mid-March.