Photo: Shingo Kanagawa

  • Atist In Residence 2020
  • Born in1983-88 in Japan
  • NationalityJapan
  • PeriodSeptember 24 - December 17, 2020 (85 days)
  • Websitehttps://olta.jp/
For the residence in ARCUS

In order to carry out Cultivate House as an artwork where we build our own home and question what it means for a person to live in terms of the relationship with the soil and farming, we conducted research on no-till farming and soil environments appropriate for growing crops. In Lived-in Houses, Koji Taki describes how the house is a form of time and has life through humans but simultaneously decays. Possessing the bare minimum elements required for a house by having a toilet and triple bunk bed in a temporary hut structure, Cultivate House is a living house that coexists with things that decay, such as the mold and rust that grow on the materials, flies, and the bacteria that breaks down waste in the composting toilet. At Cultivate House, exposing as it does the functions of pipelines that are always buried in the ground or inside walls in housing today, we reflect on the kinds of artistic practices that can be done from the natural processes carried out there.

To learn first which natural environments are appropriate for cultivating, living, and working at Cultivate House, we visited candidate sites for the project with Tsuyoshi Miyazaki, an expert on soil hydrology, and heard about their soil and suitability for farming. In the center of Moriya is the Sashima plateau, while its lowlands that lead to the rivers Tone, Kokai, and Kinu form a small valley called Yato. The soil comprises Joso clay and the volcanic ash soils that have accumulated on top. At the abandoned rice fields that we observed in Yato, sunlight is blocked by bamboo groves, while the fertile volcanic ash soils in the top layer are washed away by the water that flows down from the mountain. This kind of soil environment is unsuitable for growing crops, and, since it poses similar problems also in terms of living there, such as the lack of sunlight and drainage, we determined that it would be difficult to live on this land, and decided to search for a place with more light.

We then visited a farm in Moriya called jivana for an introductory experience of farming. At jivana, along with growing crops on cultivated land, they harvest true-breeding plants, raise their own seeds, and carry out no-till farming. This latter is a form of farming where you grow crops without disturbing the soil, and thus preserve the ecosystem of the soil. The wood on the site also has a kind of bamboo jungle gym and a handmade oven where it is possible to bake pizza, making the farm a leisure spot for playing and working together. Here we learned about approaches to farming that are synched with the long-term cycles of the land and cultivation, as well as about the approaches of a community through the play that happens alongside that farming.

To further our understanding of no-till farming, we met with the soil ecologist Nobuhiro Kaneko and visited Nihonmatsu in Fukushima Prefecture. We learned that soil nutrients are enriched by compost in order to enhance the quality of the soil. The compost is fermented from the materials obtained on a farm, such as rice husks, sawdust, rice bran, fallen leaves, and soil. A loose community is formed here where that way of making compost is shared among local people.

We had previously thought that soil and art become richer through cultivation, but having studied decay, flood control, and soil ecosystems, and learned that not tilling the soil actually makes it richer, we now, through our practice and while standing on the ground, want to turn to the question of what emerges when engaging with farming, influenced as it is by environmental change and the circumstances of the land, from the perspective of art.

OLTA is a group of six artists formed in Tokyo in 2009. Its practice to date has focused on collective acts within particular communities like games and festivals, and the communication that unfolds there, which it has reconfigured and re-enacted in such works as Hyper Popular Art Stand Play and TRANSMISSION PANG PANG. Its recent work Cultivate House saw the group undertake cultivation and production at a mobile home built on untilled land. OLTA’s practice disrupts the foundations of various communities, and brings out the ideas, customs, language, and lifestyles that underpin these.

[Selected Exhibitions and Activities]
2020 Hyper Popular Art Stand Play, ROHM Theatre Kyoto + Kyoto Art Center KIPPU Under 35 Creative Support Program
2019 Aomori EARTH 2019: Agrotopia - When Life Becomes Art Through Local Agriculture, Aomori Museum of Art
2016 Busan Biennale 2016: Hybridizing Earth, Discussing Multitude, South Korea
2014 SeMA Nanji Residency, Seoul, South Korea
2013 Visceral Sensation - Voices So Far, So Near, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Ishikawa

Reasons for Selection
For its ARCUS Project residency, OLTA will create a version of Cultivate House. The group will build a mobile home and toilet on a plot of land in Moriya City, where the members will alternately reside and till the uncultivated land, while the toilet will be used as a composter to turn human waste and food waste into fertilizer. Arriving at new realizations and gaining insights day by day as they live there, the members will then harness these in their subsequent lives. The group will conduct online research with a focus on movements and historical evidence regarding the relationship between agriculture and modernization in Japan, and attempt to verify its own activities from a critical position. Both artists and the land being open to processes of becoming, immersed in nature rather than standing in opposition to it, offers beneficial perspectives and ways of living in these troubled times when we face the challenges of climate change and the coronavirus pandemic.

Selected WorksShow Image
ActivitiesShow Image

Resident Artists 2020

Ieva Raudsepa  <Latvia>

millonaliu [Klodiana Millona & Yuan Chun Liu]  <Albania/Taiwan>

OLTA  <Japan>