How do we revitalize dwindling communities? First, we learn about what they are and why they are important. This was a two-month community-based project that fused old-fashioned community interactions with web-based interactive media, allowing islanders and visitors to explore the hidden links between people, culture, and ecology on a small island in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea.

Images from the HUMAN:NATURE residency project in Megijima, Japan
Images from the HUMAN:NATURE residency project in Megijima, Japan

During two months as artists in residence at the Setouchi International Triennale, we explored the connection between community and ecology on this small Japanese island of Megiima, getting to know the 30 families and the story of their cultural and ecological history.

The project saw us leading a team of nearly fifty Japanese volunteers, combining art, technology, and community interactions. We recorded video, portraiture, and landscape imagery based on the lore of the villagers and their connection to the land, and merged this media with agricultural and geographical data to create an interactive documentary that built on the project’s key ideas of human:nature connectivity.

On this island, in the liminal space between historical and contemporary Japan, the interactive documentary, along with a regional natural agriculture conference organized by our team and Aichi University of the Arts, we helped visitors and islanders re-imagine roles within the vital social and ecological support systems of community and agriculture.

Project Team and Partners

Conceived and directed by Patrick Lydon with Suhee Kang, programmer Johann Barbie, and social designer Song E Lee.

This project was funded in part by Aichi University of Arts (Japan), and arranged through a partnership between The University of Edinburgh / Edinburgh College of Art (Scotland) and Aichi University of Arts, with logistical support from the Setouchi International Triennale.

Project collaborators included Isao Suiz (Aichi University of Art) and several of his Master’s students, Ross McLean (Edinburgh College of Art), Ikumasa Hayashi, Kei Toh, Patrice Milillo, many of the amazing villagers in Megijima, and over a dozen volunteers from Setouchi’s Team Koebi.