The Pacific Islanders do not see their homeland as some scattered dots in a vast ocean but rather as stage stations in a “Sea of Islands,” created through their practices (travel, visitation, trade, and migration). …The “Sea of Islands” is a region connected inward from outside; a discrete place where all islands are linked to one another and the mainland, based on everyday practices. —————-James Clifford
After having organized for eight consecutive years, the “East Coast Land Arts Festival” is often referred to as “Taiwan’s Setouchi International Art Festival” perhaps because both of them take place on an island by the sea. However, the East Coast of Taiwan and the islands in Seto Naikai (瀬戸内海) of Japan are very different in terms of climate, cultures, history, and current social issues. Art director Tomiro Kitagawa said, “Seto Naikai is like a mother’s womb to the Japanese islands. The tranquil ocean provides overflowing nutrition and energy.”
However, due to the recent impact of industrialization and globalization, the population of Seto Neikai islands has decreased from aging and relocation; hence it has gradually lost its vitality. To revitalize the islands of the Seto Naikai, reconnect its unique island culture, and reincarnate with new values as the “Sea of Hope”, the first annual Seto Naikai International Arts Festival was created in 2010 with the core proposition of the ” Restoration of Oceanic Power”. As for organizing the East Coast Land Arts Festival, we also aim to serve as a bridge between travelers, visitors, and residents. Our curatorial themes have always stemmed from the natural environment and the local indigenous Amis culture, and we have repeatedly articulated the spirit of the oceanic culture that has been perpetually neglected by the island state of Taiwan. Contrasting to the cultural revival of the islands in Japan, our prospective of oceanic cultural discourse is more akin to the Pan-Pacific Islander’s vision of the “Sea of Islands” — such a difference lies in how we view ourselves from the island/ through the oceanic connection and fluidity of the sea amidst numerous islands. Many historians agree that “the 21st century is the Pacific Century.”
From the Taiwan-centered perspective, Taiwan locates at the center of Oceanic Asia – in the middle of the ocean amidst China, Japan, and Southeast Asia. It is also the mother island, the origin place of the Austronesian languages. However, either as the center or peripheral is just a relative term; in reality, Taiwan is a member of “The Sea of Islands” and undoubtedly, Taiwan is connected to the world through the ocean. As the sun and moon rises and shines over the East Coast of Taiwan, this is the frontier where Taiwan faces the sea of islands. The oceanic connection to the world has become more significant now that we can no longer travel around the world without restrictions due to the pandemic and lockdown. We recognize how the ocean’s mighty power offers protection, inclusiveness, and solidarity as we continuously reassert our position in an ever-changing fluid world.