Dezeen Magazine

Future is Rural video presented at London Design Biennale's Japan Pavilion

A film featuring projects that emphasise the Future is Rural theme of the Japan Pavilion at the London Design Biennale, which was curated by Yuki Sumner.

Yuki Sumner aimed to highlight projects by artists, designers and activists tackling issues such as depopulation and an ageing society in rural Japan, in both the pavilion and the film.

Future is Rural video presented at London Design Biennale's Japan Pavilion
The video was presented at the Japan Pavilion during the London Design Biennale

"The core concept was to showcase some of the transformative grassroots interventions in rural Japan – a country that has faced rural depopulation and ageing population since the 1970s," Yuki Sumner told Dezeen.

"I started thinking about rural Japan when I attended the lecture on Zoom given by Atelier Bow Wow for the Royal Academy of Arts in 2021," she continued. "Yoshiharu Tsukamoto talked about how the practice's focus had shifted to rural areas in more recent years and his weekly engagement with the Small Earth Community in rural Chiba set up by Yoshiki Hayashi."

Named The Future is Rural, the film was shot by Yuki Sumner and her photographer husband Edmund Sumner in Mount Gassan, Yamagata, northern Japan.

It includes interviews and footage of those working in the region, including Small Earth Community founder Yoshiki Hayashi. Throughout the film, Yuki Sumner was keen not to show a stereotypical version of rural Japan.

"I didn't want to present a romantic vision of the countryside in Japan," she said. "I wanted to show people working hard to preserve the traditional farming landscape in rural Chiba. I wanted to show people collecting rubbish along a river in the countryside."

"I wanted to show people observing an ancient ritual, chanting together to welcome ancestral spirits on the day of the dead and together helping the spirits find their way home safely," she continued.

Japan Pavilion at London Design Biennale
The pavilion includes a painting made using ink from coal and cheese

Along with showcasing how people are tackling issues faced in rural areas in Japan, Yuki Sumner believes that the film will demonstrate how much can be learned from those based in the countryside.

"The knowledge and wisdom passed down through the generations can be forever lost if we don't connect with them properly," she said.

"If design is about caring about other people and art is about imagination, then with a little bit of care and imagination, we can begin to tackle issues like isolation and loneliness more effectively," she continued.

"We can learn a lot from people in the countryside, from the elderly locals especially. Artists such as Ayuko Inaba and Katsunobu Yoshida, who appear in the film, choose to live in the countryside as they are inspired by local customs and traditions to make their artworks."

Sheep-shaped chairs
It also included sheep-shaped chairs

The film was created for the Japanese Pavilion at the London Design Biennale 2023. Alongside the film, the pavilion contained items designed or informed by the countryside.

It included sheep-shaped chairs made by artists Katsunobu Yoshida and Tatsuhiro Ara with Mauro Dell'Orco and a painting by Katsunobu Yoshida and Ayuko Inaba, made using ink from coal and cheese.

There were also glow-in-the-dark Rubbish Rabbit mascots made from waste material by Ryo Okamoto along with a picture book about the Rubbish Rabbits.

The Japan Pavilion was one of many installations at the London Design Biennale. To mark the opening, Dezeen rounded up ten standout pavilions from the exhibition including a giant wind chime and touch-sensing bio-textiles.

The photography is by Edmund Sumner.

The 2023 London Design Biennale is on show at London's Somerset House from Melbourne from 1-25 June 2023. For more information about events, exhibitions and talks, visit Dezeen Events Guide.