Co-organized by Cai Studio and the Iwaki Board for the Project to Plant Ten Thousand Cherry Blossom Trees, the Snake Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) opened with an inaugural exhibition on April 28, 2013. As part of artist Cai Guo-Qiang’s conceptual series Everything is Museum, SMoCA subverts the definition of a traditional art museum. A community effort initiated by the artist, local residents and volunteers helped build a 99-meter long winding corridor with trees contaminated by radiation from the 11th March, 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Traversing quietly across the mountains, the ‘museum’ winds through the land on which 10,000 future cherry trees will be planted. The artist hopes the museum can become a space where the residents of Iwaki and their children can have emotional exchanges and let their dreams fly free.
At the opening of SMoCA, Cai created a gunpowder explosion on top of 99 terracotta tiles from his hometown of Quanzhou. Each tile is available for sale for 300,000 yen (approx. US$3,000), with 100% of the proceeds to be donated to the operations of SMoCA and the Project to Plant Ten Thousand Cherry Blossom Trees. Results from the second Posters by Iwaki Children contest were also announced, followed by an award ceremony.
The following year, Cai acted as the director of Yatai Museum of Art (YMoCA). Supported by SMoCA and the Iwaki Board, three events were held to commemorate the twenty-year friendship between the artist and Iwaki:
Ⅰ. Yatai Museum of Contemporary Art (YMoCA):
Residents from Iwaki set up food stands and prepared small dishes using local produce that were safe to consume. The gesture was meant to dispel any rumors that local seafood and agricultural products may be contaminated by nuclear radiation.
Ⅱ. Harajuku Kawaii Culture in Iwaki
Invited by artist Cai Guo-Qiang, Sebastian Masuda, one of the pioneers of Harajuku street culture in Tokyo, along with the band Nikoman brought a wave of Harajuku kawaii (“cute”) culture for the people and children in Iwaki village.
With assistance from the Iwaki Board, Sebastian Masuda organized a children’s workshop Let’s Make Some Kawaii Lanterns! with a local elementary school. Children were invited to design and make their own lanterns using kawaii, or “cute” materials, such as brightly colored soft toys, balls, and beads brought by Masuda. After the workshop, the children brought their works to SMoCA and decorated the structure with their creations.
Ⅲ. Kaikou—The Keel (Returning Light—The Dragon Bone)
After a period of time, volunteers in Iwaki worked hard to extend SMoCA from 99 meters to 150 meters, and connecting the museum with Kaikou—The Keel (Returning Light—The Dragon Bone), a large-scale outdoor installation permanently installed upon the hilltop of Tateyama, which has become a new local landmark.