Yokohama Triennale 2020: Afterglow I | Yokohama Museum of Art

We would like to present to you the first part of a series of photographs documenting the Yokohama Triennale 2020, concluded not long ago in October. Initially delayed due to the pandemic, a challenging and ambitious show to be held during such particularly difficult period, featuring more than 60 artists most of whom were not Japanese, posing obstacles in not only communication and logistics but also production, as one can easily imagine.

A couple of months before the original opening date of the show, I reached out to the Triennale committee enquiring about the possibility of the fair not happening at all, in return I received a rather affirmative and reassuring response that nothing would change except for a small postponement. Just like the ‘Go To’ campaign orchestrated by the Japanese government, easily one of the cleverest or dumbest things a government can ever come up with, depending on which corner you are in, whether it’s wise to encourage domestic travelling and stuffing hundreds of people inside a museum amidst a global pandemic, I will not be the judge of it. The Triennale meanwhile, was co-organised by the local government and art foundation, The Asahi Shimbun along with NHK, together with the Triennale committee, the sponsor list consisted of banks, estate corporations and other usual suspects, again, whether by and large there’s a political motivation behind the whole plot, I will not be the judge of that either, at the end of the day, from a creative production perspective, it’s an incredible job to pull this off given the circumstance. Not to mention that, after confining to a dreadful period of lockdown, people wanted to go out and experience things again. Sentiment noted, now here came the Triennale.

Setting foot in the prefecture of Kanagawa 神奈川 once more, generally considered as the second most populated area in Japan, to the south of Tokyo 東京, an industrial port no more, the city of Yokohama 横浜 has been busy transforming itself into an international and creative hub for the past almost 20 years, the Triennale unquestionably plays a major role in connecting cultures, redeveloping and redefining the landscape of the city since its launch in 2001. Hosted this year in Yokohama Museum of Art, PLOT 48, formerly Anpanman Children’s Museum & Mall, as well as NYK Maritime Museum. Artistically directed by Raqs Media Collective, titled [Afterglow], a somewhat romantic and poetic name given by the New Delhi based trio to an art fair, as if it resembles a silver lining among a mass of dark clouds floating above.

But was it really?

Granted, the fair was most definitely planned long before the pandemic and chaos struck the globe, when things were relatively simpler, when people could roam around freely without the obligation to wear a mask. Whatever the curators were set out to achieve, afterwards it had to be re-adjusted under the current climate, and whatever justification and re-interpretation of the theme [Afterglow] later became, it felt like a game of wordplay. On top of it all, throughout my 8-hour-art-viewing experience in two separate venues, something didn’t sit quite right, that feeling lingered on like a bad hangover, something felt disconnected, out-of-context. This is not to say the works presented weren’t of interest nor thought-provoking, it wasn’t short of head-scratching as well as nodding moments, a great number of works there reminded me that we are in fact, living in a world of transience right now, it touched upon history and lost memories; not shied away from conforming with political, social, cultural and sexuality matters; the meaning behind objects was questioned; spaces were transformed; even the directors weren’t Japanese for the first time in the history of the event, and the audiences I believed all got their fair shares of instagrammable fancy-looking installation photos or selfies – it ticked almost every box. But for some reasons, something just didn’t sit right, perhaps due to the fact that I did still have to pay attention to the virtually non-existing social distancing policy despite the museum’s best efforts; that audiences, while being as cautious as they could, still had to cram themselves in front of the artists’ statements printed on an A4 paper aspiring to understand the works; or perhaps because every now and then my hands had to be sanitised; or simply, even photographing via a viewfinder became a pain with a mask on.

The detestable feeling was escalated after I made my way down to the satellite venue PLOT 48 in the pouring rain, inside the building up the stairs there was an exhibition primarily about shrimps, or lobsters and whatnot. On another day I probably would have found it amusing but at that moment, one could not help but thought that maybe, there lied an alternative, to suffocate ourselves inside one dark room after another, wishing to get something out of those video art pieces. Was this something we really needed while the world has gone into half shit, or perhaps this was ultimately, an innocent escape from the upheaval for us all.

For the second and third part of the photography series, please follow the link respectively.

Editor: Axel Wang

Words, Design & Photography: Axel Wang

We use cookies to personalise content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. View more
Cookies settings
Privacy & Cookie policy
Privacy & Cookies policy
Cookie name Active

Terms & Conditions
Privacy Policy
Order and Shipping
Return and Refund Policy

This Privacy Policy (the “Policy”) provides information regarding the management and protection by SYNONYM of personal data processed from website visits, purchases, calls and surveys. It also explains the process to exercise individual privacy rights regarding one’s personal data held by SYNONYM. SYNONYM respects every visitor’s right to privacy and is committed to personal data protection. By using the site you agree to the terms and policies, which may change occasionally.


The personal information we collect from you may include name, contact details such as email address, telephone number and residential or work address, as well as payment information when you submit an online order, emailing us information in regards to an order, creating an online account, and/or subscribing to the newsletter.


The information provided by you will only be used for its intended purpose unless otherwise noticed. Such collected information is used for providing goods and services that are requested, as well as for communication and website operation purposes. We may admend the terms or policies occasionally, you may also be notified if we consider any of the amendments is important enough.


The information you provide may be disclosed to trusted partners of SYNONYM’s, who would need such information in order to provide goods or services on behalf of SYNONYM. You give the consent to the disclosure of the information when such request for goods or services is made. Any legal binding requests regarding disclosure of your personal information from government or law enforcement bodies we may have to comply. Under the circumstance where a request for information from other third parties is made, including potential buyers of the business or assets, we may be required to transfer collected data as assets, other data collected from you including website usage, browsing and operation histories and patterns may also be disclosed and transferred though statistics generated from our customers will remain anonymous and de-personalised.


Your data is stored and protected on our system for as long as necessary, our website and server provider will also ensure that your personal information is guarded against any illegal or unauthorised attempt or usage. No data transmission over the internet and wireless network is guaranteed to be 100% secure however, though we strive for protection any information you provide is at your own risk. You are within your rights to see, correct or delete all the information about you that is held by us; if you no longer wish to receive any materials from us you are entitled to withdraw your consent, please inform us at

5. Cookies

Cookies are pieces of information that a website transfers to your hard drive to store and sometimes track information about you. Cookies are common and won\\\\\\\'t do anything to harm your system – they simply store or gather information and for you to get the most out of the visit you make to the website. Information from your computer including IP address, operating system and browser type may also be collected, Cookies are unable to identify your passwords entered or credit card information; you may change your browser setting to prevent any acceptance of Cookies. The anonymous data we collect using Cookies on the website is only used for providing better services, it will never be used for the purpose of any targeted advertising. You agree to our use of Cookies by using the website.

Save settings
Cookies settings