Report from CCCA Workshop No. 1

Report from CCCA Workshop No. 1

Tokyo University of the Arts, January 31-February 1, 2018

The workshop is the first of four workshops in the INP network supported by the Danish Agency for Science and Higher Education through the 9th International Network Programme. The International Network Programme is aimed at providing researchers an opportunity to build the foundation for future cooperation and to explore new research partnerships of a potentially high value. The aim for the CCCA network as stated in our application is to develop a platform for scholars, artists, activists, curators, educators, and cultural managers to exchange the experiences and outcomes of socially engaged art movements across borders.

Workshop No. 1 focused on the role of art and artists in society that has dramatically changed over the last two decades. How can (or cannot) art contribute to a community-building? How can a community inspire art and artists? How do artists collaborate with members of a community?

The workshop was hosted and organized by Professor Mōri Yoshitaka, Graduate School of Global Arts, Tokyo University of the Arts, in collabortion with Associate Professor Gunhild Borggreen (University of Copenhagen) and Associate Professor Anemone Platz (Aarhus University).

Pre-seminar announcements

The workshop was announced on the CCCA blog at University of Copenhagen, and at the news site of the website of Tokyo University of the Arts, Graduate School of Global Arts. Professor Mōri also made a post on Facebook.

The workshop was announced by Professor Môri to a limited number of scholars and graduate students at Tokyo University of the Arts in order to keep the number of workshop participants around 20 persons.

The seminar event

The seminar took place in Lecture Room 1, Senju Campus Tokyo University of the Arts, 1-25-1, Senju, Adachi-ku, Tokyo. The programme for the workshop was copied and distributed among participants. Coffee, tea and snacks were served during coffee breaks.

Left: Senju Campus of Tokyo University of the Arts.              Right: Poster 

The program contained Opening Remarks as well as seven presentations by scholars, curators and artists. In total, 27 people attended. The list of participants includes scholars and students in art research as well as artists and a curator. The tables in the lecture room were organised to make a square that allowed for informal conversation.

Day 1

On the first day of the workshop, Professor Mōri Yoshitaka (Tokyo University of the Arts) was the host and he welcomed everyone on the first day of the workshop and made a short introduction to the format. Arouund 25 workshop participants introduced themselves, their affiliation and their interest in the topic to each other. Professor Mōri then continued with his Opening Remarks on “Socially Engaged Art and its Discontent in Japan”. First of all, the concept of “socially engaged art”, also known as SEA, is widespred among international art theory and art critique these days, and in Japan too, the English words are used. There seems to be no equivalent terminology in Japanese. However, it is important that we begin to define concepts within the specific context of investigation, and this is something the CCCA network and the research activities might address in the future. Other key words include “collaboration”: although this is a buzz word among art practices, it also refers to modes of production in the post-Fordism era in which technologies and data exchange intervene in everyday life and reshape the notion of subjectivity from individual to in-dividual. Furthermore, the concept of “community” is undergoing transformation as the notion of what defines a community as well as its inclusion and exclusion mechanisms change. It is important to discuss the concept of “social” because this has become a fancy word but also seems to signify a decline of civil society. The ideas behind current wave of socially engaged art have historical presidents that are important to include.

Professor Mōri during his Opening Remarks

Next, Associate Professor Gunhild Borggreen (Copenhagen University) presented her Opening Remark by outlining the CCCA network background and purposes as well as planned activities for the next two years. Japan and Denmark share many issues of social concern such as urbanisation, decline of traditional agricultural systems, depopulation in rural areas, and ageing population. These transformations make it relevant to study contemporary art that deal with such issues as a theme as well as a foundation for participatory art practices. Ideas of a concrete comparative project between Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale in Japan and KVÆK art festival on the island of Møn in Denmark was outlined, focusing art projects that co-create with elderly people and establish cross-generational interaction. Several points are important: how to make an art festival in a rural area that can be inclusive but not intrusive; how to develop cross-disciplinary methods, and how to transfer insights that are linked to one specific site and cultural context to another without reducing the inherent aesthetic and social qualities.

After the coffee break, Ph.D. student Liliana Granja Morais (Tokyo Metropolitan University) gave a presentation entitled “Creating Transnational Local Communities through Arts and Crafts” which focused on the transnational exchange between Japan and Brazil by means of Japanese pottery traditions and techniques, as well as a case example from Arita about machizukuri through arts and crafts. This was followed by a presentation by MA student Tanja Sillman (Tokyo University of the Arts) on various degrees of artists’ autonomy in regional and local art projects in Japan. If curated art projects may be more “easy” to understand for audiences, art events that are organised by artists themselves tend to be more engaging and promote (provoke) discussions. The last talk in this session was by MA student Jong Pairez (Tokyo University of the Arts) on the topic of Radio Kosaten as a Participatory Research Laboratory, using the radio project Kosaten as an example of a space of encounter for incompatible bodies from precarious communities, and discussing the failure of such projects to fit the notion of “the social” because it refuses to adhere to conformity.

Left: Pairez, Sillman, and Morais in panel.                             Right: View of participants

The late afternoon session included two presentations: Professor Shimizu Tomoko (Tsukuba University) gave an elaborate presentation on the theoretical concepts of “community” with references to international philosophers, art critics, and art projects, focusing on the three key aspects of populism, public, and dialogue. Relating to many examples of artworks from different places in the world, Professor Shimizu linked various theoretical aspects of subjectivity and identity to artistic practices. This perspective was highlighted in the presentation by artist and filmmaker Fujii Hikaru, who introduced a number of his art projects in which issues such as collaboration and community in terms of images of the “other”, particularly those types of “otherness” produced by the politics of nation, history, memory. Professor Kumakura Sumiko (Tokyo University of the Arts) provided comments during the following panel discussion.

Left: Mōri, Fujii, Shimizu and Kumakura in panel.                  Right: Coffee break

After the sessions at Tokyo University of the Arts, most of the participants of the workshop attended a reception at a nearby restaurant in order to continue the conversations in an informal and relaxed manner.

Day 2

The second day of the workshop took place in Lecture Room 1, Senju Campus Tokyo University of the Arts. Curator Maeda Rei (Art Front Gallery) gave the first presentation of Day 2. Focusing on Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale, the talk included both a historical and contextual background for the art festival, as well as a detailed account of several of the art projects and the communication and experience between artists, curators and local residents. In many cases, both the local community and its residents as well as the artist are transformed through the process of interaction and exchange through the art practice itself, including also initial resistance from the elderly inhabitants in villages of the art festival area. As discussant, Associate Professor Anemone Platz (Aarhus University) focused on terms such as “revitalization” and recruitment, as well as how the collaboration with the local government takes place. In addition, the issues of tourism and new types of creative industries was mentioned. Some social effects of the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale can be registered, such as a rise in the population of the area, as well as a decrease in the number of suicides among elderly people.

Left: Maeda Rei during her presentation.                    Right: Mōri and Shirakawa

After the coffee break, visual artist Shirakawa Yoshio presented a number of his artistic project in Maebashi and other places, including the Nuttari Radio project and the Mokubada Dada project. The collaborative projects of Shirakawa include detailed research in local history and ethnographic fieldwork, and includes issues such as nationhood, war monuments and memory.

The academic programme ended with short wrap-up session in which the idea of holding the next workshop in Tōkamachi or another site at the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale in the end of August was discussed.

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