Event report: Talk series at Hikarie featuring Naoya Fujita, Tomohisa Yamano, and Fram Kitagawa

2018 TRIENNALEEVENT REPORTPosted : January 10, 2018

On 21 November 2017, we welcomed Naoya Fujita, SF writer and literature critic and Tomohisa Yamano, CEO of Asoview Inc and official supporter to talk about "the meaning of art festival in a region" with Fram Kitagawa.

After the brief introduction of how ETAT was launched by Fram Kitagawa, Mr Yamano joined as a moderator asked Mr Fujita "what is the meaning of regional art and what is its value?" Fujita was invited to the talk as his recent book "Chiiki Art : Bigaku, Seido, Nihon" (2016) addressed a question towards art projects in the region. Amongst art projects he had seen included the one which mission was to discover solitary death in public housing blocks (danchi) in order to reduce discomposed bodies that prompted him to reconsider whether such thing was an art. He thought art festival should be reviewed as art when he went through report on the festival which didn't mention anything about its artistic value.

Fujita then continued onto the point of discussion of the day by asking "Kitagawa runs democratic experiment using art to create a place to allow people to proactively engage and there is no doubt about what his experiment has achieved. However, the one question I would like to ask him is what he actually thinks about art festival as ast?" Kitagawa replied by saying his definition of art is different from Fujita's. "Art consists of two Chinese characters, beauty and means but I think it is wrong as a translation. What I regard art is the way which represents relations between human to nature culture and place. I have little interest whether it is "beautiful" or "arty" although I don't think I would like something dirty."

Despite the difference, both of them had overwhelming experiences that transformed their understanding and sense of art. Kitagawa introduced "Hanagurui", a performance by Yukio Nakagawa and Kazuo Ono in 2002 as such experience. "Yukio Nakagawa, Ikebana artist ran a helicopter and precipitated one million of flower petals of tulips from the sky as rain also fell down to the ground. We were embraced by the flower petals and rain drops as we looked up. The trembling excitement when flower petals and rain drops were falling while you had lost the sense of distance to the sky was so good or simply blessing. I do encounter such situation as I run ETAT.

However, if the ways to represent relations are regarded as art, anything could be an art. Fujita and Yamano asked Kitagawa "How then does Kitagawa select artworks for the festival as a General Director? To what extent "artwork" for ETAT is an artwork?". Kitagawa replied "a spatial experience that "Hanakurui" gave me is the strongest. At the same time I treasure ones made by lots of people like a festival. And food. Local women cook local ingridients and serve with care. People eat such food and good food bring smile to people - which I think is great."

Yamano moved on by asking the meaning and challenge of engaging the local. "Majority of people in Echigo-Tsumari were farmers until very recently and they would have been able to continue making their living until they were asked to come to a city as it was inefficient. They were made felt that people in the farming industries in remote places were excess and there was not choice but ceasing to do agriculture. On the contrary, art which requires caring like a baby could attract interest of people in declining area. I can't think of anything other than art that could be like this. Art is something that is well received by locals. Art is not just a completed object as it also includes the process of how and what it is."

Understanding of present need of declining region as being originally from one of the marginal villages in Hokkaido, Fujita still questioned "is it worth if it stays for a limited duration and dissapears after being consumed even people seek for something to enjoy?". Kitagawa agreed on his argument but pointed out there is a missing perspective. "Art is done by those who can't hold a central position in a society. Those who are on a promotional laddar, good at figures or have worldly wisdom don't do art. In other words, they reveal their physiology. It can't be helped if physiology is regarded as something dirty. I believe those who do art are weak. I would like to say we should't insult them. They create something weak and strange but it is natural as we are all different 120,000,000 people. It is not bad to pursue art. There are so many different art and you may not be too good at it but it is much stronger to accept them than having some power." In response to "some of the artworks don't seem to have potential for further glowth", Kitagawa said "I do also want to encourage artists who haven't fully completed what they are able to do. However, I don't want anyone to criticise "art" no matter what they do. It is a different form of attacking someone in a weak position. Art is, in the end, a representation of us who are rather useless. I strongly believe that it is absolutely essential to protect them." Fujita was genuinely surprised to learn how Kitagawa regarded artsits for the first time..

Yamano tried to bring the talk to the conclude by saying "it could be argued that criticising art festival in the region represents the current society in general. However, I was reminded what has supported the relations of the region and art festival was a common understanding of harmony and love in the society." However, Kitagawa said "it may be so as Yamano described but I wouldn't chose words "harmony" or "love"." and Fujita joined "I hate the word "harmony..." - which revealed different perspectives and ways of expressions of the three panelists.

To the last question about expectations and perspectives of ETAT, Fujita said "I would like to see if the festival could help us reconsider and review our existence from the perspective of nature and region". Kitagawa replied "we would face the structural rigidness or existing establishment when try to change for better. We are at the phase of challenge and it would be very difficult to overcome. However, we have to learn and to be ready. Some of the issues are fundamental to the existance of this country. It is not that easy to progress forward beyond constant threat, emotional treps or traditional customs. And unless otherwise we give up, such "ordinary everyday situation" continues for good. It is indeed a high wall we have to climb." Kitagawa then ended the talk by saying "one village may do something in a certain way but depending on people involved it could change the outcome. Therefore, there is no general textbook we can refer to. Rather, it is more important what you can grasp from people you engage with. Art can't change people. It can only snuggle up to someone."

By having guest panelists with different set of values, the talk revealed Kitagawa's profound belief and thought on ETAT.