China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
There is a normative understanding about the history of public art in Japan. Following the introduction of the term “public art” in the 1980s, a number of pioneering attempts of cultural redevelopment through installing site-specific sculptures in cities were made throughout the 1990s. These include the FARET Tachikawa (1994), directed by art organizer Furamu Kitagawa, and the Shinjuku ISLAND (1995), led by curator Fumio Nanjo. After the 2000s, we have witnessed a surge of art festivals held in various rural areas of Japan. The Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale, which began in 2010, is the most salient example that represents this phenomenon. In those art festivals, many projects have been done to explore the specificities of each region in collaboration with local residents. This well-known historiography of public art as tool for regional revitalization is relevant to the widespread agreement that political awareness is weak in contemporary Japanese art. However, a large number of artists addressed a contested political agenda in their diverse projects realized in the public sphere. For instance, in Made in Occupied Japan (1994) conducted in Tachikawa, feminist artist Yoshiko Shimada attempted to shed light on the city’s barely known history of military prostitution during the period of US occupation. In this presentation, I would like to construct an alternative discourse narrating the history of Japanese public art by examining creative practices and performances of Japanese artists, which intend to intervene in public spaces politically.