UN-FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Reports on the 2019 Aichi Triennale/ A trans-pacific round table discussion regarding censorship in the public space

When 17 Sep 2019
7:00PM - 9:00PM
Where White Box
213 E 121 St
New York, NY 10035
United States
Enquiry 212.714.2347

Moderated by Reiko Tomii

Participants include:
Miwako Tezuka, Co-Director, PoNJA-GenKon
Tsubasa Katō, artist
Fumihiko Sumitomo, Director, Art Maebashi / Associate Professor, Tokyo University of the Arts (via Skype)
Midori Ozaki, artist, Tomorrow Girls Troop
Kate Millet, artist, Tomorrow Girls Troop
Midori Yoshimoto, Associate Professor, New Jersey City University (commentator)

On August 3, 2019, two days after the opening of Aichi Triennale in Nagoya, Japan, one of its exhibits After “Freedom of Expression?” was closed. A contribution by a curatorial collective for After “Freedom of Expression?”, the display included an installation titled A Girl of Peace, by South Korean artists Kim Eun-Sung and Kim Seo-Kyung, which symbolizes the numerous “Comfort Women” forced to perform sexual labor for the Japanese military forces in Asia during WWII.

The Triennale office received some 1,400 complaints about the installation, including threats of bringing gasoline cans inside the museum, various public places and a terrorist fax note. On August 2, in response to the complaints, the mayor of Nagoya, Takashi Kawamura demanded Hideaki Ōmura, the governor of Aichi Prefecture, to remove the installation. Ōmura explained to the press that he discussed the matter with Daisuke Tsuda, the artistic director of the Triennale, who agreed on the closing of After “Freedom of Expression?”.

In response, Minouk Lim and Park Chan-Kyong of South Korea were the first artists to withdraw their works and issue statements. On August 12, curator Pedro Reyes and a group of dissenting artists also withdrew or modified their works. Together, they sent ARTnews magazine a letter entitled “In Defense of Freedom of Expression.”  Artists Include: Tania Bruguera and Reynier Leyva Novo (Cuba), Monica Mayer and Pia Camil (Mexico), Javier Téllez (Venezuela), Regina José Galindo (Guatemala), Claudia Martinez Garay (Peru), Dora Garcia (Spain), and Ugo Rondinone (Switzerland). Separately, Center for Investigative Reporting (USA) also withdrew their works.

On the same day, these and other artists and the Triennial director Tsuda held an open discussion, where Stuart Ringholt stated, “This situation calls for a sanatorium.” On August 25, a group of Triennale artists created a temporary artist-run space Sanatorium on a shopping street nearby, which is one of the Triennale sites. The first two artists scheduled to show there are Tsubasa Katō and Bontarō Dokuyama, with more works and programs being planned. To inaugurate the space, an open forum was held to review the closing of After “Freedom of Expression?”, discuss the operations of the space, and explore future actions and reach-outs.

The closing of After “Freedom of Expression?” has become a rallying point among artists and art professionals in Japan, who are not only organizing themselves but generating a socially engaged perspective involving the community and the public.

At WhiteBox Harlem, roundtable participants will report on the state of affairs and discuss the issues surrounding the contentious relationship between art and politics in Japan. There will be reports and updates from a contemporary art scholar (Tezuka), as well as a Triennale artist (Katō) and a curator of 2013 Aichi Triennale (Sumitomo), both of whom are actively engaged in the programs of Sanatorium. Two members of Tomorrow Girls Troop, a feminist art collective, will illuminate the socio-historical contexts of the comfort women as gender equality and human rights issues.

Image courtesy of the organizer.

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