Jessica Silverman: An email conversation with visiting curator Mizuki Endo on March 24, 2007. Mizuki Endo and Silverman Gallery will work together with Japanese based artist BUBU de la Madeleine as part of Silverman’s Speak Up series, May 2007.
How do you see your role in San Francisco as a young independent curator?
It’s hard to answer role here with the words, young, independent and curator. I would have to examine each word.
Is there a new generation of curators emerging in Tokyo?
We only have ‘Gakugeiin’ in museum, which is the name for the position whose role includes: Curator, Museum Educator, Exhibition Designer, Conservator and so on. Almost all museums in at this moment do not have ‘curator’ as a specialized position.
During the 90’s, Yuko Hasegawa and Fumio Nanjo identified the word ‘curator’ in . They have created a new way of organizing exhibitions but it seems to create unusual tension in .
Recently contemporary art museums, art centers and alternative art spaces flourish in . Yokohama Triennale and Echigo Tsumari Triennial also opened a new field for contemporary art. So, I guess young people can think of as a place for realizing their exhibition/project, away from Japanese modern museum system. However, I have never heard “new generation of curators” as a term for this emergence.
Drawing from your experiences as an independent curator, cultural manager, researcher in and the Philipines, and your participation in international projects and residencies abroad, what would you call the greatest challenges for realizing independent projects and/or founding spaces such as artspace tetra or RHYTHM?
When I was a doctoral candidate of sociology and anthropology, I started to publish a local underground art magazine in Fukuoka , called RHYTHM. At that time, I was frustrated by the lack of media outlet that critically captures the growing underground cultures in Fukuoka where I’ve been living for 6 years. RHYTHM gradually extended its work and has been organizing experimental music events, exhibitions, film screenings, symposiums, and finally the opening of Art Space Tetra. I have also stayed in the and in for 2 years. I have tried to organize cultural events there in the same way as RHYTHM. Some events are more successful than others that failed because of my lack of knowledge/experience on local cultural context. I need this kind of trial and error for a better understanding of the specific characteristics of each individual cultural system. Future Prospects Art Space is however a successful example, which was established by Manila artists and myself in 2005. They have been done numerous exhibitions including some international artists such as Manuel Ocampo and Paul Pfeiffer. My project in will complete next year. It is a publication of interviews, which mainly focuses on the question ‘what is the role of contemporary art in this disordered country whose cultural/economical system is quite different from the West?’ I have already done interviews with a lot of curators and artists in , and I hope it will be helpful for Indonesian people through presenting a fundamental thought of art.
I want to say that there is no transcendent principle of aesthetics that is universal to Asian artists. There are a lot of uncertainties within art, and the question like “what is art?” “What does it mean to do art?” is something very valid and real to many artists, critics, and curators in Asia. In this situation, I like to do both aesthetic and critical study of art and creation of media that is unique to specific locations. Art Space Tetra and Future Prospects are artist-run, non-profit basis art spaces. However, their works and methods of management differ from one another depending on social, cultural, and economic conditions of the place. The most challenging thing for me is trying to find a path to alternative art systems based on local contexts, which is different from western modern art systems, mainstream cultural trends, domestic/international art market and ongoing categorization of contemporary art under the name of multiculturalism. The path seems to be narrow and long, but I think it is funny and adventurous.
Right now, how would you describe what you are doing?
I am preparing for a project with BUBU de la Madeleine, who is artist/performer/social worker based in Osaka . She was a performer of Dumb Type, which was known as a hyper-media dance unit in Kyoto during 90’s. However, people gathered around Dumb Type were not only artist/dancer/performer, but also critics, social workers and political activists. They organized the first movement on sexual minorities/drag culture/AIDS issues in . After Teiji Furuhashi, a central figure of Dumb Type died by HIV, BUBU quit Dumb Type. After that the Tokyo art scene praised Dumb Type solely as a dance group, and the real active movement around Dumb Type has been ignored and sometimes deleted. It now has a sort of incorrect mythology now I think. The situation now in is that contemporary art trends from Tokyo with commercialized values have taken over and spaces for social/political activities are disappearing.
BUBU is still working, now as a social worker as well as an artist. She is currently a director of Men And Sexual Health, Osaka (MASH Osaka). Director of Silverman Gallery, San Francisco Jessica Silverman and myself have invited BUBU to San Francisco at the beginning of May and we will do a sort of social research. Combined with her background and the history of social movements in SF, this project will produce a unique form of exhibition as ongoing process by creating aesthetical/social activities. The research with BUBU will begin in early May and subsequently be displayed at Silverman Gallery.
What do you think about the state of conceptual art today? Performance? Collaboration? Political? Is there a difference in perception of these forms of art in and the ?
It is surely different. But it needs long explanation for answering this question, and I do not think I can do it by my poor English.
What are you reading?
I am reading Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground again, which I have read when teenager.
I also want to mention a Japanese non-fiction book, which I read 2 weeks ago. The title is Shokugyouran wa Esupaa (ESPer filled in blank for occupation.) The author, Tatsuya Mori, is a documentary filmmaker, known for the film A, which is about the everyday life of Aum Shinrikyo followers after their Tokyo subway gas attack. This book notes his research and following of 3 Japanese famous people, who (may) have super natural powers such as extra-sensory perception and psychokinesis. He did not believe them in the beginning, but he witnessed the scene of supernatural phenomena again and again in front of his face, and he could not explain them in scientific reason, nor in technical trickery of magic. I also have experienced a man bending a spoon without any physical strength. Before this he asked me to confirm that the spoon was really new and hard. So now I can say it really exists, although I do not like to trust supernatural/occult matters. In the end of this book, the author also had to recognize the existence of psychic power.
What is interesting for me in this book is that all of them discovered their power in the 80’s because they all watched Uri Geller’s spoon bending on TV. At that time, this Jewish man was very famous in because of his psychic performance. I do not think that he really had psychic power, but presence of psychic power has spread all around through the image of his spoon-bending trick. Actually, I have watched one of his TV show, trying to bend a spoon with following his instruction, when I was about 7 years old. Off course, I could not do it. Anyway, he stimulated Japanese kids in a really shocking way, and as a result, some of them acquired an ability to bend a spoon without physical strength. Moreover, various types of psychic performances have been invented during the mid 80’s - mid 90’s, even if partly or mostly done by trickery. 3 persons in this book became famous as masters of supernatural power during the era.
I thought this unique way of influence/stimulation from the West to might make an interesting point. Takashi Murakami’s description of development of Japanese animation in Little Boy partly corresponds with this. For him the atomic bomb inspired animation makers to create malformed Japanese style animation. This is a common pattern: 1. Power from the West influences/contaminates Japan, 2. People get a grave impact from it, 3. The most influenced kids try to re-create it in different way, and a sort of mutation arise from it….Well this is just my trivial thinking of Japanese culture…but the birth and the development of Japan as a modern nation state also has been done in a similar pattern…
Is there a recent cultural event that has impacted you strongly?
Dadaism and Russian avant-garde movement. I am serious. It’s only 90 years ago! California College of Arts and San Francisco Art Institute have existed at that time. I just want to say it’s important for me to keep a kind of critical spirit in critical moments with creating aesthetic form.
Another answer. I really think Radical Software curated by Will Bradley is great. I felt that I met my long lost brother, when I saw him and his activity.
Mizuki Endo received a six-month grant to observe curatorial activities and visit contemporary art museums in the United States. Age 31, Mr. Endo is a curator and independent researcher from Fukuoka. He received a B.A. degree in media arts from Yokohama National University in 1999 and an M.A. degree from Kyushu University where he is currently a doctoral candidate in the school of social and cultural studies. The co-founder of project-based arts initiatives in Japan and the Philippines, he launched Art Space Tetra, a unique cooperative venture in Fukuoka that presents contemporary art exhibitions and performances by member artists, and he helped establish Future Prospects Arts Space, a similar initiative in Manila. Mr. Endo has curated a number of innovative projects that have been exhibited in these spaces and elsewhere in Japan. He has received support for his work from the Asian-Pacific Center, the Pola Art Foundation, Japan Foundation, and the Nippon Foundation, which awarded him a 2004 fellowship to undertake research on contemporary art in Southeast Asia. In 2005, Mr. Endo was honored with the Third Lorenzo Bonaldi Art Prize, awarded each year by the Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo to support the work of curators under the age of thirty and to highlight their role in the international art scene. In visiting the United States, Mr. Endo plans to continue research on contemporary art, meet with curators, and observe alternative art spaces in New York and San Francisco. He is currently an advisor to the new curatorial training program at Arts Initiative Tokyo (AIT), and his research in the U.S. will assist AIT in the development of its curriculum. His application to the ACC has been enthusiastically supported by Raiji Kuroda, curator of the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, and by ACC grantee Yuko Hawegawa, chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, who nominated Mr. Endo for the Lorenzo Bonaldi Art Prize.
+director of rhythm
+cofounder of Future Prospects Art Space(Manila, Philippines)
+fellow of Asian Cultural Council Japan-US Arts Program(2006-2007)
Speak Up is a series of exhibitions, talks and discussions based on an understanding of collaboration. Outside curators, artists, publishers and Silverman Gallery are motivated by the curiosity of new ideas and the opportunity to tap into different fields, such as science, music, architecture, art, dance, choreography, theater, film, politics, design, media, economics, journalism.
Jessica Silverman is a recent graduate of the MA Program in Curatorial Practice at California College of Arts as well as owner and director of Silverman Gallery, San Francisco. She has taken part in a Curatorial Residency at the Frankfurter Kunstverein the summer of 2006. As an independent curator she has recently produced International Waters co-curated by artist Soo Kim for StevenWolfGallery, San Francisco and is working on exhibitions with curators Mizuki Endo and whitehot NYC contributor Jan Van Woensel. In 2008, Silverman and Passenger Books will publish Leaving the Library a catalogue of conversations.
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