Mauro Arrighi talks about art in Japan
27 feb 2014 by Stina Gustafsson
art:i:curate interviews Mauro Arrighi about the effects multiple disciplines have on creative practice, the rise of new media art movement in Japan, and his involvement in the platform.
SG: You are a researcher, a lecturer, a musician and an artist; do you think being multidisciplinary gives you a more profound understanding of the creative practice?
MA: I feel like I’m observing the scene from a privileged point of view due to the fact that I have a BA in Fine Art and an MA in Interactive Art. Currently, I’m enrolled as a PhD student at the Solent Southampton University where I am conducting research about Japanese new media art, whilst I’m lecturing at the Academy of Fine Arts of Bologna. This gives me the ability to approach the artworks, not only from an aesthetic point of view, but also from a practical stance.
SG: Your main focus within your research is new media art and electronic art in Japan, can you please elaborate?
MA: Japan has quite peculiar cultural environment, for what concerns my studies. For instance, Japanese curators and art critics define manga, anime, video games, digital art and interactive art genres all as media art. It is also where a new subgenre known as Device Art took form in 2004, of which Hiroo Iwata, Kazuhiko Hachiya and Novmichi Tosa are the most prominent members. It’s theoretical content and its uniqueness was primarily defined by Tomoe Moriyama, Machiko Kusahara and Hiroshi Yoshioka. All this has profound implication in the way people live their lives, because it is not “just” about aesthetics, but also mass-production is heavily influenced by this cultural ecosystem.
SG: How is the art in Japan different to Europe’s, and especially Italy’s, where you are currently based?
MA: Concerning the interplay between art and technology, the perception/notion of history, and the utopias grounded in present Japan, it is worthwhile to notice that in “1979, [...] the animation Mobile Suit GUNDAM began on television. We cannot deny that science-fiction novels and animation have endowed art and technology with the power of imagination. In forms of expression that have been liberated from the rules of the real outer world, non-human beings such as robots, aliens, monsters and ghosts move around as if they were alive. Many of us that live in Japan today have familiarised themselved since childhood with this sort of worldview […]. Therefore, if we were to compare the situation with the one existing in Europe, the argument 'in Japan, there are no works of art that have a strong social nature that question the political position of the people who employ technology’ seems right on. Perhaps it is already difficult for us Japanese to liberate ourselves from the collective illusion created by mass media, which is not about an actual event, but about an image divorced from the event that is consumed as a simulacrum.” as Fumihiko Sumitomo tells in “Beyond the limit of human imagination” (Sumitomo and alt., 2005, p.20).
For the readers, who might believe that I am channelling a bias opinion towards the Japanese society through the quotes you just have read: on the contrary! I perceive it as positive, but it’s my personal opinion.
Eikou Ikui (Halbreich, 1989, p. 44) writes: “[…] in the commuter trains well-dressed businessmen immerse themselves in comic books, which they keep in their attaché cases. But the inner life of these people, it would seem to me, is surely shaped by and reflects the experience of the preceding generation who laid the foundation of Japan’s economic prosperity by means of the dissolution of their national and personal identity. Thus the younger generations understand, instinctively and in self-defense, that keeping themselves in a state of childish innocence is the only way to protect their identity from further erosion.”
Why I am not criticising these aspects of the Japanese culture? Ask yourself, what is the attitude towards similar issues in the western world?
Eye Yamataka Live, Glowing Spheres. AEO (EYE, Taeji, Jo). Image courtesy of Sebastian Mayer.
SG: You have contributed to art:i:curate Curated by. What was your approach?
MA: I personally know each one of the artists I presented. It was about trust and respect beyond acknowledging their formal artistry. I lived in Japan between 2009 and 2012, so I had the chance to work with some of them and to interview others. I actually know “how” the majority of the works have been built. It was a selection, which wasn’t made based on books and exhibitions alone.
SG: How can online platforms such as art:i:curate change the way society perceives and experiences art?
MA: art:i:curate surely boosts the visibility for both authors and up-and-coming artists, a format that propels speed in researching, collecting and proposing. A joyful marathon for the curator, hopefully also the viewers may have the same amount of fun. Since money is not the objective, the curators choose what they believe is important and what they really like.
Sumitomo, F., Yubisui, Y., Kimura, S., Yoshizumi, Y., and Shiba S., 2005. Art Meets Media: Adventure in Perception and Possible Futures: Japanese Postwar Art and Technology. NTT Publishing.
Ikui, E., 1989. “Natures” of Tokyo, in: Halbreich, K., 1989. Against Nature: Japanese Art in the Eighties. Massachusetts Institute Technology.
Art in Japan: Gundam in Odaiba, Tokyo, 2012. Image courtesy of Mauro Arrighi.