Hi Everyone In the last few days I have visited the Yokohama Triennale, Art lab ova in Yokohama multi-cultural and red light district and the info store in Nishi-Ogikobo(西荻案内所）. The high level of practices working on the ground impressed me. In the Triennale, the work with the day labourers was diverse and creative, providing many ways for participants to self validation and motivation. (釜ヶ崎芸術大学）
The special tour given by Art lab ova was very rich in details with their being in engagement of nearly 18 years. The narratives provided before the tour showed their deep relationships with various residents in the neighbourhood.
The work and materials in Nishi-Ogikobo info store shown the various richly traditional oriented activities on Japanese culture complemented by many other interests such as environmental issues and social fairs that showcase local talents.
The common absence in all these wonderful effort is how these activities to initiate/maintain dialogues and cooperation among their participants can connected to the fundamental issues that caused and led to the need to create all these activities. I read in some literature that explained the Japanese family social structure that patriarchal system that began about 800 years ago was replace in the 1950s by a constitution that respect the dignity of the individual and equality for both gender. The text also admit that the old values are very much present in today cultural practices and through my research that many issues that are considered unpleasant are not openly discuss. e.g. I saw this video by Aljazeera on abused children ( http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/101east/2014/09/japan-throwaway-children-20149299271732632.html). I am very aware of the discomfort and anxieties that may arise when attention through discussions are bought onto issues concerning abuse, race, religion and otherness. Evidence of covering up, avoidance and denial are quite presence in the Japanese aesthetics. All the works I mentioned above in Yokohama and Nishi-O that try to reveal these aesthetics began with dialogue, through durational engagement that remove anxieties with each little steps in order to build trust and cooperation. These Participation to provide remedies to immediate identified problem will need deeper critical discussions to move from awareness to consciousness and actions, the fundamental issue must be addressed if real changes are to happen. The hours that I spent in Nishi-O store, many calls and visit came in treating the place as a free information service station. This is not what the activists wanted as they do not want to see their effort as just to provide a service ( or facilitators) but want others to negotiate, collaborate and move onwards to their interest or solve issues. The fundamental question is what do one want with such activities in activist work or in socially engaged or public participatory art? Activities to feel good for yourself, talks about the problem or help others( seniors or abused children) to have a meaningful time or elevate their suffering? Probably all of these but what about the social influence and pressure that caused these needs and situations in the first place? These discussions need honesty, will carry harsh tone and will be painful, cause anxieties and may threaten your construction of reality that you are seeking comfort or maybe hiding in. When the process of change began, it can be worse for the self delusional psyche when one is not prepared for dialogue and negotiaion. Look at Hong Kong now, open discussions was not promoted before 1997 by the British, a widely known lack in Asia, as an alternative politeness and well manner, a much desired value of the Confucian and Buddhist teachings was deem to be preferred. Many students do not know about the British rules as they was too young or not born yet but they are influence by the legacy. Because negotiations and discursive skills needed t create liberal democracy are lacking, Military government is in Thailand, Xenophobic and religious violence are rising in Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. While the students in Hong Kong is fighting for the future of the society, some ladies in Mong Kok are complaining of the inconvenience caused by the protest and disruptions to livelihood. Some discomfort are small price to be paid for the greater goods. Our Mind should be open to the 'new', ideological migrants and sometime subversive ideas as these are the innovations and progressive thoughts needed for the society to move onwards and break free from suppressions. Be critical and not be dictated by the traditions and fashionables. It will depends on our Mind and Will to lead us to true freedom.
iimage from cnn