Activity Reports (May, 2009)

Sendai Creative Forum 2009
“Crossing Creative Powers - Local to Global, Global to Local -” Summary Part 2

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3.Panel Discussion

Moderator: Masashige Motoe, Associate Professor at Graduate School of Tohoku University


Photo of the panelists at Sendai Creative Forum 2009
From right: Mr. Drew Hemment?Mr. Meruro Washida,
Mr. Hide Nakaya, Mr. Naoto Ogawa

Naoto Ogawa (Member of “logue”): The name “logue” comes from the word “Dialogue.” “-logue” means speech or discourse. At first, a hyphen “-“ was prefixed to “logue.” However, we found that a hyphen means “except for” in the web search and thus our name did not appear in the search results. That is why we omitted the prefixed hyphen from our name. “logue” started as part of a study group to promote creative industry in Sendai City. Over six months, we held interviews and lectures with various creators living in Sendai and updated reports on these events on the web everyday. After temporary suspension, we recently resumed our activity. Our new objective is how to define the term “local.” In other words, we want to know how people regard Sendai City as a local city in contrast with Tokyo. We are seeking a new definition of “local city” apart from the existing concept of local cities versus the capital city.


Meruro Washida (Curator at 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa): As a curator, I involved in Kanazawa Art Platform in fall of 2008 organized by 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa. With the theme “To Create Our Own Place by Ourselves,” the exhibition was situated around the center of the city of Kanazawa. Each of 19 artists from Japan and abroad was allocated a venue, including vacant shops and houses, to hold a workshop or an event. We offered a tour to visit each venue. This project had two main objectives: first, we tried to involve as many and various citizens as possible to bring this project into action. Second, we cared for the places to use as venues. For example, we looked for shrines and traditional Japanese-style houses to offer to 19 artists and management staff to work together to create artworks, and a tour was provided to connect each venue.


I am also a member of CAKK (Center for Art & Architecture, Kanazawa), a group of artists, students, and architects living in Kanazawa. CAKK’s activities include: renting houses in Kanazawa city to provide artists with places to stay; hosting exhibitions, workshops, and other events. Aside from government-led activities, people who want to make things happen in the city come together for CAKK. Our activities are cross-cutting between architecture and art. We are now aiming at building an alternative network among historic cities around the world, such as Seoul, Okinawa, Shanghai, Taipei, and those in Benelux countries.


Hide Nakaya (NHK Commentator): I have been a navigator in a TV show called “DigiSta (Digital Stadium).” From the beginning, “DigiSta” is more than just a TV show to me; it is a movement with a vision for the future. In other words, it is a field to foster creators who can be world-class artists. I want these creators to see the world and to introduce Japanese contents to audience around the world. I believe that accumulation of such activities will make various movements happen.


Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a popular city with high level of culture, especially in arts. This city seems to be appropriate for the movement of art festival. However, some requirements are yet to be filled: needs of the citizens, love for the festival, and acknowledgement of the festival. Most of all, though, a crucial factor is an actor like FesLab. For instance, the greatest festival movement in the world is Festival international de la bande dessinée d'Angoulême. Angouleme, France, is a city of printing and paper-making industry with a population of 46,000. This annual festival attracts over 200,000 fans from around the world.


The city has been inviting contents-related companies from throughout the country to the area around the National Center of Manga and Image (CNBDI) and the research center and school of visual arts, resulting in creation of new jobs for 600 people. CNBDI is located in an old small castle, so the atmosphere is quite sophisticated. School children can visit the office to see young creators are working on CG pictures. I believe that Sendai City can learn lessons from Angouleme in terms of how a local community is striving to surpass Hollywood.


Photo of Masashige Motoe
Mr. Masashige Motoe

Another favorite city of mine is Laval, a town near Le Mans in France. The mayor of the town has been promoting science technology industries. A festival for virtual reality called “Laval Virtual” started a decade ago. This small town receives virtual-reality fans from around the world and enjoys this cutting-edge technology. Here, virtual reality is used in an easily comprehensible manner and the world’s first outdoor theme park is located in the town. There is also Laval Mayenne Technopole. I believe that it is important to establish a place for education and events to propagate information and receive people from around the world.   


The Academy Award in the United States has achieved today’s prosperity because it is based on the academy, an organization for research. It is important that research institutes keep producing new technologies and ideas to drive the movement.

Hemment:  I have a question to Mr. Ogawa. Does your organization have an on-line community?
Ogawa: Actually, our activities are based on face-to-face interactions instead of SNS. A community can be defined as local by its size: that is, people can meet face to face anytime they want.
Hemment: The Internet can be used to propagate activities of an organization to the world and to revitalize a local community. The case of Kanazawa impressed me with its attitude to value interactions with people in the local community. How could you succeed in involving them in the project?
Washida: The key to success is to provide various ways of involvement. It is important for the participants to launch a project by themselves.
Motoe: Let me summarize the discussion up to this point. There are four points of discussion: 1. City; 2. Core organization; 3. The way to win and involve the audience; 4. Technology and media. In particular, I’d like to ask each of you the relationship between the city and your work. In what kind of places and how does the city relate to your work?
Hemment: There are two kinds of festival. One is a kind of festival that does not have little relation to a specific city; for instance, a traveling festival that goes from one city to the next. The other is a kind of festival that is deeply linked to a specific city. It is a festival that has its roots in the particular city. “Futuresonic” is the latter, and it can’t be organized in any other city. I want to change the city through close communication with people in the city. The festival and the City of Manchester have been mutually affect each other, and both have been undergoing changes.
Washida: Kanazawa is a city of intense connections among people in communities. They can build cross-sectional connections. With low rents, they can rent spaces for their activities within their allowances. The size of Kanazawa City is appropriate for launching projects with advantages of local environment.  

Photo of audience at Sendai Creative Forum 2009

Nakaya: I agree. In the era of globalization, physical distance between the capital and a local city does not matter to people abroad. What is required for a local city is to make the festival popular outside Japan. It does not have to compete with other cities to be the world’s greatest festival; or rather it should aim at creating a unique festival. People in Angouleme, France, are keenly interested in Japan. Children in France are growing up with Japanese animation programs and they come to know later that these are made in Japan. They say they want to work in Tokyo, Japan. Tokyo, Japan is now a city of admiration from the world, but Japanese people are last to know such trend. I believe it is important for Japan to deliver the information aggressively while people around the world have a positive impression on Japan.

Ogawa: People of my generation have a sense of community that is different from traditional love for home province. It will be more effective if people can obtain what they like or appreciate without going through a path of local-to-capital. 


<Questions and Answers with Audience>


Q1: I think what is great about the festival in Manchester is that people of various generations enjoy it. What kinds of efforts do you make to make people of various generations understand the festival?

Hemment: We provide a variety of events such as talk session, workshops, and exhibitions.


Q2: I’m a female plasterer. By reviewing case studies presented today, I would like to incorporate visual material in my work. Could you give me any idea?

Nakaya: Business opportunities can be found anywhere other than in long tail. It is often said that such business is difficult under economy crisis, but it is not true. I want you to work with confidence to be the only one plasterer that no one else in the world can be.


Q3: 1. I think it is difficult to manage an organization to launch a large-scale event. How did you launch such an organization? 2. How did you recruit staff and volunteers? 3. What kind of budget do you win, and from what kind of organization, to manage the festival?

Hemment: Up until a few years ago, my organization was quite small and I had to do everything by myself. Then, the Arts Council offered a grant to exhibitions and we could hire an excellent manager. This manager handled management and fund-raising with new perspectives and ideas that I had never thought. Now I can focus on the creative aspects and researches. Regarding fund-raising, I can’t say that we have enough money. In many occasions, however, people who love this kind of work are offering their help, and artists, collaborators, and commissioners are offering their cooperation or participation as a field of new experiment or presentation.   


<Comments from panelists>

Ogawa: It would be nice if some of you happened to visit this museum today and decided to join this symposium on the spot.  
Nakaya: Your effort will be meaningless if you don’t continue. In this sense, involvement of local government is important. It is understandable that local governments are suffering from economic crisis, but I hope they can overcome it with their wisdom and efforts.
Washida: Referring to a question from the audience about efforts to make people of various generations understand the festival, in case of Kanazawa, I believe we shouldn’t persuade people to understand our project. As strangers from outside the community, we have to make efforts to make people let us join in the local community. For elderly citizens, it is hard enough to go out to places where people gather. Therefore, we have to care for them by providing places where they can observe events. It will be excellent if art can be a trigger for such kind of communication. In other words, it is more important to share the occasion with people in the community than persuading them to understand the project.  
Hemment: It is really hard to launch a new festival. It is also really hard to make new challenges and attempts. Feslab is quite a stimulating attempt, and I’m glad to know that new attempts are spreading in Sendai City.  A lot of energy, power, and patience are required to start something new, and it is important to maintain your passion. Here are my advices: have both local and global perspectives, invest in creative talents, and connect to global networks to propagate your ideas to the world. 


Sachiko Kanno
Japan Foundation Communication Center

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Sakae Tajima
Japan Foundation Communication Center


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