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Arts and Cultural Exchange

Contributing to the World through Arts and Culture

Interactive, Collaborative Exchange Programs

We provide opportunities for artists and staff in Japan and overseas to collaborate over an extended period to produce a stage performance or exhibition. We then showcase the resulting work in Japan and overseas.

For such collaborative projects, we invite to Japan or send overseas, people in a supportive role in arts and cultural activities. They include museum curators and performing arts presenters and producers. Through our international symposiums and interactive events, these experts can network and reinforce mutual ties.

Photo of Tetsuya Umeda's "Almost Forgot" at Media/Art Kitchen Exhibition in Manila
Tetsuya Umeda's Almost Forgot at Media/Art Kitchen Exhibition in Manila.

MAU: J-ASEAN Dance Collaboration

The Japan Foundation planned and produced the "MAU: J-ASEAN Dance Collaboration" project as one of the events marking the 40th anniversary of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation. It brought together dancers and musicians from Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, and Japan.

Kanjuro Fujima VIII, head of 'Soke-Fujima-Ryu Nihon Buyo' dance school, was in charge of the stage direction. Elements of Kabuki were incorporated in the stage sets, music, interlude performances, and fight-scene choreography.

The ASEAN performers were mostly young dancers and musicians with experience in traditional dance from their respective countries. However, they had never experienced performing in a Kabuki style.

They held a workshop in Tokyo in June 2013, and a dress rehearsal on the completed stage in Saitama in August 2013. During their final rehearsal in Jakarta in November 2013, the stage direction was finalized before the first show premiered in Indonesia. Following Jakarta, the show delighted audiences in Manila, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore.

The MAU Project brought Japan's Kabuki dance on the same stage as the traditional dances developed by the history and culture of ASEAN countries. Featuring the best of the styles, the performance was a unique Kabuki collaborated with neighbors in ASEAN countries.

Photo of MAU: J-ASEAN Dance Collaboration

Media/Art Kitchen Exhibition

As an art event to celebrate the 40th anniversary of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation, the media art exhibition "Media/Art Kitchen — Reality Distortion Field" was held. It was a collaboration of young curators and artists from Japan and Southeast Asia.

The exhibition toured Jakarta (Galeri Nasional Indonesia, KINEFORUM), Kuala Lumpur (Black Box, Map KL; Art Row, Publika), Manila (Ayala Museum, 98B COLLABoratory, Green Papaya Art Projects, Benilde School of Design and Arts), and Bangkok (Bangkok Art and Culture Centre) from September 2013 to February 2014. Thirteen curators from seven countries did research in Japan and in Southeast Asian cities and held two planning meetings in Tokyo. They then planned the project based on what today's media arts should and could be.

The project comprised three elements: exhibition, workshop, and laboratory. The programs were tailored to suit the respective cities. About 70 artists and groups from Japan and Southeast Asia participated. Each venue featured many interactive works, workshops and talks by artists, and live performances. Visitors were surprised at how diverse the works created with everyday media and technology could be.

The participating curators also placed importance on the process of creating the exhibition at each of the four cities. They used the Internet to communicate in various ways for internal discussions and coordination. They also put up a Website and updated it often to show the project's progress in each city.

The collaboration and networking between the curators and artists from Japan and Southeast Asia established a solid foundation for arts exchange in this region. In this respect, the project was very significant.

Taking on Global Challenges

Since arts and culture transcend national borders and languages, we hold events for the world to think together about disaster recovery, building peace, environmental problems, and other issues.

Japan-China-Korea Production of SHUGEN —Celebration/Expression—

In 2012, while the visible scars of the Great East Japan Earthquake still remained, this project was started to examine how we could face up to the tragedy of "3.11." Another important objective was to jointly produce a new cultural arts project with neighboring China and Korea. To this end, a team led by art director Koji Hasegawa from the Aomori Museum of Art was formed. While taking on this heavy theme, they wrote a new theatrical play.

Actors and musicians from the disaster-affected areas of Miyagi, Iwate, and Fukushima were joined by actors and musicians from China and Korea. After two years of research, pre-events, exchanges, and joint production, the project took shape. Participants from disaster-affected areas instilled their true-to-life experiences and memories.

Participants from China and Korea had to be quite brave and resolved to take on such a difficult theme. However, despite the difficulties, they all absorbed the disaster-related memories and experiences and were able to relate to each other beyond national borders. It gave rise to strong mutual feelings and respect for each other. The play turned out to be very convincing and compelling.

A total of 25 performances were held in eight cities in Japan, Korea, and China (Aomori, Daejeon, Seoul, Jeonju, Shanghai, Sendai, Tokyo, and Beijing). They deeply touched over 4,500 people. Due to popular demand, an encore performance is planned for Beijing in 2014.

Photo of Japan-China-Korea Production of SHUGEN —Celebration/ Expression—

Miyagi-New Orleans Youth Jazz Exchange

In April 2011, Kesennuma (Miyagi Prefecture), which had lost musical instruments in the Great East Japan Earthquake tsunami, received new instruments from jazz capital New Orleans, Louisiana. It was a "jazz repayment" to Japanese jazz fans for sending donations in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Although they are far apart, Miyagi Prefecture and New Orleans formed an unexpected musical connection through natural disasters. They have warm mutual feelings, an appreciation for each other, and a mutual desire for recovery. This gave birth to the Miyagi-New Orleans Youth Jazz Exchange project.

In fall 2012, young jazz musicians from New Orleans toured Ishinomaki, Kesennuma, and Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture. In each city, they played with local jazz bands from the same generation. They provided genuine jazz music and encouragement to the disaster-stricken areas.

Then in summer 2013, members of a junior jazz orchestra named The Swing Dolphins from Kesennuma went to New Orleans. They played at local junior high and high schools, jazz clubs, exchange gatherings, and the Satchmo SummerFest jazz festival. Their talented performances received high praise everywhere. Their warm message also elicited cheers from the audience.

After performing live on a local morning TV program, the young performers from Kesennuma got famous and were recognized and greeted on the street with high fives. The mayor of New Orleans also personally gave each member a letter of appreciation. They were heroes and heroines.

The road to recovery still continues in Miyagi and New Orleans. When it comes to rebuilding your hometown, it is the youth who will play a central role. Through jazz, we hope they will continue friendly relations and share their dreams and future of their beloved hometowns.

55th International Art Exhibition, the Venice Biennale

The Japan Pavilion featured Koki Tanaka in an exhibition titled, "abstract speaking — sharing uncertainty and collective acts." Curated by Mika Kuraya, Chief Curator of the Department of Fine Arts, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.

The pavilion retained part of the 2012 Venice Biennale architectural exhibition (Toyo Ito Commissioner, Golden Lion recipient) with the theme of recovering from the Great East Japan Earthquake. Tanaka's single installation was fitted in with film, photography, everyday items, etc. There were videos showing multiple people collaborating on a task (like cutting someone's hair or composing a poem).

It was a poignant query for viewers on how people can work together to rebuild the social environment after the Great East Japan Earthquake. The exhibition struck a chord with many visitors and the Japan Pavilion first won the Special Mention.

Photo of the 55th International Art Exhibition, the Venice Biennale
Photo: Keizo Kioku