Research & Columns

Mikan Dialogue vol.2 ‘Is Art, Mikan? Are Mikan,Art? -Through the Thoughts of Amatuchi Kosaku and Kanae Yamamoto.

This is the text archive for the online talk session “Mikan Dialogue vol.2 ” held on May 20, 2022.

Date and time: Friday, May 20, 2022 from 19:00 to 21:00.
Place: Online (ZOOM)
Participation fee: free of charge
Guest speaker: Hiroki Yamamoto, art historian and Masatomo Fukushima, sound artist.
Interviewer: YABUMOTO,Yuto (Kinan Art Week General Producer) SHIMODA, Manabu  (Executive Director, ‘Kinan Art Week’)

[Guest Speakers]

Hiroki Yamamoto
Born 1986 in Chiba, Japan. After graduating from Hitotsubashi University with Faculty of Social Sciences, he completed his MA and PhD at Chelsea College of Arts, University of the Arts London, From 2013 to 2018, he was a postdoctoral research fellow at  UAL’s Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation. After working as a researcher at  Asia Culture Centre in Korea, a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Design at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and an assistant professor at the Graduate School of International Art Creation, Tokyo University of the Arts, he has been a lecturer at the Department of Art Studies, Kanazawa College of Art  since 2021. He is the author of  “The History of Contemporary Art : Europe, America, Japan and the Transnational” (sole author, Chuokoron Shinsha , 2019), “Media Culture in Transnational Asia: Divergence and Convergence” (co-author, Rutgers University Press, 2020), “Considering Racism” (co-author, Kyowakoku, 2021 ), among others; and Art of the Post-Humanocene, published in June 2022 (Bijutsu Press).

Masatomo Fukushima
Born 1972 in Itami, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. Graduated from the Industrial Design Course, Department of Design, Osaka University of Arts, and joined a machine manufacturer as an industrial designer in 1996, where he was in charge of industrial product design. He has a history of winning the Good Design Awards. At that time, he also produced BGM and stage costumes at a theatre company.  After leaving the company in 2001, he entered the Intermedium Institute Graduate School (I M I ) to study sound production and media art production, and in 2003 formed the sound art unit AWAYA, where he was in charge of composition, performance and programming.. In 2007 he moved to Nakahechi, Tanabe City, Wakayama Prefecture, where he has been developing music, live performances and installation exhibitions, using the sounds he hears daily as a source of inspiration in his  life of farming close to nature, expressing the mysteries of the universe and life in a unique sound world. For the Kinan Art Week 2021, he composed the music for Kohei Maeda’s ‘Breathing’, and produced and provided music that cleverly incorporates the sound world of Kumano’s nature.

Website:http://awayajp.com/

[Mikan Dialogue Vol. 2]

Is Art, Mikan? Are Mikan, Art? –
-Through the Ideas of Amatuchi Kosaku and Kanae Yamamoto-

Shimoda:
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. It is now time for me to start Mikan Dialogue vol. 2. My name is Shimoda, executive director of the Kinan Art Week. I look forward to working with you.

The Kinan Art Week is an art festival centred on the Kinan region of Wakayama Prefecture, which last year hosted an international art festival and exhibited the work of various artists.

An art project called ‘Mikan Collective’ is underway during Kinan Art Week 2022. This project aims to dig deeper into ‘mikan’ together with people from various fields, including farmers whose lives revolve around mikan, artists, researchers and designers, as well as the general public.

For example, we will dig deeper into the “mikan” from different angles, such as “Do mikan have a soul?” or “Is there democracy in mikan?”. Through this, we will discover new values of mikan and work together with artists to verbalise and visualise them.

The theme of today’s Mikan Dialogue is ‘Is Art, Mikan? Are Mikan,  art? -Through the ideas of Amatuchi Kosaku and Kanae Yamamoto .

I would like to bring you a variety of stories on topics ranging from whether art is mikan or mikan are art, or whether agriculture is art or art is agriculture, to agricultural life more broadly.

We have two guests today, the first guest is Hiroki Yamamoto. He will have a discussion with the other guest, Masatomo Fukushima, later on. Let’s start with Mr Yamamoto.

1. Introduction of Mr Yamamoto

Yamamoto:
Pleased to meet you. My name is Yamamoto.

Shimoda:
Mr Yamamoto is a lecturer at Kanazawa College of Art and has written various books on contemporary art. In particular, your book ‘The History of Contemporary Art’ (*) is very well known for its overview of contemporary art from Europe and the US to Japan. We understand that you have recently published a new book. Please introduce it to us later.

(*) The History of Contemporary Art: published by Chuo Koron Shinsha, 2019.

You are here today because you are very knowledgeable about today’s topic, Kanae Yamamoto  and the agricultural and artistic movements that existed in Japan.I look forward to working with you. 

Yamamoto:
Yes. I would like to speak as clearly as possible. I am also looking forward to the discussion with Mr Fukushima afterwards.

2. The Agriculturalisation of Art and The Artisticisation of Agriculture

Yamamoto:
I have been asked to talk about the relationship between art and agriculture, which is a major theme, so I would like to talk about ‘the agriculturalisation of art and the artisticisation of agriculture’. This kind of title is a common pattern in cultural studies, and an old example is Benjamin’s (*) ‘The Politicisation of Art and the Artification of Politics’. However, this is often criticised for creating a dichotomy. I dared to choose this title because it also means that different things are equated, so whatever I do will be criticised.

(*) Walter Benjamin: German literary scholar, philosopher, critic and social scientist.

Reference: kotobank.

I myself, of course, believe that ‘art’ and ‘agriculture’ are not completely identical. However, in the course of my various investigations, I believe that there are points of contact that are close to each other, and that there are areas where they can relate to each other in a comprehensive way. The outlines are quite fluid, but I would like to think about dialogue and relationships.

Let me start by introducing myself: I was born in 1986 and studied sociology at university. I wanted to think about “the potential of art to approach social problems”, so I went to London to study. After that, I went to Hong Kong and became an assistant professor at Tokyo University of the Arts, and since 2021 I have been a lecturer in the Department of Aesthetics and Art History Course at Kanazawa College of Art.

During my doctoral studies in London, I specialised in contemporary art in East Asia, looking at colonial issues and how social art practices emerged and diffused after the end of the Cold War after 1990.

The resulting book, The History of Contemporary Art, was written as a result. I wrote it to explain art history in an easy-to-understand way and to address the issue of de-centring as an introductory book. When I was studying in the UK, I felt that a Western-centric perspective inevitably entered into the discussion of art. For example, I had doubts about the dominance of narratives such as ‘there is a movement like this in the US, and similar movements in Brazil and Japan’, and I wanted to create a ‘de-Western-centric narrative’. My interest is to ‘de-centre the art history narrative from various perspectives.’

New Ecology and Art” (*) was published in this vein. It is co-authored by Yuko Hasegawa, director of the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa. The book has contributions from various fields, including philosophy, anthropology, art history and sociology. I understand that it was born out of the idea of ‘de-centring’ the ‘anthropocentric’ perspective.

(*) New Ecology and Art: published by Ibunsha, 2022.

I wrote a kind of general introduction to the book called ‘An Art History of Ecology’, and I found all the other chapters interesting to read. I hope you will pick up a copy.

The book, Art of the Post-Anthropocene (*) will also be released. In this book, I was thinking about what art history would look like if it were reviewed from a de-anthropocentric perspective. In my previous co-authored book, I wrote a chapter from a general historical perspective, but here I am more interested in how a de-anthropocentric art history narrative can be constructed in practice, following more concrete examples.

 (*) The Art of the Post-Humanocene: published by Bijutsu Press, 2022 (Amazon).

This talk will be based on my thoughts while writing this book.

I will be discussing chapters 3, 5 and the last part of the book, but as time is limited, I would be happy for anyone interested to pick up the book in person.

Chapter 3 describes the Amatuchi Kosaku sculptures, which were based in Shizuoka and produced in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s amidst the metropolis-centred flow of art history. Although the term ‘sculpture’ is used for convenience, the group was an avant-garde group of artists whose activities included the expansion of the concept of sculpture.

And I will talk about the peasant art movement of Kanae Yamamoto  in chapter 5. Yamamoto originally came from a printmaking movement called the ‘Creative Printmaking Movement’, so I will talk about that as well. I would also like to touch on the concept of ‘re-magicisation’ in the last chapter at the end.

 3. Amatuchi Kosaku

The group has been based in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, since the late 1980s. Even in Kanazawa, I have a sense of the metropolis-centredness of art history. I think that people who were active in rural areas are very important artists in terms of the fact that they tend to be left out of art history.

Amatuchi Kosaku  was formed by Makoto Murakami, Wataru Murakami and Yuji Yamamoto. There was an exhibition called ‘Shizubi Project 7 Archive’, a collection of art from the 1980s, and the following is a quote from the text of a booklet from that exhibition.

“Art and non-art.

Yamamoto, who had a legitimate art education, and the Murakami brothers, who had a non-art background, were in somewhat different positions, and although they were a community, the actual (abbreviated) ‘works’ were produced separately.”

Basically, the work is created separately by a pair of brothers, Makoto Murakami and Wataru Murakami, and Yuji Yamamoto, but I feel that the interesting aspect of the work appears in the mixing of non-artistic, non-specialist elements with artistic elements.

4. Cultivated Works

Large constructions are named ‘cultivated works’. The word is commonly used in texts written about Amatuchi Kosaku to mean a work of art.

Basically, modern art is strongly conceptualised as something to be seen and something to be preserved. The fact that works of art are not meant to be shown to everyone, and are not necessarily meant to be shown to the public, is what shakes up the concept of art in the first place. This is where I think there is room for agriculture to come in.

In the following interview with Mr Fukushima, I would like to ask him about the agricultural process that he also incorporate into his work, and how he sees his work as a ‘cultivated works’. What is his thoughts on this?

This is a 1988-1989 work  called Tsuji.

Amatuchi Kosaku produces newsletters and distributes booklets to people close to their interests. In one of them, there is a description of this work, which is a statement about the artwork. It’s a statement that doesn’t seem like a statement of an art work, it’s a kind of traveller in a way, and I think that it can’t be captured within the existing framework of art.

This is a work by Yuji Yamamoto called ‘Ujigami no Hokora (Shrine of Ujigami)’, created around the same time. The description of the work here is also written in such a way that it does not seem like an art statement or caption. The part that can be read from this is that he has a great interest in folklore, and the work shows that he is learning from it and taking inspiration from it. Basically, this is in the form of things that were abandoned and burned, and either did not remain or only traces remain.

5. ‘Works’, ‘Museums’, ‘Exhibitions’

Amatuchi  Kosaku’s work is a practice that poses a very sharp question to the modern concept of art. The works question the modern concept of art from the West, in which works of art sit in a museum, and an exhibition is a collection of such works..

The second question I would like to ask Mr Fukushima is what ‘art’ means to him, how he sees ‘existing art’ and how his own art differs from it.

 6.Farmers’ Art Movement

Next, I would like to talk about the Farmers’ Art Movement. It goes all the way back to the Taisho period. Kanae Yamamoto  is a very famous printmaker and artist.  His famous art movements were the Children’s Free Painting Movement and the Farmers’ Art Movement. These two are very much connected, especially the Children’s Free Painting Movement, which is connected to the Taisho Democracy of the time and many other places, but today I will explain the Farmers’ Art Movement in more detail.

Gunji Kosaki is a local historian who has written a fairly detailed biography of Kanae Yamamoto . In his book, he defines the Farmers’ Art Movement as “a movement founded on the far-reaching ideals of enriching the economy of poor farming villages, raising the cultural standards of the countryside and even earning foreign currency”.

As can be seen from this, when people talk about the Farmers’ art movement today, there is a view that it is about community support and economic revitalisation, and that farmers take advantage of the time when they have nothing to do during the off-season to make souvenirs and earn money to enrich their farming communities.

Of course, Kanae Yamamoto  himself said this, and I don’t think he is wrong. However, I wondered if I could offer a different perspective on the relationship between humans and nature, or between agriculture and art, from a cultural policy perspective.

The first clue was given by his eldest son, the poet Taro Yamamoto (*). In his diary, he describes how he asked for his father just before he drew his last breath before leaving for the Second World War.

(*) Taro Yamamoto: eldest son of painter Kanae  Yamamoto and Ie (Ieko), sister of Kitahara Hakushu.

Reference: Weblio Dictionary

‘Father wanted to draw the farmer’s hands again when we parted for the last time. He said he wanted to draw the hands of a worker in a drawing. By then his own hands were no longer able.”

I began to think a little about this ‘farmer’s hands’, using it as a keyword.

I would like to talk a little bit about prints here. The very famous ‘Gyofu(Fisherman)’ print is from 1904. After this, Kanae Yamamoto started a movement called creative printmaking.

In the words of local historian Katsuhiko Miyasaka, “the artist does everything from drawing and engraving to printing himself, without the help of craftsmen, and takes responsibility for creating more attractive works of art”.

This means not only the division of labour in printmaking, but also the entire process from drawing and sketching to digging, all done by one person. You might think that this is normal nowadays, but in the past, printmaking was a system of division of labour. Kanae Yamamoto  started a movement in which he alone was responsible for making prints from start to finish.

Prints are relatively easy to make, and can be made in large numbers, even by people who do not have a specialised education. Historically, prints have been used, for example, in political and artistic movements that involve the public, and have a strong aspect as a popular art form. Not only in Japan, but also globally, print art is easily associated with the people, and I think there are parts of it that are different from the elite art forms. In other words, I think that Kanae Yamamoto  had this perspective and his backbone, printmaking, was involved in it.

7. Prospectus for the Establishment of Farmer’s Art

In Russia, where he studied, Kanae Yamamoto  met a woman called Tenisheva, who founded a school for farmers’ children, and was so impressed by the farmers’ art created there, then he returned to Japan. In 1919, he created the ‘Prospectus for the Establishment of Farmers’ Art’.

One thing to note about the school, the Farmers’ Art Practice School, is that there were more women there than men. This kind of movement seems to be very masculine, but women played a very important role in the Farmers’ Art Movement. I think it is very important to note that some of the teachers at the Art Practice Schools were women, which was very rare in this period.

8. Integration of Labour (Agriculture) and Art

To conclude at once, I was wondering whether Yamamoto’s farmers’ art movement could be considered as a movement to include art in the natural cycle of agriculture.

9. Uncontrollability of Nature

If it was the natural science of modern rationality that has made nature into a form that we can understand or control, I thought I would try to put the emphasis on the part that we cannot control.

10. Darkness

Returning now to Amatuchi Kosaku, in the 2000s, there is a record of a conversation between Makoto Murakami and Wataru Murakami, in which Wataru said the above.

When I read this dialogue, I felt that in this ‘darkness’ there are parts of nature that are uncontrollable and dangerous, and parts that humans have turned a blind eye to, or have tried to suppress or erase in their modern development. Now I have the feeling that various parts of the world, such as the  Corona Pandemic and climate change issues, are returning to what they have repressed, or that this is where humans are being attacked back. They has said that they have depicted this ‘darkness’ in Amatuchi Kosaku.

The third point  I would like to ask Mr Fukushima is  how he incorporates the uncontrollable and incomprehensible aspects of nature and the world in his work into his practice and what kind of relationships he establishes with them.

11. ‘Re-Magic of the World’

In the rush through the farmers’ art movement of Amatuchi Kosaku and Kanae Yamamoto , one art possibility I wanted to submit was ‘Re-Magic of the World’.

It is very famous that Francis Bacon (*), Descartes (*) and others said of “nature” that “the experiment of natural science is to torture nature to make it reveal the truth.” In other words, by torturing it, we objectify it as our own knowledge. The idea is that we are then creating a world that is understandable, which is the process of de-magicisation.

(*) Francis Bacon: British philosopher.

Reference:  kotobank.

(*) Descartes: French philosopher and mathematician.

Reference:  kotobank.

However, the parts that cannot be understood remain. That is why, when looking at the practices of Amatuchi Kosaku and  Yamamoto Kanae, by presenting and showing the ‘incomprehensible’ parts, or by foregrounding them, or conversely by disclosing them, the world and nature are transformed into an existence that is not well understood. In this way, a new relationship between humans and nature is established. I believe that this is where the potential of art lies.

In the course of looking at the history of Tenchi Kosaku and Kanae Yamamoto , I have been thinking about the potential of art in rethinking the relationship between nature and human beings, and how we can visually and sensually show the unfamiliar and unknown  aspects of this relationship. I wonder if it is possible to think about the relationship between humans and nature in a new way through sharing and sharing something with the viewer.

I believe that we will see many such works at the Kinan Art Week. In the future, we will have to coexist not only with Corona, but also with various natural problems. In such a situation, I think that we will be able to find works that will not work immediately like a special medicine, but will change our perception and way of thinking itself when we think about it over a long period of time. In this sense, I am looking forward to the Kinan Art Week.

Shimoda:
Thank you very much. As you mentioned, the theme of Kinan Art Week is ‘Mikan’, but we also have ‘collectives’ as one of our themes. In the previous Mikan Dialogue Vol.1, art activism researcher Mr Egami said that print art is a work of a democratic production process that is created through the involvement of many different people.

The very idea of a ‘collective’ is also our desire to work on something with an organic connection, so I was curious about this from the perspective of a ‘collective’, so I will ask you about it. I think that Amatuchi Kosaku is a kind of ‘project’ or ‘collective’ led by three people, I’m not sure how their involvement was spread.

Yamamoto:
There were not only people from the art world, but also poets, cultural anthropologists and many others. One famous person was the poet Gozo Yoshimasu (*). There were also members of the Group Genshoku (*), which is a similar collective of a slightly older generation. In this way, they are not only connected to Shizuoka, but also to Tokyo and other areas.

(*) Gozo Yoshimasu: 1939- Poet of the late Showa-Heisei era.

Reference:  kotobank.

(*) Group Genshoku: a group of avant-garde artists based in Shizuoka between 1966-71.

Reference: bijutsutecho

Other people from philosophy and aesthetics were around, including people from folklore and people who are not researchers. In that sense, collectivism is multi-layered: it’s a movement started by three people, but it’s like there are several collectives outside of it, including the people around them. I think there are some very interesting aspects, including the connections between collectives and the multi-layered nature of collectivism.

Shimoda:
So that kind of thing has been around for a long time. It is very interesting and very informative that it is not a new thing. I have a deeper understanding of some of the things you have said today. Thank you very much.

Yamamoto:
It is a very natural movement for collectives to organically connect with each other, and it has been argued that a large part of this movement is formed by the people who make their work visible and leave it behind, which is a very popular part of art history.

When creating collectives, it is sometimes the case that a hierarchical thing is created. As Mr Egami said, not all systems are perfect, and there were many collectives that just didn’t work out. However, I think that the collectives that have worked well have not created a pyramid-like hierarchy, but rather have been able to change their roles in a fluid manner, with the collectives changing their shape little by little.

Shimoda:
Rather than ‘de-centring’, where there is an absolute someone and it cannot run without that person, is it more like having a structure for creating operations around it, so that activities can continue in the same way even if people are replaced?

Yamamoto:
Right.

Shimoda:
Hmmm, that is an ideal way of being. It’s very ideal from a sustainability point of view, and it’s very helpful. Thank you very much.

Let’s now move on to our other guest, Mr Fukushima.

12. Introduction of Mr Fukushima

Fukushima:
Good evening. It’s nice to meet you. 

Shimoda:
Good evening. Pleased to meet you. I would like to introduce our second guest today, Mr Fukushima. He lives in Tanabe City, Wakayama Prefecture, in a town called Nakahechi along the Kumano Kodo, and is a sound artist with the sound art unit AWAYA.

For Kinan Art Week 2021, we have the privilege of inviting as a guest,  Masatomo Fukushima , who provided the music for the local Tanabe artist, Kohei Maeda’s  work ‘Breathing’.

He works agriculturally and produces media art. Now, Mr Fukushima, please say hello.

Fukushima:
I’m looking forward to working with you. I will now introduce myself, including my background. I will also talk about my life, which has been deeply related to ‘agriculture and art’.

I was born in Itami City, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan, and graduated from the Department of Industrial Design at Osaka University of Arts. After graduation, I worked as an industrial designer at Kubota, a machinery manufacturer, designing machinery, mainly combine harvesters.

After that, I left Kubota and enrolled in the IMI Intermedium Institute, an art school for working people in Expo Park, where I studied art for two years. After that, I did some artistic activities in Osaka, but in 2007 I moved to Nakahechi area, where I am now.

I am currently working as an artist myself in the art unit AWAYA and producing local independent artists called Studio AWAYA. I also organise the Kumano Keion Club (*) and Futakawa Cho School (former Futakawa Elementary School) (*), an abandoned primary schools in Nakahechi that we are all trying to make effective use of. We organise monthly film screenings and concert events.

(*)Kumano Keion Club Facebook

(*)Futakawa Cho School (former Futakawa Elementary School) Facebook

13.  Designer Days

My first start in the working world was as an industrial designer, and as you can see, I liked this kind of design, which was influenced by robot animation. I would make a prototype machine and actually drive it myself, visiting fields all over the country to test it and see how it was doing, and then I would verify it. Such verification is repeated many times before the product is commercialised.

This is the largest of the combine harvesters and is used in large areas such as Hokkaido and China.

Kubota is an interesting company, because although there are many designers, there are also many products that we handle, so each of us is in charge of one product. From the sketching stage to the process of creating a three-dimensional product and test-driving it, I do all the research by myself. I was also in charge of the Aerostar Series.

I won a Good Design Award (*). It was the first design I was in charge of, so it was very rewarding and I was happy to see something I had designed go on to the market. But when I started thinking about the next product, I felt like I was getting buried in design routines, such as rounding off angular parts or changing colours.

(*) Reference: ‘GOOD DESIGN AWARD Home Page’ Good Design Award 2001.

More than anything else, agricultural work is for the mass production of agricultural products, and agricultural machinery is a machine to support this. In short, it is not about the crops themselves, but the means used to mass produce them, and what happens as a result is, of course, the destruction of the environment.

You try to reduce costs and increase productivity somehow, like by spreading chemical fertilisers or using genetically modified seeds. It’s not about whether it’s right or wrong, it’s about the fact that my machinery has a big impact.

These industrial products are mass-produced, exported and commercialised all over the world. I couldn’t stand the pressure of a designer like me, who was just one guy who liked robot animation, continuing to have an impact. That’s why I quit my job.

While working as a designer as an office worker, I also belonged to a theatre company and did performing arts such as stage costumes and music for plays. Unlike machines, stage costumes and music are of no use to me, but they are a place where I can genuinely give form to my own image and what I want to create and present it. I was thinking that there was a way to make this kind of thing work, and I continued working as a salaried worker, but then I decided to take the plunge and quit.

14. IMI Period

The Inter Medium Institute Graduate School was located on the site of the Osaka Expo, where leading experts in sound and media art, as well as people active in the field of contemporary art, were teaching. I studied there for two years.

This photo was taken after I graduated from IMI, and I formed AWAYA with Yumiko Okuno, who I studied with at IMI, while I was doing various tasks and experiences in the art field.

Okuno is a Japanese language teacher and came to IMI with the original intention of using animation and other media to create teaching materials for teaching Japanese. But eventually, She started to think about whether it would be possible to express herself in an artistic way by combining the use of ‘words’ and ‘voices’ from such literary expressions with the music I was doing and the objects and programmes I was designing, and this was the beginning of AWAYA.

Eventually, a man called Kenji Yanobe (*) came to my attention and scouted me for the skills to create a giant robot sculpture called ‘Giant Torayan’, which was about 8 metres long. So I travelled around the country, visiting museums in different parts of the country and holding ceremonies to awaken Giant Torayan (laughs).

(*) Kenji Yanobe: ‘YANOBE KENJI ART WORKS‘ website.

I was blessed with the opportunity to work with so-called contemporary art people, while at the same time being involved in AWAYA activities. I think this is a very enviable story for students who are fascinated by the world of contemporary art, and I was grateful for that, but half the time I wondered what I was doing.

The feeling that  I was repeating the same doubts I had felt as an industrial designer in a different industry kept haunting me. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was just looking at an imaginary world and enjoying it, and the idea that I  had to throw  myself into nature became stronger and stronger, which is how  I ended up moving to Nakahechii.

15. Moved to Nakahechi

I moved to Tanabe in 2006 and started living in Nakahechi in 2007. When I moved here, I suddenly started with rice farming. As you can see, rice production is manual work.  I used to make agricultural machinery, but when I made it myself, it was completely by hand.

The rice plants are also grown from seedlings by myself and planted by hand. The rice fields are also planted in areas that have not been ploughed with grass. Sometimes children participate. What is different about farming by hand, from harvesting the rice to threshing it, is first of all the sound.

Anyway, when you use machines, everything disappears with the sound of the engine. But when you do it by hand, you can hear the sounds of the living creatures living in the rice fields. Or you can hear the sound of the work being done. When you mechanise, the sound disappears, because you can do everything by yourself and there is no talking.


When we are able to work by hand and feel the sound, creatures gather. And since we don’t spray pesticides, there are lots of them. The creatures in the rice paddies lay their eggs on the banks and nurture them. That’s why weeding along the banks and on the surface of the slopes is also done by hand.

What surprises me is winter. I thought winter was too cold to feel any signs of life, but the mountain red-legged frogs come to lay eggs in December and January. In midwinter, you can hear frogs croaking in the rice paddies. There are creatures in all seasons. They come and go as they please. That’s what a farm is like.

16. Art Activities in AWAYA

While doing such farm work, I will create it as an exhibition in the form of a sound installation, arranged in an object-like way. Hanging from the autumn leaves are speakers made from gourds, and each one makes a different sound. It is similar to the way various creatures in the rice paddies produce different sounds, creating a single sound space as a whole.

The materials needed for such works are abundant in the fields and mountains where I live. I start my artworks from the point where I think about what I want to make with these materials. As artworks, they are not only exhibited but also displayed in cafés and other places. In addition to these exhibitions, we also perform together in various places as a live performance.

17. Sound Time Collection Workshop

My personal artwork outside of AWAYA’s activities is at the gallery and guesthouse noad (*), which is a guesthouse in Totsukawa. One of the accommodation menus is a workshop (*) to do a sound time collection.

(*) ‘noad ‘ website.

(*) ‘Living and Growing on the Five Senses Axis Monitor Tour’ workshop.

Each person will walk around with one voice recorder on a nature walk and bring the recorded sounds together to create a story by juxtaposing them with their own images. In addition, the sounds can be played back at a stretched playback speed and listened to.

The sounds we normally hear are only at intervals of human time, but small, short-lived creatures live in condensed time, and to simulate this, I ask you to listen to them at different playback speeds.

18. Kumano Keion Club

The rest of this section introduces activities in Kumano Keion Club. We play ‘sound play’ by making sounds at the Tanami Theatre (*) in Tanami, an old theatre that has been reconstructed and revived by a couple. We don’t play music, we just make sounds and don’t do anything. We don’t have a set number of members, but they come from all over the place.

(*) Tanami Theatre: ‘Kinan Art Week Home Page’ Dialogue #39: Stories of a Connected World – What We Can See from the Edge.

Eventually, we kind of get to know each other’s quirks, and a kind of musical thing is born. We do that every month. As part of Kumano Keion’s activities, we once did a stage performance with those members of the group at a festival in Mexico called Day of the Dead, which is similar to Halloween.

At an abandoned school called Futakawa Cho School (formerly Futakawa Elementary School), we held a live event called ‘Microorganisms and Organisms Together’, in which we looked through a microscope at water containing micro-organisms and performed while looking at it. It wasn’t that the micro-organisms started dancing when they heard the music, but we were doing this kind of real improvised music.

After the sound play, we cook our customary curry together and have a time of communion. We don’t have any particular purpose or fixed members’ awareness, we just get together and enjoy making sounds. When I heard the word ‘collective’ in this story, I thought “Isn’t the ‘Keion Club’ a collective?

Shimoda:
Yes, thank you very much. That was a lot of stuff. You have had an interesting history. From being a busy industrial designer to now living with nature, it’s hard to say how much of it is expression and how much is play (laughs).

Fukushima:
Yes, that’s exactly how it is.

Shimoda:
Good. As you say, I think it’s a collectivity. I think that everyone is involved spontaneously. I think that’s really wonderful.

‘The Artification of Mikan? -A Real Dialogue between Artist x Farmer-‘

Let’s now move on to Yabumoto, general producer, and Mr. Yamamoto and the four of us will continue the conversation.

Yabumoto:
I have heard very valuable stories. I learned a lot from it. Thank you very much. Now let’s hear Mr Fukushima’s answer to Mr. Yamamoto. I would like to deepen our discussion on the main theme of today’s session: the agriculturalisation of art and the art of agriculture.

Shimoda:
As you asked in Mr Yamamoto’s talk, Fukushima’s way of life is de-centred…

Yamamoto:
Right. I would like to organise and ask the question again, because I was inspired by some of the things that you mentioned, Mr Fukushima.

One thing I have reflected on in the course of our conversation. That is that there was a part of me that thought of ‘agriculture’ in a monolithic way.

It is natural for those who study art to say that it cannot be summed up in a single word when considering what art means, and there are many layers to it.

When I heard Mr Fukushima’s story, starting from his days as an industrial designer and moving to his current practice through conflicts and struggles, I felt that there are many different things in agriculture.

Of course, I am not a specialist, so I cannot easily judge which is better or worse, but in any case, I felt that there are advantages and problems associated with each.

What also struck me was that he mentioned that he can hear the sounds of nature when he is working by hand. It is true that when you are using machines, you don’t see or hear these things. I was very impressed when he said that the presence of such things is very important.

Then there was the experience of a programme called ‘Stretching Time’, which is a concept often used in biology and anthropology. We don’t know what the world looks like from each organism’s point of view, or from the point of view of individual organisms, not humans.

For example, the eight days of a cicada’s life are very short, but in those days a great deal is condensed, and I don’t think you can understand that until you become a cicada. But I think it’s a very interesting experiment to stretch out time and listen to it as a means of simulating the experience.

To summarise what I wanted to ask him again in light of his current comments, the first question is: what does art mean to you, Mr Fukushima? If we were to ask you what “art” is now that you have arrived at, including the various struggles and pains you went through, and of course the things you enjoyed, how would you answer?

Fukushima:
Right. First of all, I would say that ‘art’ is ‘something that makes you say ‘it’s funny’. The second is “something that sometimes has the power to influence your outlook on life”.

It may or may not be very logical. Whatever form it takes, I think that anything that moves us and has the power to reconstruct our sense of values can be treated as art or art.

Yamamoto:
Thank you. I thought it was very interesting that moving and changing people’s values starts from what you find interesting. You have worked in famous museums and at the forefront of contemporary art, haven’t you? But rather than doing what you wanted to do, you felt like you were just doing what was required of you in the contemporary art world, so you decided to stop. I felt that the core of your work was that you placed importance on what you wanted to do and what you enjoyed doing.

As to the second question, you mentioned that you hear the sounds of nature when you are working by hand, but of course you can’t control that. You happen to hear things and creatures that you happen to encounter. I think there were many more uncontrollable and unfamiliar aspects of nature compared to life in the city, and I would like to ask you if these uncontrollable aspects had an impact on your activities.

Fukushima:
Yes, the schedule of the year is not controllable according to a calendar. There are certain times of the year that are necessary for farm work, and one of the things we have to do is to leave it to the natural weather, even if there are some fluctuations in the natural weather, such as rice planting has to be done at this time of the year. We are bound by such a schedule that we can’t do anything else because we have to harvest rice at this time of the year.

The other thing is that I use natural materials for the artworks themselves, but even for the materials I use for the objects, I don’t always get exactly what I imagine, and sometimes I don’t know how to handle what I do get. But how to cook them is, on the contrary, the most exciting part.

For example, it is completely opposite to using clay or plastic, where you scan a 3D image of what you want and then use that image, where the interesting thing is how you transfer the form itself into the work.

Yamamoto:
Thank you very much. I would like to go one step further and ask, though, that it is very difficult for humans to completely surrender to nature, isn’t it?

For example, even when you are creating a piece of work, are there parts that you can get a little closer to what you imagine, or do you dare to surrender to parts that you can’t control? In your practice, how far do you adjust yourself and how far do you surrender, and in what way do you think about the balance between these two?

Fukushima:
I don’t have an answer for this, it just happens from time to time. Sometimes the effects are so great that you don’t expect them to happen, and sometimes we have to be inventive and do things differently.

When it comes to animal damage prevention, it becomes a battle of wits between people and wild animals. I sometimes feel that modern life excludes this aspect of life. It’s a way of life in which you are always being pushed around by things that you have no control over.

Yamamoto:
What I would like to ask is, for example, in the case of music and production, how is it decided that this is the end, or rather the completion, of a piece of work?

Fukushima:
I want to work on it until I’m satisfied with it to a certain extent, but when it comes to the sound, the finished sound is never going to come. So there has to be a deadline or a trigger. There is a point where you are tested to accept that you are at your best when you stop production.

I have a feeling that I want to make this part better, but my personal image of it is limited, and even if it’s the same sound, different people have different ways of feeling it, so I just settle on what I think is best. But even that is a very small story in the context of the wider nature. So I’m thinking recently that I don’t have to be so particular about that.

Yamamoto:
The feeling of acceptance is something I have a hard time accepting (laughs). I’m not necessarily praising rural life as being all that great, but the sense of accepting something that you can’t control, as you said, is difficult in cities. I get annoyed if the buses are a bit late (laughs).

I felt that there is a lot to learn in the sense that people today need to gradually learn how to accept themselves comfortably, accepting at times, surrendering at other times, and resisting at other times.

I was able to ask a lot of the questions I wanted to ask. Thank you very much.

Yabumoto:
Thank you very much. Now I would like to make a few comments based on what you have told me and then I would like to have a final comment from both of you.

In the Mikan Collective, I would like to think about the de-centring of art, or to put it another way, the de-territorialisation of art. This is a reflection on last year, and I think that in both exhibitions and writing, there was a part of me that used ‘art’ too much as an entry point, and I think this is the cause of what I am suffering from now.

The more I write about art , the more empty it becomes, or the more sad it becomes. In that sense, I think it’s important for future development not to set up art as an entry point, but rather to simply express things such as agriculture, current life and personal matters in a way that arises naturally without any explanation.

In that sense, I feel that this is exactly connected to Fukushima’s practice. I think there is potential in the fact that you are working in a circular way, without a certain target, and that you are deconstructing society while also reconstructing it. In that sense, in the Kinan region, mikan are very close to our daily lives and are connected to them, so I think we are making progress compared to last year.

We are also running a ‘Mikan Collective’ with ‘mikan’ as the entrance rather than ‘art’, but we think that if the only reason is that Wakayama produces the most or is familiar to the local community, it may not be good from the art side.

I think it is important how Wakayama and the Kinan region side can express mikan as others in a relative way. The importance of a painter’s self-portrait is how he or she objectively looks at and relativises himself or herself, so I think it is important to try using techniques that only mikan farmers have for things other than mikan, and to place art between the perspective of oneself and others. I would like to think about what agriculture in Kinan can produce from this.

What do you think about the future direction of the Mikan Collective in terms of how to relativise mikan in the context of agriculture and art, and how to do this in the future?

Yamamoto:
I think it’s a very big question. I think it’s important to look at things like the fluidity of collectives, which you mentioned earlier, in terms of rhizomes. ‘Tree to rhizome’ (*) means that there is no starting point, there is no end point, and it can be connected to any one of a certain arbitrary number of points.

(*) Rhizome: a concept in modern thought that expresses the way in which heterogeneous things that are not related to each other are connected not in a hierarchical, hierarchical relationship, but in a transversal, horizontal relationship. It refers to a tree, which symbolises order and hierarchy, such as trunk, branches and leaves.

Reference: kotobank.

I think the project that Yabumoto and his team are working on at the moment is going in the right direction, and it is becoming more and more chaotic. The speakers are different, and it’s great that it’s becoming that kind of chaos. So I am thinking that it would be good if the project could be a project where connections can be made from any point, without worrying too much about the idea of entrances and exits, starting points and end points.

By stirring things up with talk of art and agriculture, and then bringing in talk of activism, collectives and all sorts of other things, we can connect from any point. I think it would be good to have such a rhizome-like structure, where even people from Wakayama, outside the prefecture or overseas can find some kind of grounding point and make a mysterious connection. I think that the direction in which we are now stirring up various people in this way is very successful as a preparatory stage.

Yabumoto:
Thank you.

We will do it broadly and largely, without thinking too much about objectives, enjoying the chaos (laughs).

Yamamoto:
The people listening to this talk are diverse. Some are farmers, some are in music, some in art, some are curators, some are anthropologists. In that context, the grounding points are all jumbled up. What we say is connected in strange places, with various nodes, which are then organically connected again.

Yabumoto:
Thank you very much. Mr Fukushima, what do you think?

Fukushima:
As a follow-up to Yamamoto’s question earlier, it is also important not to set goals and objectives too far in advance, but to accept that they will change from time to time, in terms of what is judged to be the final form.

It’s hard to see it from our own perspective alone. When I make music, if I make my own ideal music, I can only make the music I imagine, but as I get together with people from completely different genres and make sounds, I get a completely different sound.

It’s not my ideal music, but sometimes there comes a moment when I think, “This is really good”. I think it’s about waiting for that moment.

Yamamoto:
I think it is important to think about the part of the game that you can’t control, like waiting for a certain moment, as Mr Fukushima said, or preparing for that moment, or waiting for something while moving, which is also an important aspect of thinking. I felt that this is also an important aspect of thinking.

Yabumoto:
Thank you very much. Mr Shimoda, have you received any questions or comments?

Shimoda:
Yes. We have received a comment from a person who is watching this and who is participating from Aomori, so I would like to introduce it to you.

‘Kenji Miyazawa also mentions farmers’ art, but I feel that there is also a point where people are trying to improve the soil and overcome the cold with human power. I also feel that agricultural crafts are also trying to survive by selling their products in cities and earning foreign currency. Especially in poor areas where it is cold and crops are not produced, I thought the challenge is how to overcome nature with human power. If they accept nature, it will die. I felt that in addition to the idea of urban and rural areas, we also need to look at the idea of diversity between regions.”

What do you think, Mr Yamamoto?  The participant mentions the idea of diversity between regions. Wakayama has a rather warm climate, and in Aomori, which is different from Wakayama, it is important how humans can overcome the forces of nature.

Yamamoto:
I think it is a valuable perspective. There is a phrase ‘West and the Rest’, but I am studying Asia, and even though Asia and Africa are different, everything else is always included in the ‘West and the Rest’.

I feel that, as has been said, it is very necessary to have a framework for thinking not only about the idea of cities and regions, but also about the differences between regions and the connections between regions, and to think without having to go through the centre.

What is important at that time is that each region has its own particular characteristics, and cold regions and warm regions are completely different from each other. From this point of view, I feel that it is necessary to carefully consider specific examples and so on, in order to avoid over-idealising regions as monolithic.

Yabumoto:
In terms of discussions such as how to relativise mikan cultivation, I think it is important to think about what is the same and what is different between, for example, growing apples in that environment in Aomori and growing mikan in Wakayama, using agriculture as a starting point. I would like to develop the Mikan Collective while considering the diversity of what it means to grow mikan in that place and land, and what kind of regional expression is possible.

Yamamoto:
I think it’s very important. Even if you talk about agriculture in each region, you can see completely different parts of it. This can be seen without necessarily going through the city, which is considered to be the centre of the region, but rather more so without going through the city. In Aomori, too, exhibitions on the theme of apples are being held in a variety of creative ways. I felt that it would be very interesting if, for example, we could have a dialogue with such things.

Shimoda:
In the course of planning this project, I also ordered the catalogue of an exhibition on the theme of apples in Aomori, and found that each approach was different and the exhibition was rooted in the local area. I felt that there were some similarities between the two, and I felt that doing things in a way that suited each region is what each region should be doing.

Yamamoto:
There are important aspects hidden in such differences, which can be revealed through dialogue. I hope there will be more opportunities to do so, and I think this will be an important hint for the further development of this project.

Mr Fukushima, you have been to many different regions and seen agriculture in action, but what do you think of the differences between regions?

Fukushima:
Even in the same area of Kinan, the climate is completely different between the sea side and the mountain side, with slight differences in climate, so I feel that it is impossible to distinguish between nature, the countryside and the city. In the same way, I don’t think it is an extreme view that nature must be accepted, but rather that culture is nurtured by accepting where it is accepted, resisting where it is resisted, and by people using their unique human abilities and wisdom.

Instead of dividing people into two categories of what should be done and what shouldn’t be done, I think it is good to have different answers for each place and each moment. I think it is a way of life to find out through dialogue with various people.

Yamamoto:
Yes, of course, when people think, they have a certain amount of concepts, but there is diversity and there are parts that cannot be easily categorised, so it is important not to make it a monolithic concept. That kind of thinking is a process that is always in motion and has no end, and I think it is connected to living.

Shimoda:
Thank you very much. Now we have an audio participation from a viewer. Ah, you are Hiroyuki Moriwaki (*) from Tama Art University, good evening.

(*) Hiroyuki Moriwaki: Professor, Department of Information Design, Tama Art University

Reference Tama Art University website.

Moriwaki:
Good evening. When you talked about agriculture, art and collectives, I think I could clearly see the difference between them and modern art. Art is now called by the same word, but it is being recognised as something with a completely different meaning, and although it is often positioned as an urban-rural issue, I think that is not the case.

I have the feeling that if we try to rethink art again in a way that goes back to the times, the needs or the human activities, we are now seeing something different from what modern art has established.

Mr Fukushima’s statement that he does not seek completion was very convincing. I think it’s because I put myself in the country life and the real intention of living on the spot came out there. Please do your best, Mr Fukushima.

I also have a question for Mr Yabumoto: last year, when I asked you about the Kinan Art Week, it seemed to me that your idea of art was a mixture of modern art and design, but today, when you were talking about mikan, I felt that you were beginning to see art that had landed on a different level. I would like to ask you how you are going to develop your art in the future.

Yabumoto:
Yes, now I simply have a great respect for artists. The reason is that the more I write texts, the more I can only trace the thoughts of my predecessors, and although I can link them together, I am wondering whether I can really create something new in my current practice. In that sense, I think it is simply amazing that artists are trying to go beyond what cannot be put into words through other approaches. In this sense, rather than thinking about a big theory of purpose, first of all, I would like to work while carefully capturing the ‘gaze’ of the artist.

Moriwaki:
I always wonder if we can call it the same art. Words come afterwards, don’t they? I think it is the responsibility of the artists themselves to put it into words. But if there is someone from the outside saying it, then it becomes a genre. I think it would be great if this kind of interplay could happen in a cyclical way during the Kinan Art Week.

Yabumoto:
Thank you. for your valuable comments.

Shimoda:
There are many more things I would like to talk about, but it is time to go. Finally, we have received a response from the participant from Aomori, which we would like to share with you. 

The trend from ukiyo-e as a mass media with a division of labour to creative prints, in which one person produces all the prints and Onchi Koshiro and others move towards a single printing process, could be seen as a process of prints moving away from the masses. I wanted to know more about how Kanae Yamamoto, who took a major step towards creative printmaking, was connected to the printmaking of many non-professionals.”

Yes, I think that is a very important item when talking about collectives. He made some good, thought-provoking comments. Thank you very much. You have written about that in detail in your book Mr. Yamamoto, haven’t you?

Yamamoto:
Yes, that’s right. Creative printmaking, which is the creative work of a single artist, can be seen as a process of moving away from printmaking that is associated with the masses. In my new book, Art of the Post-Humanocene (*), I also write in detail about how I worked with local people in the art movement, so I hope you will read it and give me your impressions, including critical ones. I think the grand rhythm that is moving rapidly in the process is the biggest attraction of the current Kinan Art Week, and I look forward to seeing how it develops in the future. Thank you very much for inviting me today.

(*) The Art of the Post-Humanocene, by Hiroki Yamamoto, Bijutsu Press (28 Jun 2022).
See also: Amazon.

Shimoda:
This book is said to be released in late June, so please check it out. Do you have any events planned for Mr Fukushima?

Fukushima:
A CD called ‘WATER FOREST KUMANO’ (*) has been on sale since March 2022 as a collaborative album by AWAYA, so please buy it if you like. At the Tanami Theatre, we have monthly sound plays in which anyone can participate, so please come and play if you like.

(*)https://sp.teichiku-shop.com/products/detail/TES0001NX3

Shimoda:
Thank you very much. We would like to provide a place where people from different backgrounds can mix and mingle. The word ‘chaos’ means a state before something is born, and that is the kind of chaos we want to create.

Thank you all for spending so much time with us.