21st Art Division Critiques
A Criticism of Media Arts as through Judg- ing and a Proposal to the Japanese Nation
There are three parts to my critique: a message to the unsuccessful entrants, a discussion of the difficulties of the Art Division, and proposals to the public.First, as a message to those artists who were not selected or who did not get the prize they were hoping for: I have also been in this position, and I would simply ask that you not destroy the work you entered. YOROZU Tetsugoro cut up one of his most important works af- ter it failed to win a prize, which was a great loss for Japanese art. Moreover, this year was my last term as a member of the jury, so if you think you lost because of me, please try again next year!Next, I would like to discuss the ways in which the Japan Media Arts Festival's Art Division has difficulties that are fundamentally different from those in other divi- sions. Due to the Basic Act for the Culture and the Arts of Japan and this festival, manga and animation are cat- egorized by genre in the Media Arts divisions with the aim of promoting these arts, which is wonderful. I am also happy that entertainment and commercial artistic expression is protected in the Entertainment Division.However, media art, which is maybe one wing of fine art, is categorized as a single division in the Media Arts, which as a consequence separates it from other fine arts. One proof of this was the guideline that the work was "made using digital technology." This guideline was removed two years ago, but the submitted works show that this separation continues. You can also see this in the way that none of the winning works venture out of the category of media art.This separation is unfortunate, as evidenced by MI- KAMI Seiko's statement that "My title is 'artist,' and I have never thought of becoming a media artist."*1 From the perspective of fine art, which pursues art as art itself from within the world of art, without being content with entertainment or commercial art, "media" is an unnec- essary prefix, and its advocacy sounds like an excuse. For this reason, this festival is seen as having virtually no relevance to Japan's contemporary art world, or at the most, as a stepping stone for newcomers. This is in sharp contrast to manga and animation, for which this festival is an opportunity for the industry's greats to be recognized by the nation. Nevertheless, the Art Division is included in theMedia Arts because art and authority have something to do with values. A long time ago, the government tried to reinforce the status of manga and animation, which were seen as Japan's strengths, as part of its Cool Japan strategy. Japan's policymakers wanted to give these two genres value as dignified art, not as sub-culture. However, it was not a good idea to simply apply the conventional concept of art derived from the West--the West's strength--directly to manga and an- ime. The timing was also premature. This explains why "Media Arts" was created about 20 years earlier as a new concept which only existed in the Japanese cultur- al administration, embracing both art forms. After this, media art--one wing of fine art--become essential as a guarantee of the connection between this aggregate and art. This desperate national measure continues to cause difficulties in the Art Division.Given this, my proposal is that this festival should be set up so that it becomes an integral part of the con- temporary art world. The framework designed 20 years ago has played its role well, so first of all, I'd like to see the Art Division encompass fine art as a whole. The list of sub-categories should be removed from the entry guidelines. Second, the entry guidelines should explain the kind of works that are expected. Two years ago, I recommended that one or the other of these changes be made, but now I think both changes are necessary. These specific proposals are motivated by my desire for the government to value those artists who are pursuing art for art's sake. I think that if the government is going to be involved in creating authority and value, we should use art terminology and clarify our philosophy with our heads held high, rather than worrying about Cool Japan and hospitality measures (so-called the Omotenashi) targeting other countries. These changes were not made this year, but I hope they will happen next year or thereafter.