19th Art Division Critiques
A Criticism of Media Arts as through Judging and a Proposal to the Japanese Cultural Administration
There are three things I would like to say. The first is a message to those whose works were not selected. The second is related to recognizing works of "art for art's sake". The last is a proposal for the Japan Media Arts Festival.
First, to those whose works were rejected or those who did not receive the prize they were hoping for, I would like to say this: Do not lose confidence or destroy your work. It is not unusual for this kind of things to happen. Even the young Paul CÉZANNE wrote a letter of protest to the chief judge of a competition after his work was rejected over and over again.
Next, let me discuss the awards given to works of "art for art's sake". CHUNG Waiching Bryan's 50 . Shades of Grey, a scientific art work which explores true essences, received the Grand Prize and YAMAMOTO Takaaki's Sando won a New Face Award. Though these two works lacked any spectacular features and were unlikely to garner much attention from the general public, based on the assumption that art is not entertainment, structural logic over superficial sensation deserves to be investigated they were commended for their fundamental artistic quality. Over the last decade or so, my dissatisfaction not only with this festival but the art world as a whole stems from the lack of respect and understanding afforded to works of this kind. Though this is my first time serving as a judge, I am proud that I was able to support these works by awarding them prizes.
On the other hand, encountering works that force us to question our own values and judging criteria happens constantly in contemporary art. Though not an example of "art for art's sake", in my opinion, HASEGAWA Ai's Excellence Award winning (Im)possible Baby, Case 01: Asako & Moriga, tasted the judges.
To me, media art is part of art as a whole, and the rise of media art should also be seen as art without requiring further explanations. In my estimation, it attained this position a decade or so ago. Thus, the entry guidelines that works must be "created with new media and digital technologies" of the Japan Media Arts Festival, has no meaning when the world has become so permeated with technology. Moreover, to effectively eliminate art that does not make use of digital technology is harmful, for there is no clear indication why it is being eliminated.
The concept of "Media Arts" only exists in the Japanese cultural administration (in the English-speaking world, there is the term "media art", but it is not expressed in the plural), amplifying the fact that such a concept has already become obsolete. In this festival, Media Arts is defined as "Eligible for the Japan Media Arts Festival are works of art and entertainment created with digital technologies, and animation, and manga". In the Fundamental Law for the Promotion of Culture and the Arts, it is defined as "film, manga, animation, and art that makes use of computers and other electronic devices". About 20 years ago, those "Media Arts" that were too new to be classified as art, and fields that were not seen as art due to their association with entertainment or a certain subculture, were all lumped together to create a single definition as part of a Cool-Japan-like initiative. This no longer has any currency.
One answer to the problem would be to expand the categories and dispense with any specific concept. In other words, do away with the digital limitation and accept any type of art. Since there is only a vague distinction between video and film, every type of moving images should be accepted. Then, this festival could be combined with the Agency for Cultural Affairs' National Arts Festival that deal with popular entertainment, TV, and drama. Why not eliminate the word "media" and call it the Japan International Arts Festival?
Another approach would be to limit the categories further and develop a more specific concept. Then a reason for not accepting general works of art could be included in the application requirements. After doing away with the digital requirement, an art division devoted to "art for art's sake" could be created to question media. For a work of entertainment, such as games that rejected the use of the word "art", the festival could focus on the fundamental nature of entertainment itself, and take a similar approach to animation and manga. This would help promote the concept of a uniquely Japanese Media Arts. It would change the passive Cool Japan Initiative, which seeks acclaim from other countries, into an active effort to create artistic values which Japan would rate other countries. Why not call it the "Hot Japan" Initiative?