23rd Art Division Critiques
Considering What to Anticipate in Jurying
In the Japan Media Arts Festival, the award-oriented appraisal of submitted work is primary, while the yearto-year establishment of themes and festival planning is less central. With the exception of reflecting trends in the tide of submitted works, then, determining specific attributes characterizing the body of work is a difficult task. Nonetheless, within that context over the course of my three years on the jury panel I have been of the position, regarding the Art Division, that emphasizing the exhibitory nature of awarded works reinforces the distinct singularity of which media art is possessed. The Art Division saw somewhat of a decrease in the number of entries submitted, in comparison with the previous year. I believe that the primary cause of this was a drop in the number of video works based on cinema-esque storytelling. Due to trends in the works that gained high praise in the previous year, it appears that the number of entries of video works in this genre has declined. Nevertheless, growth has meanwhile been seen in each of a diverse range of specialized fields, from media installations and sound art to bio art and AIrelated work. This suggests that a growing appreciation of information art, or information design, incorporating future-tense forms of new technologies and scientific approaches--critically as well as out of necessity--is coming to form the central axis of submitted works. Given that at the global level the overall concept of "media art" is not universal in nature, in the view of the Art Division, the fact that a clear set of attributes has at last come to take definable shape for us seems a beneficial development. For in the broad but somewhat flat existing field of art, with its repetition of covers and patchwork approaches, one cannot expect to find evidence of any emerging nature or distinct singularity lying ahead. The significance of media art lies not only in an establishment and scrutiny of the genre, but also in its function of mining new veins in as-yet-contextualized fields of art with technology- and science-based crossovers, or of upending and overhauling established historical tenets. The addition of the Social Impact Award to the usual yearly roster for this current festival may be foreseen to have a reinforcing effect on the trend toward finding points of commonality between technology and art among entries submitted in years to come, from a prospective based on social design. Considering the nature of the changes that have taken place in the Art Division jury, as I have touched on above, my impression of the entries submitted in the current year was minimal. Although a certain diversity has taken root within the specialized field of media art, new works carrying some element of surprise by adopting either a new vision or a scientific approach transcendent of what might be anticipated, for example, was nominal. While the consumerization of technology has facilitated media art's development, the sharing and propagation of any technological environments that offer ease of access to students and other individuals has become relatively simplified. It is undeniable that the salient impact of work borne exclusively of a unique vision or experimental approach will therefore diminish while more or less analogous work comes to proliferate. In this environment, the Grand Prize-winning [ir]reverent: Miracles on Demand makes an attempt to view bio art from a higher perspective rather than from the historical context, thus rendering more tangible the contradictions and issues that arise from its decoding of Christian customs and symbolism from a perspective grounded in bio art. This is the first time a work of bio art has been awarded the Grand Prize. The work emerges from years of research leading up to its realization and method of expression, in the form of a bioweapon-esque portable package that lends the piece a cynical and critical edge. More than narrative elements, the top-rated video works exhibited a tendency to pursue 3D expression in the high-resolution format that will likely become commonplace in the coming 5G era. Beyond this, one could perhaps intuit indications of a systemic progression that is distinct from the conventional sensory environment in the works as well. Its unique infrastructure is paired with original content, such as in work predicated on projection in a special dome theatre, for instance. The Social Impact Award-winning SOMEONE, a networking-based piece, places viewers as actual flesh-and-blood actors in roles replacing the functions and setup of AI service centers, as has been implemented in e-commerce. In doing so, the work evokes realities that have fallen into blindspots and in the characteristic nature of the "world of things" that exists in IoT (the Internet of Things), exhibiting considerable capacity to provide critical commentary. In this piece, the people-as-viewers find themselves unable to take peaceful, undisturbed refuge in transparent positions of transcendence as well. Among the Excellence Award-winning works, Soundform No.1, which has its roots in a forgotten scientific discovery of the 19th century, constitutes simple, physical sound art informed by a somewhat retro bent. Predicated on the fine-grained degree of resolution characterizing an approach informed by Big Data processing, distinct from conventional sound art, sound sculpture and the like, the work comes to feedback on itself. Its discoveries of the real, physical world are of a complexity and collectivity conceived at the core axis of the work. The design of the hard device-based installation, coupled with the work's minimal level of control, serves to break the overly software-oriented tendencies exhibited by digital art and inject the work with a contemporary sensory quality and freshness, as it played out for me.