20th Entertainment Division Critiques

Discovering and Confirming Creativity

What does the future hold for the world? Where are the times taking us? Whether we are speaking of social change or of technology, the real world drives us onward, irresistibly, in directions even the imagination of artists cannot have conceived. We are in an age when personal and local information from all over the world can be instantly shared. Many envisioned such an era as being one of openness. But it also means unexplored regions have disappeared from the planet, which makes us more aware of its finiteness. When the last frontiers are gone, will human creativity be able to break us out of our sense of entrapment?It has often been said that art plays the role of a pointing finger. Perhaps the same can be said of advanced design. Has the modernist vision of a future in which humans grow ever more sophisticated and evolved broken down, or are we merely experiencing the confusion that comes before a casting-off and self-renewal?At a time when a large number of powerful voices threatens to drown out small, delicate, and more diverse voices, it is vital--and carries tremendous meaning for the future--for us to identify and single out the latter, both in the world of expression and that of science and invention. Dissent is what shapes the coming generation.As I survey the winners of this year's festival with such thoughts going through my mind, it appears to me that a group of major commercial submissions dominated the field. They are indeed all excellent works. And I think it can be said without doubt that they represent superlative expressions of the moment in time that was 2016.At the same time, I am left questioning whether these works can live up to the expectations of festival attendees who will be traveling varying distances to the exhibition hall in hopes of discovering something they have not known before. In saying this I am not blaming the works themselves, but rather laying bare the values and discernment of those of us charged with the presumptuous task of being arbiters: our deliberations might be described as having been a process of "confirming the tenor of the times."If, as this process suggests, the Japan Media Arts Festival is a mirror of the age, then might it be possible, by ever so slightly adjusting the angle of the mirror, to change the direction in which the reflected light shines? Whether a mirror passively reflects the objects before it, or actively directs light to fall on something and illuminate it, depends on how the mirror is placed. I'd like this mirror to be like a finger gently pointing toward new values and directions, saying "Please look this way."There is also the matter of the place, time, and context in which an object or expression is situated. There are cases where the backdrop or the surrounding environment is more important than the creative work itself. Otherwise unremarkable surroundings bestow value on the object within--much as the Egyptian pyramids inspire more awe because of their desert backdrop than they do purely from their geometric shape.Among these works are some that I would like to see preserved, that certainly ought to be preserved, as a record of the times, and of the circumstances and atmosphere of the age. It is thanks to the works in the majority that we are able to see the uniqueness of the unique. The struggle intensifies over how to show and preserve the contrast between the two.An impression I got last year, which has been reaffirmed this year, is that the modus operandi of simply taking an existing trend and extrapolating on it with a twist is essentially played out. The real world moves along with a dynamism that exceeds all imagination . . . From it emerges something like "a new feeling," and beyond that "the new normal." We may be in a period when a creativity with explosive breakthrough potential is gestating just beneath the surface. At least that's how it feels to me.People create objects, events, ideas, expressions, and other people see, hear, touch, feel them: that is direct impact. Creative works attain their meaning and fulfill their role simply by being produced and reaching their intended audience. In that case, what meaning is there in subsequently gathering up those works in a special effort to appraise them? The meaning is found, I believe, in discovering new values and perspectives, presenting them to the public, and shining a light on the future. By carrying on this process, an arts festival becomes a "garden of culture" not just for nurturing the next generation, but for sustaining the entire world.

Designer and Creative Director
Born in Tokyo. After studying engineering, he began a career as a designer. The aim of his work is to make original objects. Bridging several fields of design and science, engineering, art, and physical expression, he is concerned with innovation and solutions for problems in wide-ranging contexts. Since serving as director of the Sensorium Project, which won a Golden Nica Award in the network division of Ars Electronica in 1997, he has created many experimental installations indifferent countries. For the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan), he developed a Hands-On Model of the Internet. His other projects include stage design work for the FIFA World Cup 2002, concept models for KDDI's AU design project, JAXA's moonbell, and so-called “emotional physical interfaces.” From forms of expression that refer to street music, dance and video to total design concepts, he continues to work on communication design projects of all scales. He loves fast things and high places.