18th Art Division Critiques
Discovering the Present Form of Art
Once again, I enjoyed being a member of the Jury for the Art Division for the third consecutive year, and once again I faced extreme difficulty as works of a consistently high quality were gathered. However, in comparison to the last two years, I felt there were fewer surprises. What I mean by "surprise" is the shock given by artwork through which, from unexpected viewpoints, the artists perceive the world that is changing at every moment concurrently with new technology. Last year, for example, the Jury were stunned by works that vividly illuminated the future implications of new technologies such as big data and Google Maps, of which it is difficult to be aware in our daily lives. One year on, many submissions have naturally been "updated" in various ways, but often this only appeared to be an update of what was there before. In retrospect, it is unsual that this aspect of surprise was lacking in spite of there being such a large number of applicants from all over the world. Also, there was little sense that something interesting was taking place in specific fields, as there was in the graphic art catergory of last year, and one might say that perhaps the expressive form of "new media art" has, as a genre, come to find a stable form. However, it is even possible at the same time to deny its definition as a genre. This is because the Jury of the Art Division undoubtedly seeks, if we borrow the words of GOGOTA Hisanori, a member of last year's Jury, to "uncover the present form of art" or, put differently, it seeks not the establishment of a single genre, but to question the very framework that defines genres in order to make new discoveries.
Against such a background, works selected for the Excellence Award, such as an "ingenious device" as a media installation (This may not be a movie), a "critical design" as graphic art (Drone Survival Guide), and "music" as media per formance ("patrinia yellow" for Clarinet and Computer) were highly rated. However, the overall impression I had this year is not just that of someone who has grown accustomed to the Japan Media Arts Festival, but was also shared by other Jury members. As with last year, naturally there were superior works that remained in the final screening, but there was no single work appropriate for the Grand Prize that rang a chord with all Jury members. To be more precise, the rightful Grand Prize-winning work was going to be decided by a simple majority vote, but as the discussion continued Jury members began to sense that the difference between the work we had nominated and others that could potentially be given an Excellence Award was not so significant. In a screening where there were few unexpected works, no-one had anticipated such a conclusion, but rather than forcing a decision the call for "no award" was made with the belief that it honestly reflected the true feelings of all Jury members. For the record, the Jury reached the conclusion to instead give five works an Excellence Award.