20th Entertainment Division Critiques

Entertainment at a Turning Point?

I believe future generations will look back on 2016 as an important turning point in our era. The Kumamoto earthquakes that struck in April, just after the country had marked five years since the Great East Japan Earthquake, reminded us of the fragility of our daily existence. Meanwhile, the world had continuing wars, a worsening refugee crisis, the European Union in upheaval, political demagogues gaining power, and market economies in saturation--which is to say, it was a year when long-held assumptions and values were overturned. On the technology front as well, artificial intelligence went from mere buzzword to reality as a result of deep learning and the growing Internet of Things, and social bots and virtual reality surged in popularity--all demonstrations that our technological environment will continue to change at an accelerating rate.The year's entries included many works that addressed up-to-the minute social issues and made use of cutting-edge technologies, but I came away with the sense that artists are still groping at how to fit technology to content. It underscored for me the inherent difficulty of having "progress" coexist with "maturity" in technological works. Likewise, works that were both technological and commercial in nature showed advancement in their visual sophistication, yet when considering whether the quality of the viewing experience had been deepened, I was left somewhat disappointed--even after accounting for the commercial element.That said, okazakitaiiku "MUSIC VIDEO", which hits viewers with a relentless barrage of music video cliches, demonstrated with offhanded ease that an artist in possession of superior sensibilities and powers of expression need not have a large budget. I imagine the New Face Award it received will be an encouragement to other artists working entirely on their own. And then there were Grand Prize winner SHIN GODZILLA and Excellence Award winner Pokémon GO, both of which became full-fledged cultural phenomena. The former made masterful use of devices like homage, quotation, and parody in what amounted to a summation of postwar Japanese history, and the latter used a popular game character to further cement the place of mobile technology in the public consciousness--while also showing us something about the future of the relationship between our bodies and our technologies. I expect that these two works will be long remembered as emblematic of the turning point that 2016 became.

KUDO Takeshi
Curator, Aomori Museum of Art