17th Art Division Critiques
Media Arts as ‶Current” Art
This year's process of judging the many works was more joyful that we could have hoped. This was due, of course, to the quality of the individual works, but also because we could come into contact with a kind of contemporary spirit that was shared across the various regions and media of expression.In contrast to our impression of "Media Arts (Media Geijutsu)" as something unfamiliar, it is no exaggeration to say that the entries covered almost all areas of contemporary art.More so than the eminent art events being held all over the world, I'd say it was pretty much everything. For this reason, discovering something common to the artworks was a stimulating experience of uncovering the present form of art, something different to the major art scenes.Particularly striking was how there were so many artworks directly connected to global social and political realities today. We felt much empathy with works such as the Excellence Award-winners Dronestagram and The Big Atlas of LA Pools, and outsourced views / visual economies from the Jury Selections, which raised big data and crowdsourcing both as themes and methods.Needless to say, the artists are not naively dealing with these as "new public goods". Rather, the works are pointing straightforwardly to realities which are merely new spinoffs from state power and globalized corporations.Though New Face Award-winner Learn to be a Machine | DistantObject #1 offers criticism of media art, so to speak, through its humorous method of including the audience, this also rises to the level of a cynical simulation of contemporary media and technology, and our society of mutual surveillance.It was also striking that there were so many superb graphic works, including digital photography. There were many experimental forms of expression which cannot be seen at regular photography exhibitions, as well as works distinct to paper media, and this was very refreshing.On the other hand, the work by Japanese artists was sadly rather lacking in color. There were entries with novel and innovative ideas, but as a whole they fit too snugly into the category of "Media Arts" and felt flimsy in comparison to the works from other countries. It is a hackneyed thing to say but the Japanese works were just so emotional and paled against the epic overseas works such as Situation Rooms. This has been pinpointed more than once as being a Japanese cultural problem, though it is fascinating how it appears prominently even in media art today.A few problematic areas surfaced during the judging process. For example, there was Reactor for Awareness in Motion (RAM), the application that supports creativity entered by the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media [YCAM]. The jury debated whether it should be excluded on the grounds that it is something conducive to creating new artworks, rather than being an autonomous work. Further consideration is surely necessary.There were also many examples among the video works of narratives lasting more than an hour. Opinion was divided over where the border lay between out-and-out films and documentary works. The global drift in art museums in recent years towards dealing actively with video works as installations is calling for approaches from artists which respond to this flexibly.Finally, I would like to offer my thanks not only to the many artists who entered their work into the festival but also my fellow members of the selection members.