Award-winning Works
Art Division

Grand Prize

Excellence Award

New Face Award

Jury Selections


  • FUJIMOTO Yukio
    Thinking Period
    I first encountered electronic music in the 1960s. Although I was excited by the tremendous potential of electronic music, which could be used to create all kinds of unknown sounds, I realized that almost everything made with this technique sounded like "electronic music". The problem had nothing to do with the musicians' command of the equipment. Rather, it was due to the simple fact that they were being controlled by the devices. It was about then that I came across KOSUGI Takehisa's work. He used everyday objects like transistor radios, electric fans, and fishing poles to create a world of compelling electronic sounds. KOSUGI supplely mastered insignificant technology in a wonderful way. From that point on, I began to think that experimental approaches to the relationship between the human body and technology were necessary in art.Today, nearly half a century later, technology has made remarkable progress and its expressive potential has improved dramatically since the 1960s. Yet, it seems to me that in terms of the relationship between human beings and technology, things have not really changed that much. As I examined the submissions in this year's competition, many of the works had the predictable feel of media art. At the same time, though, I was surprised to find that many artists are also exploring new approaches. As many of these works were far from flashy, they had a disadvantage in the short-term judging process. But I had the sense that the artists' repeated efforts to engage in experiments of this kind will lead to something that no longer requires the descriptive term "media art".In the '60s, light and sound expressions made with what was then cutting-edge equipment, were called "intermedia" or "multimedia" - terms that are no longer in use. When the term "media art" also falls by the wayside, the true work will begin.
  • NAKAZAWA Hideki
    A Criticism of Media Arts as through Judging and a Proposal to the Japanese Cultural Administration
    There are three things I would like to say. The first is a message to those whose works were not selected. The second is related to recognizing works of "art for art's sake". The last is a proposal for the Japan Media Arts Festival.
    First, to those whose works were rejected or those who did not receive the prize they were hoping for, I would like to say this: Do not lose confidence or destroy your work. It is not unusual for this kind of things to happen. Even the young Paul CÉZANNE wrote a letter of protest to the chief judge of a competition after his work was rejected over and over again.
    Next, let me discuss the awards given to works of "art for art's sake". CHUNG Waiching Bryan's 50 . Shades of Grey, a scientific art work which explores true essences, received the Grand Prize and YAMAMOTO Takaaki's Sando won a New Face Award. Though these two works lacked any spectacular features and were unlikely to garner much attention from the general public, based on the assumption that art is not entertainment, structural logic over superficial sensation deserves to be investigated they were commended for their fundamental artistic quality. Over the last decade or so, my dissatisfaction not only with this festival but the art world as a whole stems from the lack of respect and understanding afforded to works of this kind. Though this is my first time serving as a judge, I am proud that I was able to support these works by awarding them prizes.
    On the other hand, encountering works that force us to question our own values and judging criteria happens constantly in contemporary art. Though not an example of "art for art's sake", in my opinion, HASEGAWA Ai's Excellence Award winning (Im)possible Baby, Case 01: Asako & Moriga, tasted the judges.
    To me, media art is part of art as a whole, and the rise of media art should also be seen as art without requiring further explanations. In my estimation, it attained this position a decade or so ago. Thus, the entry guidelines that works must be "created with new media and digital technologies" of the Japan Media Arts Festival, has no meaning when the world has become so permeated with technology. Moreover, to effectively eliminate art that does not make use of digital technology is harmful, for there is no clear indication why it is being eliminated.
    The concept of "Media Arts" only exists in the Japanese cultural administration (in the English-speaking world, there is the term "media art", but it is not expressed in the plural), amplifying the fact that such a concept has already become obsolete. In this festival, Media Arts is defined as "Eligible for the Japan Media Arts Festival are works of art and entertainment created with digital technologies, and animation, and manga". In the Fundamental Law for the Promotion of Culture and the Arts, it is defined as "film, manga, animation, and art that makes use of computers and other electronic devices". About 20 years ago, those "Media Arts" that were too new to be classified as art, and fields that were not seen as art due to their association with entertainment or a certain subculture, were all lumped together to create a single definition as part of a Cool-Japan-like initiative. This no longer has any currency.
    One answer to the problem would be to expand the categories and dispense with any specific concept. In other words, do away with the digital limitation and accept any type of art. Since there is only a vague distinction between video and film, every type of moving images should be accepted. Then, this festival could be combined with the Agency for Cultural Affairs' National Arts Festival that deal with popular entertainment, TV, and drama. Why not eliminate the word "media" and call it the Japan International Arts Festival?
    Another approach would be to limit the categories further and develop a more specific concept. Then a reason for not accepting general works of art could be included in the application requirements. After doing away with the digital requirement, an art division devoted to "art for art's sake" could be created to question media. For a work of entertainment, such as games that rejected the use of the word "art", the festival could focus on the fundamental nature of entertainment itself, and take a similar approach to animation and manga. This would help promote the concept of a uniquely Japanese Media Arts. It would change the passive Cool Japan Initiative, which seeks acclaim from other countries, into an active effort to create artistic values which Japan would rate other countries. Why not call it the "Hot Japan" Initiative?
  • UEMATSU Yuka
    Curator, National Museum of Modern Art, Osaka
    The Spell of “Media Art”
    This is the third year that I have served on the jury for the Art Division of the Japan Media Arts Festival. I was left with a particularly strong impression that was different from previous years.
    In order to select the works that will be awarded, including the Grand Prize, it is normal for the jury to engage in discussions about each of the submissions. Last year, for example, the submissions lacked the overwhelming power found in previous years, so by general consensus the jury regretfully decided not to award the Grand Prize.
    This year, a few members of the jury, myself included, struggled with a variety of issues as we attempted to evaluate and discuss each of the submissions. These were fundamental concerns, such as: What is the goal of the Festival's Art Division? What exactly do the words "media" and "media art" mean? It proved to be extremely difficult to arrive at a clear definition of these terms, and we were faced with a variety of questions during the judging process.
    Though the decision was unanimous to award CHUNG Waiching Bryan's work 50 . Shades of Grey the Grand Prize, this was based on the lengthy amount of time we spent discussing the meaning of "media art" and "Media Arts". I believe that the decision we reached will serve as a useful message for future jurors. To be more precise, media art, as it applies to the Art Division of this festival, refers to works that incorporate state-of-the-art technology related to computers and digital media environments. By juxtaposing technology with his own life, CHUNG's work emphasizes the fact that by virtue of being state-of-the-art, contemporary technology is inevitably fated to disappear in the blink of an eye as time changes.
    Currently, submissions are limited to works of art that make use of digital technologies, and the artists are free to submit their works to one of seven categories, including interactive art, media installations, and video works.
    More works were submitted to the video category than any other categories in the Art Division, and together with the video installations, they numbered over 850 works. Needless to say, the jury was honored to be exposed to so many outstanding works, including Gill & Gill, which was awarded a New Face Award, unforgettable landscape (ROWAN TREE) by SAKAMOTO Natsumi, Valentina FERRANDES' Other Than Our Sea, and Tony HILL's Spin. While this was a great pleasure, we also began to feel that there are problems with the video and video installation categories. As we watched the works, we had the sense that they contained aspects that might have made them more appropriate for a film or video festival.
    It is common knowledge that the movies that are now being shown at ordinary theaters are actually digital rather than analogue. Similarly, most of the video submissions were produced with digital technology. This was also true in the past, but among this year's submissions were works that had already been presented at international film festivals in foreign countries. While some of the submissions were long works that exceeded an hour, there was a rich variety of videos, some of which centered on a narrative element and others which displayed strong documentary aspects.
    Video art is unquestionably part of media art, and I do not wish to negate the video and video installation categories. But in light of the type of works that have been submitted in recent years, I felt restricted by having to judge these works alongside the works in the other categories.
    Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the Japan Media Arts Festival. Considering the great influence that various temporal and technological changes and advances have on artistic expressions, I would like to see the festival evolve into an event that displays an acute awareness of these developments.
  • SATOW Morihiro
    Historian of Visual Culture and Professor, Kyoto Seika University
    The Imaginative Power of Old Media
    The evolution of media technology knows no bounds. Only a decade ago, it was unthinkable that people would be walking on streets with a handheld computer, equipped with a communication function (i.e., a smartphone), in their hands. Although humans have not changed, the media environment is constantly changing.
    But this is not to say that the Award-winning Works in the Festival's Art Division were evaluated based on their use of the latest media. In fact, most of the works made use of technology that has existed for a long time. For example, The sound of empty space, winner of an Excellence Award, makes us aware of a seemingly empty space by combining ordinary materials, such as mics, speaker cones, and motors, in a kind of bricolage.
    As for two works that received New Face Awards, Gill & Gill and Communication with the Future - The Petroglyphomat, both deal in part with the subject of "stone", a material and medium that people have used since ancient times. Since the dawn of human civilization, stone was used to inscribe images and text. However, stone is hard, so it required a great deal of effort and skill to carve lines into it. When someone carved written characters in stone, they sensed - and conversed - with the physical resistance of the material in their hands. In other words, stone was not merely a medium that passively accepted information, it actively exerted an influence on people. Thus, the relationship between people and the material was not unilateral, it was interactive. This perspective, in which a material or technique exerts an influence on people as an agent, has recently appeared in various social and cultural theories.
    As time passed, materials that were easier for people to process and handle were adopted as media. After clay tablets, tortoise carapaces, and the invention of paper, digital media emerged at the end of the 20th Century. In the contemporary era, the physicality of media has become increasingly diluted, but it has not disappeared entirely. The hardware, at least, still exists before our eyes.
    In 50 . Shades of Grey, which was chosen as the Grand Prize winner, source codes based on six programming languages are framed and displayed. The act of calculation, performed in the heart of the hardware, is not visible to the naked eye and remains incomprehensible to the layperson. All we can see are the images and texts on a display, and all of these things are connected by a programming language. Recalling SAITO Tamaki's idea that the images, programming, and machinery in computer animation correspond to Jacques LACAN's theory of the imaginary, the symbolic, and the real★1, we can see the lines of characters on the display as symbols of digital media or subconscious. It is also possible to interpret this work, which is a kind of psychoanalysis of digital images, as a visualization of the interactive relationship between technology and people in the way that it overlaps with the artist's life.
    Media art dates to the 1960s, so 50 years have already passed since it first emerged. 50 . Shades of Grey is a work that takes this history as its subject. To younger artists, obsolete media technology is a source of novel ideas. In 1995, the sci-fi writer Bruce STERLING proposed "The Dead Media Project". STERLING set out to compile a "media book of the dead" in order to document a variety of obsolete media, including pre-digital technology such as the phenakistiscope. In his words; "What we need is a somber, thoughtful, thorough, hype-free, even lugubrious book that honors the dead and resuscitates the spiritual ancestors of today's mediated frenzy".★2 ASANO Noriyo comments that "thinking about the reasons for the demise of a given dead media, inspires us to imagine 'possible futures' that might have occurred if they had survived".★3 The trend toward retrospection among this year's winners perhaps reveals an aspiration to this type of sci-fi imagination.
  • ISHIDA Takashi
    Painter, Film Artist and Associate Professor, Tama Art University
    Looking Back at the Judging Process
    This was the first time I had ever served as a judge. Continually asking myself what media art is, this proved to be a much more difficult job than I had imagined.
    In my own work as a painter, I use moving images to develop paintings in time. In that sense, my work considers the nature of media. Just as the speed, sites, and subjects of paintings changed as oil paints in tubes and acrylic paints were developed, artists' use of moving images seems like a natural progression. I have the sense that an artwork is nothing more than "something I painted" as a moving image, so it is ultimately an exploration of what a moving image is.
    Thus, the reason the term "media art", - which deals with media-related innovations and ideas, new relationships between people, and new ways of looking at things - seems heavy is not because of the weight of the works themselves but the questions that arise from them. Every expressive act should include a search for new viewpoints and relationships, but to take this process one step further, it is necessary to take a critical view of one's own position. And this is exactly what the Grand Prize winner did. The reason that some of the more charming works that conveyed the joys of creativity in a more straightforward manner were not selected had nothing to do with their artistic merits or demerits.
    It seems especially important that IIMURA Takahiko received the Special Achievement Award. He is a trailblazer in the field and deserved this award much sooner. His countless works have created a wealth of connections between people and a creative foundation, and his way of living also raises many questions about the nature of media art.