Award-winning Works
Art Division

Grand Prize

Excellence Award

New Face Award

Jury Selections


  • MORIYAMA Tomoe
    Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo
    Media Art / Media Arts: Looking to the Next 10 Years
    With the selection of awardees behind us, I feel more than ever that "media art / media arts" is following the usual path all new cultural domains traverse in establishing themselves, having completed an initial period of "dissimilation" and "leaping away" from conventional ways of looking at things, and now proceeding through a longer process of transformation.Japan's media art has its roots in the Jikken Kobo (Experimental Workshop) and other avant-garde art groups of the postwar period and has been called many things: cybernetic art, computer art, electronic art, art and technology, hi-tech art, and, in the 1990s, intermedia or multimedia. My own first exposure to this world came at Expo '70 in Osaka, when I had barely reached the age of discretion, and it is now almost three decades since I became, near the end of the 1980s, a curator at Japan's first public museum to engage with this domain, the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography (now the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum). I consider it my tremendous good fortune that, through the many media art exhibitions the museum mounted or had a role in, including the Japan Media Arts Festival, I was given a front row seat at the rise of this cultural domain from countercultural misfit to a dynamic, flourishing, fully accepted member of society.At the end of the last century, we debated the future of "media art as present perfect."★1 In the past ten years the genre has finally emerged from promoting itself as "the newest art using the newest technology," and has sought to gain recognition within more conventional modern art frameworks as well. The significant artistic questions raised by and through the award winners of this festival over the years--"interactivity," in which the work is never fully completed; the ambiguous border between entertainment and art; the legitimacy of crowd creation; the introduction of technological approaches and different value systems; a shedding of conventional "modern art" standards of evaluation--are gradually receding into the past. I suppose the constant mutations will continue for the next decade as well in a process of transformation that gropes its way between accession and innovation.Meanwhile, Japanese media art has not only engaged in a constant give-and-take of influences with media art from abroad, but creators' "conceptions" have connected up with the "art" of scientists and engineers to become a fountainhead of inspiration.★2 Underlying this are universal currents of creativity not limited by the sort of distinctively Japanese artistic leanings that developed in our Galapagos-like isolation, such as a uniquely Japanese understanding of space that doesn't depend on Western laws of perspective, as in tatebanko (dioramas) and utsushie (magic-lantern pictures); a way of looking at light and shadow that contemplates life and death; or an infatuation with precision instruments and small things. In all, it's clear that media art is not simply art in which electronic technologies are used as the medium. Lest we forget this, the jury chose this time to honor Ralf BAECKER's Interface I, which is actualized as an intricate analog structure; Ori ELISAR's The Living Language Project, which uses bacteria as its expressive medium; and Nina KURTELA's The Wall, which captures gallery walls as photographic subjects, right alongside the "Alter" Production Team's Alter, an AI work moving autonomously in endless motion. As manifested in these selections, the "vehicle" of expression is not limited to digital technology.It remains unclear when the singularity in the narrow sense will arrive, but in the broader sense of singularity as uniqueness, I expect it to visit media art many times in the coming years. For media art has always seen ever-changing technology and science as vehicles for expanding the domain of art. Since the mid-1990s technologists have entered the territory, choosing media art as a means to externalize ideas rooted in a literacy and analysis different from those in the domain of art. For the next ten years, the debates and creative activity will continue with those who have their pivot foot outside the world of art. In the early 1980s, it was in college that we were taught programming as "a means of externalizing ideas," but today's children will learn it as part of their compulsory education. This genre is about to advance to the next stage, which art criticism and those connected with conventional art have been unable to verbalize or achieve. All efforts to transcend a domain are a form of art. I look forward eagerly to the appearance of works and talents that boldly try out new perspectives.
  • FUJIMOTO Yukio
    Subdued Works
    In comparison with last year, my sense was that there were fewer submissions whose primary objective seemed to be to assault the retinas with stimuli. I consider this a very good thing.In looking at the full gamut of works, from those that made use of primitive media to those taking advantage of cutting-edge technologies, the ones that I found most appealing shared a common characteristic: they interposed media as a means of taking a calm and sober look at the current state of the individual or society.Artistic expression from the end of the 19th century into the first part of the 20th was characterized in part by a drastic re-visioning of ordinary day-to-day existence. By altering the view of our uneventful quotidian reality, artists offered up refreshing surprises as well as bewilderment. Now, a hundred years later, everyday reality has itself become overwhelming. But the most gifted of our artists refuse to be swept up in the dizzying pace of change, and instead confront what is happening with a steady and thoughtful gaze.Using media to re-vision the quotidian requires that all manner of emotions be objectified, and this means artists must treat what they see dispassionately. The resulting works tend to become rather subdued and difficult to understand at a glance, and in the context of deliberations during which jurors must evaluate an enormous number of submissions, it is easy for them to get buried. That process pressed home to me just how important it is for jurors to appropriately identify works that effectively express a genuine engagement with issues of the day.I also felt that conventional exhibition spaces are no longer able to provide the best environment for experiencing many works of media art. No doubt these works will serve as the impetus for creating a new, 21st-century art space that functions not just in physical space but in the network environment as well.We can no longer think about contemporary society without being affected by the changing media environment. It's worth reminding ourselves that taking up media in artistic expression is an eminently realistic response to living in the present age.
  • NAKAZAWA Hideki
    A Progress Report on My Criticism of “Media Arts”
    Let me begin with a word to those who did not get selected, or who did not win the award they had hoped for: Do not be overly discouraged, and do not do anything rash with the work you submitted. It's said that Paul CÉZANNE was rejected by the Paris Salon every year and even complained to the chief judge about it.It should be noted that there was an important change in the 20th Japan Media Arts Festival: The phrase "Works of art created with new media and digital technologies" disappeared from the entry guidelines. The guidelines for the Art Division in the last festival (19th JMAF) began with that phrase, then followed it parenthetically with "Interactive art, media installations, video works, video installations, graphic art (digital illustrations, digital photographs, computer graphics, etc.), Internet art, media performances, etc." The guidelines this time removed the initial phrase, and brought the former parenthetical content to the fore. Much the same change took place in the Entertainment Division.This reflects the fact that stipulating "digital technologies" no longer has any real meaning, and it is also perhaps a response to my criticism last time that the stipulation undesirably results in eliminating all art that does not use digital technologies. It does not, however, reflect the suggestion made during an exchange in the Art Division Dialogue that the festival should clarify what it thinks "media art" is.But to my mind, by awarding the Grand Prize to Ralf BAECKER's Interface I, the jurors have been able to send a message to the festival to that effect. This installation, which focuses on ends rather than means, concisely and directly demonstrates the essence of "media art." Meanwhile, the four works chosen for Excellence Awards were recognized for their high quality under a kind of self-evident standard of purposive expression. At the same time, I'm pleased that we don't need to argue about digital technology in connection with the bio-art work The Living Language Project.To ask what "media art" is should ultimately lead to asking what "Art" with a capital A is, which has never been self-evident. That's what I would like to see happen.
  • SATOW Morihiro
    Historian of Visual Culture and Professor, Kyoto Seika University
    Invisible Systems
    This is my third year as a juror for the Japan Media Arts Festival. In my comments the first year, I addressed the issue of medium/media,★1 and the second year I discussed old or dead media.★2 Both were topics that I have had occasion to study in my scholarly research, which has centered mainly on the visual culture of Japan's modern period. The specific subjects of my research are of a different era and context from the media art being produced in the middle of the second decade of the 21st century, but I nevertheless found remarkable parallels between the two. It was an interesting, even thrilling, experience. In this, my final year as a juror, I'd like to think about systems.Individuals living in the present day may be nothing more than nodes on a variety of networks. When I say this, I suspect most of my readers will immediately think I'm talking about the Internet, but this idea actually arose from my current research on the electrical power system that built out its grid all over the world from the end of the 19th century into the 20th century, beginning with the cities.Among sources of light, candles are stand-alone. But with the exception of devices like flashlights, light bulbs must be connected to the network of wires that makes up our electrical power system in order to shine. The gaslights that preceded light bulbs required a similar connection. In his book Networks of Power (1983), which looks at the electrical grid as a cultural artifact, Thomas P. HUGHES states that "[electric power systems] embody the physical, intellectual, and symbolic resources of the society that constructs them."★3 As this observation suggests, invisible network systems transform human activity, and those systems are perceptible only by way of the transformations they engender. Which is to say, it may be possible to conceptualize the collective membership of human society today as a medium for visualizing those systems.YOSHIHARA Yukihiro's COLONY, which received an Excellence Award, is none other than an endeavor to visualize the invisible network that delivers invisible electrical power. The electrical system transmits power from generating plants to end users through a network of high-tension wires, but those of us who live in cities can see neither the "net" itself nor the fact that our cities are in effect being "nourished" by distant regions. This work shows a continuous series of landscapes crossed by high-voltage lines punctuated with steel towers, bringing that net into visible relief.It need scarcely be stated that Grand Prize winner Interface I by Ralf BAECKER is a work that speaks directly to systems (see "Reason for Award," p.23). In Excellence Award winner Jller, by Benjamin MAUS and Prokop BARTONÍČEK, pebbles gathered from the eponymous river are sorted by origin and age using image recognition technology. Natural historians have developed a system of knowledge in which they attempt to place understandings gained through close observation of the world on an orderly grid, and this would seem to be an automated version of that. New Face Award winner The Wall, by Nina KURTELA, is also worth mentioning. By representing the system of picture frames and white-cube blank walls that embodies the modernist conception of art, it can be seen as foregrounding both the homogeneity and the subtle differences within that system.Systems are these troublesome things that bind us. As the anarcho-punk band Crass asserts in one of its songs, we are all ruled by systems until we die.★4 On the other hand, we can't live without systems. To use the old cliche, they are like the air we breathe--constantly surrounding us, defining where we can live, yet invisible. Engineering and social science and design are not the only fields capable of making them visible. The critical eye of art--as well as of the humanities in general--should be able to bring them into relief, too.
  • ISHIDA Takashi
    Painter, Film Artist and Associate Professor, Tama Art University
    Some Thoughts from My Experience as a Juror
    In the course of the screening process, I frequently had to ask myself what exactly this thing called "art" is. I think this owed not just to the overwhelming volume of submissions and diversity of artistic forms, but also to how the four divisions have been delineated in this festival as well as to the sheer breadth of the term "media arts." This breadth is by no means a negative thing: The fact that the festival accepts so many different approaches to art is actually one of its greatest appeals.The meetings of the panel became a highly rewarding opportunity for each of the jurors to deepen his or her own thinking about art in response to one another's views on the works that came before us.Here's one of the thoughts I had in the course of screening. Modern art arises from the desire to break down what has been expressed in prior art, and to free us from old ways of seeing things. So it is entirely understandable that high regard goes to the use of new techniques to visualize the unseen structures of the world or to point out new relationships. My quibble in the present case is that there seemed to be quite a few works in which the tools for exposing unseen structures or positing new relationships were used for the simple task of confirmation and nothing more. A strong concept and a critical stance toward one's own chosen technique of expression are both important, but at the same time, the expression needs to be something more than a mere explication of the concept. A kind of expressive impulse that even the artist cannot explain moves the work bit by bit toward completion through continuous and repeated refinements. And yet the source of that impulse remains a mystery. Is that not where the appeal of art lies?The award recipients were works in which a strong desire to explore new ways of looking at the world, together with whatever was at the source of the aforesaid impulse, bore fruit in a highly fertile cloud of mystery. The ceaseless movement of the floating mesh of lines in Grand Prize winner Interface I, and the idiosyncratic movements of the body in Excellence Award recipient Alter, give rise to all manner of questions about the nature of life and time and image. Moreover, they do so even though such movements are already present everywhere within and around us. This was where the fundamental question of what art is reared its head.