New Director's Statement
- ■ Keys to the concept of the "open museum"
Established to create new culture, and generate a new kind of buzz in the city of Kanazawa, in the eighteen years since its opening in 2004, the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa has pursued four distinct missions as part of its "open museum" philosophy. As I take up the post of Director, fifteen years after being involved from 1999 to 2006 in the founding of Museum, allow me with the aid of a few key words and phrases, to reflect once more on the various meanings of this commitment to openness.
• Democracy (Democratization of art)
The first refers to the "democratizing" of contemporary art. Making contemporary art accessible to all, discussing how art makes us feel and what we sense from it; pondering it in our own minds and linking those thoughts to action, generating new knowledge; democracy here means helping people to be acutely attuned to the times in which they live.
• Diversity as polyphony (Many voices in harmony)
Being an open museum also means being open to a wide range of people: not only of course the people of Kanazawa, but also visitors from other parts of Japan, and overseas. Welcoming the many different people who congregate at the Museum, and bringing them together as a harmonious whole, while maintaining a respect for the individuality and cultural background of each person. A museum characterized by polyphony; one where multiple voices can be heard.
• Development (Taking on the challenge of creating the future)
Contemporary art is a form of expression that among other things offers new perspectives for the future, experiments with different methods, and engenders the hitherto unknown. In this respect, being open means being a museum consistently alive to the possibilities of the future, and willing to try new things.
• Interaction/Interdependence (Synergy, and understanding that connection)
Being an open museum also means being open to and interacting with the town of Kanazawa, a profoundly cultural place where the local people have considerable interest in the arts, and high levels of art literacy. When we speak of the city being the museum, and the museum the city, we refer to a living relationship of mutual support and growth. The SANAA design of the museum—circular, transparent and open equally in all directions—is a superb expression of this notion of an organic body growing through its involvement with the local community.
■ The museum as a launchpad for the future—from sustainability to a new ecology
Alongside this openness, there is another vital element to the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa: sustainability. This was in fact one of our founding missions in creating the Museum. The many commissioned works forming part of the Museum buildings could be said to demonstrate that sustainability directly. These works integral to the Museum are always there to greet visitors, with multiple recollections of time spent in Leandro's pool or Turrell's room forming pieces of our memories, and of our lives. The many thousands who have come through the Museum doors over the years have enabled us to maintain stable Museum operations, as well as generate benefits for the local economy, and offer a comprehensive range of cultural activities.
Now in 2021 we enter what has been dubbed the Anthropocene era, one in which human activity has expanded to the point of significantly altering the natural world, in negative ways. As demonstrated by the recent pandemic, at a time when a new environment is having a huge impact on our societies and the way we live, we need to make even greater efforts toward a sustainable future.
One could liken this to New Year: it is not simply a case of January 1 coming around and it becoming "New Year"; it is only, in Japan at least, by cleaning and decorating our homes in preparation for the celebration, that we are able to welcome a bright, shining new year. Welcoming the future is much the same. What preparations should we make in order to build a sustainable future? At the Museum we hope to join you in contemplating this question, and making those "future preparations."
The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa will celebrate its twentieth anniversary in 2024. This anniversary will serve as one milestone on our journey of preparing for the future. This fiscal year the Museum will offer programs that "question the ordinary (what we take for granted)." Next year will see the start of a new emphasis on trans-historical perspectives that learn from history and tradition, and link these lessons from present to future. New materials and techniques, internet, AI and other environments now have enormous influence on our psyches, emotions, and imaginations, spawning new creative possibilities. The important thing, I believe, is to shift our human-centric viewpoint sideways a little to carve out a domain we might call "the new humanity" that involves reconsidering our relationships with animals, plants, and inanimate objects. At the Museum we hope to present these contemporary developments and more via diverse means of expression, and collaborations.
For instance, collaborations between video artists who turn research of plants into a story in images, and scientists; connections between digital designers who take invisible information and render it visible, and information scientists; exchanges of knowledge and experience among craftspeople experimenting with contemporary takes on tradition, and experts in materials development: the potential for collaboration across existing genres, freed from the confines of previous frameworks, is vast.
What role should the arts play, what new paths can be forged in the arts amid the new ecology emerging from these and the myriad other possibilities of our current age? Will the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa serve as a productive platform for our "future prep"? It is my wish to walk alongside you all, and help you to make it happen.
Director, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa program for 2021
Yuko Hasegawa is Director of the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Emeritus Professor of Tokyo University of the Arts and Visiting Professor of Research Institute for Humanity and Nature. She has served as a curator at Art Tower Mito (1989–93), visiting curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art (1992–93), curator at the Setagaya Art Museum (1993–99) and Artistic Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo(2016-March 2021). She is also Artistic Director of the Inujima Art House Project(2011- present). She completed a BA in Law at Kyoto University, and an MFA in Art History at Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music. She has been honored with the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France (2015), the Ordem de Rio Branco, Brazil (2017), and Japan Commissioner for Cultural Affairs Award, the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan (2020).
Hasegawa has curated on numerous biennale in Istanbul (2001), Shanghai (2002), São Paulo (2010), Sharjah (2013), Moscow (2017), and Thailand (2021), and international exhibitions including “Japanorama: A new vision on art since 1970” at the Centre Pompidou-Metz (2017), and “Fukami: A plunge into Japanese aesthetics” in Paris (2018). Her recent exhibitions in Japan are the solo exhibitions of Dumb Type, Olafur Eliasson, and rhizomatiks, and collaborative projects Tokyo Art Meeting with Ryuichi Sakamoto, Mansai Nomura, and Taku Sato in the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo.
Her publications include “A New Ecology and Art: on the Clouds⇄Forests exhibition” (Journal of Global Arts Studies and Curatorial Practices vol. 1, Tokyo University of the Arts, 2020); “Grotesque and cruel imagery in Japanese gender expression: Nobuyoshi Araki, Makoto Aida and Fuyuko Matsui” (The Persistence of Taste: Art, Museums and Everyday Life After Bourdieu, Routledge, 2018); “Japanorama: Un Archipel en Perpétuel Changement” (Japanorama, Centre Pompidou-Metz Editions, 2017); and “Performativity in the Work of Female Japanese Artists in the 1950s–1960s and the 1990s” (Modern Women: Women Artists at The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA, 2010).