A dive to contemporary, Japanese music and media art culture - EU・ジャパンフェスト日本委員会

A dive to contemporary, Japanese music and media art culture

Benjamin Gruner|Artistic Director, Pochen

In January 2023, the artistic director of the Pochen Biennale – Benjamin Gruner – was on a month-long research trip through Japan. The aim of the trip was to make artistic connections with artists and cultural institutions. One institution I met in Tokyo was CCBT-Civic Creative Base Tokyo. CCBT is a hub where the public can explore their creative imaginations in society through the use of digital technology. CCBT has labs and studios where they will have workshops and programs, becoming the driving force of innovations born out of Tokyo. The exchange with the team was so good that we decided to invite team member Mei Shimada for an online talk at the Pochen Symposium from October 5 – 8 in Chemnitz. Mei was part of the panel with numerous experts. Peter Purg – professor from the University of Nova Gorica and supporter of the Capital of Culture GO25 moderated the talk. Other participants were Serge Klymko from the Kyiv Biennale and Birte Sonnenberg from Kunstproduktionshaus Hellerau.

Talk @ Pochen Symposium ©︎Peter Rossner

The topic of the discussion was: Closures of cultural institutions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, right-wing populist cultural policies against independent media and cultural workers and the Russian attacks on Ukrainian cultural institutions to erase the country’s cultural identity – in times of multiple, overlapping crises, cultural institutions and festivals are faced with the challenge of countering these grievances through glocal adaptation and learning processes, always with the aim of being prepared for changes and emergencies and mastering them as robustly and creatively as possible. What resilience strategies are needed at regional and global level to enable sustainable (international) cultural production and establish forms of partnership based on solidarity? In an extensive discussion, the participants talked about challenges such as Ms. Shimada’s climate catastrophes in Japan, such as tsunamis or earthquakes. Mei Shimada comments her attendance like this: “Thank you again for the great opportunity to join the symposium. It was challenging honestly but, a great experience to share our initiatives and the challenges we face. It’s just because art scenes along with the history of how art and culture have been developed and accepted by society in the Asian context very different from European countries. The issues we face are also. The topic “resilience” itself was unfamiliar to us too. (Indeed very important, just haven’t touched upon it in Japan yet.)”

The online talk is available as a video recording on YouTube. We would like to distribute the talk via international cultural networks so that people from overseas can also watch it.

Online-Talk ©︎Pochen

As part of the symposium, it was also important for us to bring Japanese contemporary culture closer to young people. That’s why we invited the Japanese DJ and musician Ken Okuda to a party. He is a very experienced collector and selector of Japanese electronic dance music. The DJ party was well attended by numerous young people. The club had around 250 guests in the evening. We would like to stay in contact with Ken Okuda in the future. He will be traveling to Japan at the end of this year for further research.

The end of the year was marked by a concert by Japanese musician Midori Hirano at the Kulturbahnhof Chemnitz. Midori Hirano is a musician, composer and producer. She started learning the piano as a child, and this triggered what was to later see her study classical piano at university. Therefore her productions are based on the use of acoustic instruments such as the piano, strings or guitars, but yet experimental and an eclectic mixture of modern digital sounds with subtle electronic processing and field recordings. In addition to further concerts in Belgium and Germany until the end of this year, she will play in Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo in January 2024.

Midori’s invitation to Chemnitz also had a personal background. A few years ago, she released several pieces of music on the Chemnitz label for electric music: RASTER. It was a great pleasure for her to finally meet her colleagues and acquaintances in Chemnitz. The concert in Chemnitz was very well received. Over 100 guests attended the concert. The use of video technology during the concert was also particularly appreciated. The artist “Kaliber16” artistically accompanied Midori’s piano pieces with live visuals.

Live Concert ©︎ Peter Rossner

In January 2024, Agnieszka Kubicka Dzieduszycka will travel to Japan as a member of the Pochen team on a research trip. We will discuss with her in advance whether she will meet other artists there. We at Pochen are also planning to invite Japanese artists to the Biennale in September 2024. We are currently in contact with the artist Aki Inomata and Ryoji Ikeda’s studio. We hope to enter into in-depth discussions with them at the beginning of next year 2024.