|Cultural Exchange via Internet - Opportunities and Strategies
Net-forum, House of World Cultures, Berlin
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Any non-Euro/North American country involved in the international contemporary art scene must struggle to a greater or lesser degree with the fact that contemporary art itself is so deeply rooted in Western ideals and philosophies, by which you will be judged and whose rules you must choose to obey or not, and whose seats of power - which are in the West of course - very often will not understand that you have a different point of view. At a recent congress of AICA (International Association of Art Critics) here in Tokyo, for example, where much of the world's elite in the art critics' circle convened, it was suggested by one respected American art critic that, since Van Gogh et al were so influenced by Japanese prints, Modernism itself could be said to be a Japanese movement. This admittedly is an extreme example - but very often the art world in the West simply hasn't got a clue.
On the other end there is the problem at home. In Japan for example the situation is summed up by artist Daisuke Nakayama, on a year's scholarship to New York.
»I guess everything is completely different (between Tokyo and New York). It's not that contemporary art itself is a major field here (in New York), but that a much larger number of people are committed to it. I think that's what creates the market. But the major difference is that 'criticism' is an established discipline. It's really tough... Also, writers and critics, just like artists, can't survive if they're no good, so they look at the show carefully and write a responsible review. That's a big difference from Japan, isn't it!«
nmp-international is the English-language side of nmp (network museum and magazine project) which was set up in Tokyo in 1996 as part of Media Conference of Museums - a group researching the potential future for art and museums/galleries in relation to new media. nmp-international's first goal is to provide a window, if only a small one, onto the contemporary art world here in Japan - particularly the domestic art world that receives the least international attention. nmp-i sees itself as a tiny bridge between the ignorance and lack of information in the West, and the desert that is art criticism in Japan. Through interviews, like the one above with Daisuke, reviews and articles we attempt to build up a picture of contemporary art in contemporary Japan. There is also much in contemporary Japanese culture that competes with the role of contemporary art - very often manga, anime, computer games and such deal with ethical ideas, political ideas, aesthetic ideas much more creatively and directly than mainstream contemporary art. These are issues that we try to address in articles by manga specialists, game-makers etc.
But nmp-international is not all articles, and not all about Japan. In November 1997 nmp-international was the fourth 'venue' for a show of US/British artists that travelled to London, Sweden and Holland, »TransAtlantic«. A recent collaboration project with the Japanese Internet team sensorium, Ars Electronica 1997 Grand Prix winners, involved the collaboration of people from 20 different countries. And the Container-ship project, our prize-winning on-line gallery for Internet specific artworks, is based in London.
While there is masses of information pouring into Japan about the rest of the world, there is still very little going the other way. We hope that our activities can help to redress the balance just a little and help to spread the centre of power. But to be honest, whether or not that is a realistic hope, whether or not the Internet can really influence that remains unclear. Hopefully forums such as this one will help put that into focus.
Tom Vincent was born in London and studied art and theatre in London and California. Since 1989 he has lived between London and Tokyo, moving to Japan permanently in 1996. Over that time he has been involved in numerous theatre and film productions and held several exhibitions. More recently his work has centered around the Internet, and he has been involved in several international Internet art events. He is currently working on an on-line gallery/database of Japanese media artists and game-makers due to open later in the year.
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Forum of the House of World Cultures, Berlin, on the use of Internet in the cultural exchange with and between Africa, Asia/Pacific and Latin America. 1998/1999