Collaborative Time in AIR? The Case of Koganecho Bazaar 2018

Junya Utsumi

Koganecho Bazaar (KB) is an annual art festival in Yokohama that has been held since 2008 and based on artist-in-residence (AIR) program. KB is organized by a nonprofit organization, Koganecho Area Management Center (KAMC) from 2009, after the success of the first KB the aim of which was to revitalize the Koganecho area with contemporary art. For KB, KAMC (sometimes with a guest curator) annually announces an open call that proposes specific theme, and selects participating artists from submitted applications and recommendations from partner organizations. In addition to KB, KAMC runs a long-term AIR program where artists can stay for 5 years or longer with some exceptions. By running this long-term program, KAMC attempts to increase the number of active people and to reverse the negative image of the area. The long-term residents usually also take part in the KB exhibition. 

 

Compared to other AIR programs in Japan, KAMC is unique; it has possibility for the short-term KB artists to have a cultural exchange and collaborative work with the long-term residents. Since 2011, KB has also been supported by the grant from the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan, under the program “International Cultural Exchange Project by Supporting AIR Activity”. As it implies, what is expected as one of the important functions of AIR in Japan is to generate “international cultural exchange”. However, there is no fixed way to measure and analyze how effective the interchanges among artists happen during the term and what kind of outcome the program can show. Taking the cases of KB2018 that I curated and pushed the participating artists to jointly work, this text will show examples and challenges of collaboration in AIR that is not planned in an application.

 

Themed under the coined term FLYING SUPERMARKET, that implies the exhibition seeks to be a place for exchange of knowledge, culture and material like a market, KB2018 announced an open call and received 52 applications. Its curatorial team, Tomoyo Mizuya and I, selected 17 artists, including groups, among them and partners’ recommendations for the main program while choosing 18 artists from the long-term residence artists for the Special Program: Introducing Arts in Koganecho. Based on the theme, the curatorial team selected various types of artists regarding media and technique such as street painting, found objects, sound, photography, installation, and participatory production. At the process of selection, we interviewed and asked the artists for the main program if it’s possible or interesting for them to collaboratively work with other artists. According to the curatorial scheme, four groups of artists were selected and at the same time other participating artists were encouraged to jointly create artworks. As a result, there were five collaborative cases that had not been planned at selection stage: Escuri, a sound artist, did a live painting event with Speak Cryptic, created music for Lee Seungha’s photo Installation, joined as a guest artist for the participatory workshop by Kim Mihwa, and, together with Speak Cryptic’s painting, played in the installation of artist collective Instant Coffee during the event PINK NOISE POP-UP. Since sound is the most fluid medium, Escuri was the one who worked the most with other artists. In these cases, the collaborations unplanned in the application could happen and did not change a lot on their artistic practices. Although the collaborative creations were expected to expand what the artists usually could do and provide opportunities to think about how differently their works could be shown with a new element, the result did not appear in this way. Furthermore, as listed above, the unplanned collaborations came up only among the artists coming from abroad. In the short-term residence, it is difficult to expect a radical change on artistic practice. But if the organizer expects the collaboration to work, it is crucial to think what kind of medium, approach and communication language artists can use in selection. 

 

It seems easy but somehow pointless to measure only by the number of collaborative works how effective AIR program makes opportunities for artists to exchange ideas and communicate each other, because selection of artists and projects is crucial on what kind of collaboration can occur, instead of residence program itself. Furthermore, it depends on what kind of medium the selected artists can use and how they can communicate in English. Needless to say, outcome of AIR is not only reflected in production of artwork, but also interchanges in many parties, dinners, and late meetings at the office where several artists came and had a casual chat and those meetings were difficult to analyze their function. However, with the notion that collaboration forms in short-term residence are limited, AIR organizers need to explore how to show and share with others dynamism of cultural exchanges the program can generate. Otherwise, the number in report of AIR still keeps significant position to get grant or fund.

1. Foundation of KAMC was originally not planned in the time of preparation for the first KB. The director of the exhibition, Shingo Yamano, was asked to stay there longer before the end of exhibition. https://yokohama-sozokaiwai.jp/town/10005.html

The Koganecho area, where is between two stations of the Keikyu line in Yokohama, is well known for ex-red light district until 2005. In January 2005, the local people, Yokohama city government, and local police worked together to conduct “Bye-bye strategy”, which aimed to “clean up” the sexual industry there. About the detail of the process of this clean-up movement and analysis of KAMC activities, please see Justin Jesty “Assessing Art Projects Aimed at Revitalization: the Case of the Koganech ō Bazaar” in FIELD: A Journal of Socially-engaged Art Criticism (Issue 8, Fall 2017). http://field-journal.com/editorial/assessing-art-projects-aimed-at-revitalization-the-case-of-the-koganecho-bazaar

2. In these three years, KAMC announces there are approximately 50 artists in the Koganecho area. 

3.  Participating artists can decide how long and from when they stay in Koganecho according to each plan and schedule.

4. 43 applications from domestic and 9 from abroad, including 16 from artists in Koganecho residence at the time.

5. Jett Ilagan aka. Escuri recommended by 98B COLLABOratory, Manila: Lee Seungha by Space Ppong, Gwangju: and, Thuy Tien Nguyen by ZeroSation, Ho Chi Min City. Besides, Kim Mihwa participated as a programme supported by the Toyota Foundation that was 2-year long exchange from 2016 between KAMC and Public AIR in Cheongju city, Korea. Other 13 artists were selected through the open call.

6. Official website of KB2018: http://koganecho.net/koganecho-bazaar-2018/

7. The selection was two steps: firstly, narrowing down to 15 candidates only with applications: and then, deciding by interviews.

8. A group of Tsai Kuen-Lin (Taiwanese artist), Teppei Yamada (Japanese artist), and Lin Tsu-Hao (Taiwanese researcher based in Yokohama): another groups of artists related to Okinawa and PIN-UP Gallery that is in ex-red light district in Ginowan city, Okinawa: Midori Haguri, a parinter, and Makoto Ikutake, an illustrator, made an artist unit: the last is an artist collective, Instant Coffee. The former three were grouped for KB2018.