Art containers at the public spaces in Kabukicho are exhibition and performance spaces.
Artists exhibit interactive and participatory art projects related to Shinjuku.
The theme of exhibition is “City + Art + Technology” and “The locative Characteristics of Shinjuku”.
A public media art exhibition focusing on Shijuku area was held by new media artists. The projects are interactive and participatory and were created and performed in and out of shipping containers in public spaces of Kabukicho such as a park and square. The idea of “Public Media Art” is the type of new media art projects aiming to intervene into the public places as communicative or social spaces. It especially uses computer technology as a main methodology.
The artists invited to the exhibition used computer technology as an effective way for intervening into the public spaces. Still, the characteristics of their projects are that they do not treat technology as itself but the way of expression like a part of body. By these approaches, they can re-analyze and reevaluate highly urbanized as well as complicated cities in a contemporary society.
We already had public intervention projects in Kabukicho in 2008 and 2009. As a next step, we had the public media art project inviting artists on November in 2011 based on the research in 2010.
Moreover, Kabukicho is currently in a serious turning point for the future of the city because of economical and redevelopment issues. Based on these issues, in the School Research Project, diverse educational and research facilities had surveys and analyses, reviewing the present and future of Shinjuku and Kabukicho.
Kabukichō is an entertainment and red-light district in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan. Kabukichō is the location of many hostess bars, host bars, love hotels, shops, restaurants, and nightclubs, and is often called the “Sleepless Town”. The district’s name comes from late-1940s plans to build a kabuki theater: although the theater was never built, the name stuck.
The area has many movie theaters, and is located near Shinjuku Station, Seibu Shinjuku Station, and several other major railway and subway stations.
Especially after the latter half of 1990s, a variety of artists have had public media art projects using high and low-end technologies. These phenomena are strongly correlated to those of relational-art after 1990s. The background of these movements is that artists have had to seriously reconsider the boundary between “Private” and “Public” as well as the “Reality” in the contemporary society because of the huge impact of the Internet. Artists such as Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Blast Theory, Ieva Auzina + Esther Polak, The Graffiti Research Lab, Usmann Haque, Fred Abels + Mirjam Langemeijer and so on have tried to intervene into the public spaces as communicative, social , historical and occasionally political spaces.
Mainly in Europe and U.S.A., artists have organized public intervention projects in a variety of ways. On the contrary, because Japanese new media art has uniquely grown with entertainment business and the regulation of the usage of public space is in fact very strict, the artists who are interested in public spaces are relatively rare.
Yet, some artists, especially young generation, consider that the public space is an effective field for new media art because public space is already interactive participatory.
Shinjuku is the one of the birthplaces of reconstruction for Japanese society from World War II, and has led an incredible rapid economical development as a shopping and entertainment district. Shinjuku is also a unique city that contains diverse areas such as modern skyscrapers and the remains of black markets built right after World War II.
On the other hand, it is said that Shinjuku is contrarily an “unrecognizable” city. First, the changing speed of the city is so rapid compared to other cities. Second, the city is composed of several ethnic areas, and old / new areas lie adjacent to each other. Moreover, a modern business district, shopping district, restaurant and sex industry district lie very close to each other. In this city, too many factors are observed, and hence we cannot share only image of the city.
However, paradoxically, this situation means that Shinjuku can offer various topics and possibilities to artists. In fact, in the 1960s, the folk guerilla, jazz, and underground cinema had flourished in Shinjuku.
In recent years, the redevelopment of urban cities such as Roppongi, Shiodome, Akasaka and Hibiya in Tokyo has been practically completed. In some areas, “Art” is treated as one of the branding factors. In consequence, public art projects in those areas only exist as accessories of the city in the society driven by the principle of capitalism.
Yet, compared to other cities, it can be said that Shinjuku is a unique city that still has a native atmosphere in spite of its modernization, and hence we can find the significance for installing the public project in this city.
This art project will be held in the area of Kabukicho that is one of the biggest amusement areas in the world and has unique atmosphere of vitality. However, this area is now at the turning point for the value of the city because of the building fire on 2001 and the strengthened regulations of the sex industry. In other words, after the era when Kabukicho had the strong energy ended up, there have been numerous cracks in the city. We can observe “voids” in this area.
The Cine-City Square was originally planned by Hideaki Ishikawa as a social space for enhancing the relationship of people. Norihisa Nisinari pointed that this square was at first designed as Terminal Vista, which is the style that street finally end at the square for letting people stay.
However, the plan was forced to be modified because of various factors and the square did not become the complete terminal vista style in the end. He partly succeeded in installing entertainment facilities like movie theaters and letting the place busy, but could not succeed in making the area a healthy family center.
Current Cine-City Square looks a kind of odd space. This oddness comes from the twisted history that this city has been urbanized as an entertainment and a sex industory city in spite of original ideal as a sophisticated social space.
Starting from this point of view, the artists will try to reexamine and rehabilitate the square as the social space as it was originally designed.
The art form that intervenes into the city, such as Fluxus, High Red Center on 1970s and Relational art after 1990s, has a long history and has been experimented all over the world. Naturally enough, Japan was a part of those movements.
However, in this art form, the power of art tends to be weakened by that of the city and the project might be buried into the city after all. In some cases, it is better for art projects to be held in a museum or gallery. Moreover, the plan tends to be inevitably dull because it cannot be against the benefit of a local community. In addition, it is often pointed that recent public projects have quite similar themes such as “nature, history, locality, originality and tradition” and hard to be distinguished from each other. In other words, after the situation that public project in a local area has been almost consumed, its meaning or significance have to be re-verified in recent days.
Then, we believe, information technology, interaction, and participation will be vital keywords as the method for intervening into contemporary urban cities. Participation and interaction, a couple of characteristics of new media art will be the effective ways for involving the audience who happen to share the project space. Three factors, city + art + technology, will reconstruct the relationship between people and the city.
Technology, one of the dominant factors of the modern society, has shorten time and space. However, in these days, the locality of the city is reevaluated, because the meaning of “modern” has been critically reviewed. Furthermore, the technology of Geographical Information System (GIS) such as Google Maps also reevaluates the locality and uniqueness of the place, though the Internet basically makes time and space meaningless.
Artists have invented the different usage against the conventional way of the technology by unique viewpoints, and expanded the possibility of new media technology. Nowadays, to defeat the “modern” value and face the present era, the role of the new media technology will get more important to verify and recognize the city as “space where we can live” that is not a physical space but an ecological space.
Kabukicho Art Site project will question whether it can influence the city for letting people acquire the new dimension of the viewpoint, and facilitate the discussion about the possibility and the role of the urban style public media art.
Hideyuki Ando + Ryoji Watanabe + Tetsutoshi Tabata + Maria Adriana Verdaasdonk
Yasuaki Kakehi Laboratory, Shonan Fujisawa Campus, Keio University
Media Art Lab.,Art and Media Course, Tama Art University
Kitai Lab., Urban Planning and Design Lab. Department of Architecture Tokyo Polytechnic University
Noguchi Laboratory, Department of Interactive Media, Tokyo Polytechnic University
H.584 / IAMAS Locative Media Project
Atsuhito Sekiguchi – IAMAS SIR Project
Title: Kabukicho Art Site
Subtitle: The Challenge of Public Media Art
Date: November 19th – December 3rd, 2011
Venues: Cine-City Square (1-9 Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo, JAPAN ), Okubo Park (2-43 Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo, JAPAN )
Organizer: Tokyo Polytechnic University
Management: Department of Interactive Media, Tokyo Polytechnic University
Director: Yasushi Noguchi