Group Discussions

Su Grierson’s email of 19 February 2013

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Thanks to Aeneas Wilder, a Scottish artist living further North in Japan, Su Grierson has been able to give us a sense of the changes to the landscape further up the coast.  Once again she asked me to emphasise that she is only able to report what she is told and sees herself, and cannot verify anything.

One of the most impressive aspects of Japanese society is the degree of tolerance, support and respect that is shown both to foreigners and within their own community.  Partly this is a necessity in such a heavily populated country and also because of the practice of sharing their home with many generations of a family – as one person said ‘we don’t have much option, we just have to get along’. But it does go deeper than this with many traditional small actions of respect happening as an expected etiquette in daily life. While these can sometimes seem hierarchical and onerous to us they actually reinforce respect and usually have an inbuilt level of equality.

Decision making likewise tends to happen through group discussions which allow everyone to speak and seeks a consensus view.  Again to us with our western linear approach which often allows the strongest voice to become powerful, this consensus approach seems to be very time consuming and often ends without an apparent firm decision: it is circular and ongoing allowing for new opinions to come into play.  I can see the benefit of the system even if I find it difficult. However I am hearing from a number of people how it was this system that failed Japan at the time of the disaster in March 2011.  Such an unprecedented series of disastrous events need fast firm leadership and decision making especially when the good systems already in place to cope with normal tsunamis were overwhelmed by the scale of that one. And I am told that the Government of the day just didn’t have the mechanisms to cope.

Following on from this I have had several conversations now and on previous visits to Japan about the Japanese approach to Charity. After the disaster the Government initially declined international aid when they actually desperately needed it. In this society accepting charity is seen as diminishing your own status, and giving charity as placing oneself in a superior position and taking on an elevated status. Some people in Japan were questioned and challenged for wanting to help the refugees. “Why are you doing it,” and, “You are only doing it for you own glory”. What this society does do is support those around them socially and in their own family which is seen as a mutual situation offering no advancement or diminishing of status. We could learn much from that. However it does create a certain tightness in society and a worrying distancing from the concerns and issues of the wider world.

The Temple at Otsuchi.  Photo and permission Aeneas Wilder

The Temple at Otsuchi after the 2011 Tsunami. Photo and permission Aeneas Wilder

The Temple at Otsuchi (today) Photo and permission Su Grierson

The Temple at Otsuchi (February 2013) Photo and permission Su Grierson

Last weekend I was invited to stay at the home of Scottish artist Aeneas Wilder and his Japanese wife Naoko and their children. They live near Hanimaki in Iwate Province, a three hour train journey north from Kitikata and much nearer the east coast. Aeneas kindly drove me through the mountains and out to the coast to visit the many areas decimated by the earthquake and tsunami.

He and his wife were actively involved in helping people in these areas and he has kindly said that I can give you the link to the blog he wrote at that time with many images and a video…

http://www.aeneaswilder.co.uk/writings.html

https://vimeo.com/28523111

He was also keen to revisit the area which still holds horror images and a memory of the smell that he was still needing to come to terms with.

This is a beautiful wooded, mountainous area with many small towns and settlements in all the coves and river mouth areas. The section we visited is repeated for many hundred of miles north and south of here. He told me the story of how only one small town survived undamaged. Many years ago the Mayor of this town had insisted on building the sea defence wall many meters higher than anywhere else had even considered. He was laughed at and his wall was the subject of jokes throughout his lifetime. After March 11 his town was the only one in the area where not a single person died. The very next day the local people began laying flowers on his grave.

Because there was no nuclear problem here it is possible for re-building to commence and a few people are doing so. However the sea defence walls have not even been mended let alone increased in size and one can hardly imagine that mortgages or insurance are possible. The fishery businesses whose warehouses were outside the sea walls anyway are all re-building at great speed. Building contractors in Japan are going to be over employed for many years to come. I have never seen so many diggers at work and doubt that private individuals could get a contractor even if they wanted to.

Near the Temple at Otsuchi after the 2011 Tsunami.  Photo and permission Aeneas Wilder

Near the Temple at Otsuchi after the 2011 Tsunami. Photo and permission Aeneas Wilder

 

Near the Temple at Otsuchi (February 2013) Photo and permission Su Grierson

Near the Temple at Otsuchi (February 2013) Photo and permission Su Grierson

There are still huge mounds of debris at the wharf sides. There is no obvious sorting operation so I think they are being slowly loaded onto ships either for dumping or sorting elsewhere. I haven’t found out about that so far.

Refugee Housing 2013.  Photo and permission Su Grierson

Refugee Housing (February 2013). Photo and permission Su Grierson

This area has a large number of refugee houses with people staying close to their localities, but it will surely be very many years before they are able to re-settle in their old locations. Also the stories about Government compensation for these non-nuclear refugees suggests that they will have very inadequate funds. I hear the stories but don’t know the facts.

Tsunamis have always been taken very seriously in this whole area with weekly rehearsals and hundreds of well marked high ground shelters designated. But many of these were also inundated this time with others escaping the tide by feet. In one area the tsunami went 8 km up a river valley which no-one had forseen. There was a 15 minute warning this time and most people reacted correctly. Without that the loss of life would have been catastrophic. Who knows why some people did not leave their houses? Would we leave if we had a bed ridden old person in the house? If our house had always been safe in the past? In some cases perhaps 15 minutes was just not enough time. Hospitals certainly did not have enough time to evacuate bed-ridden patients.

There are, as we might imagine, many stories of tragedy – the man who was safe but went to see if his wife was OK and was caught by the unexpected third tide. But also of survival – I am told the story that one lady recounted – when she felt the tremors a few days beforehand she had drilled her children that if the siren sounded, no matter what anyone else was doing, they must run up the hill to their school. As it happened they were at the school anyway when the tsunami came. She, on the other hand, was driving back on the motorway from another area and as she reached her town she and all the other cars were swept off the road and into the raging soup of debris. As her car was sinking the windscreen was hit and broken by a concrete electricity pole. She undid her seat belt and pushed out through the hole. She was instantly swept up into the racing debris, but eventually managed to climb onto a floating wardrobe. As she was swept in towards the hillside she tried to scramble up onto a wall but couldn’t because of the thick mud. Some people saw her and ran back to help and after several attempts managed to grab her and drag her up. In a totally dazed state she ran up the hill where she found her children safe. A few days later she went back to see if her car was still there and was met by security officers who told her that she was mistaken, her car couldn’t possibly be there because everyone in those cars had died, they had just finished removing the bodies. She was the only survivor. She reputedly told this story in a completely un-emotional way. She understood it was just one story among many.

Food contamination is another issue I have tried to ask about. Generally the first Government caesium testing figures were not trusted as most people seem to consider that Government is too tightly allied to big business who might be exerting pressure to falsify the figures. However there were many independent tests made in Japan and in other countries around the world which have indicated that with a few early exceptions which were dealt with, the levels pose no serious risk. This has produced two kinds of response. There are those who make a point of buying local food to support the beleaguered farmers and those who buy from the furthest away sources as possible, trusting foreign food above Japanese. Generally though I haven’t seen any particular paranoia about radiation anywhere locally. Life just goes on as normal – but without the tourists whom they so desperately need.

Images from the Residency can be found on three Facebook pages:

http://www.facebook.com/facingnorthjapan

http://www.facebook.com/SeishinNoKitae (spirit of north)

www.facebook.com/sugrierson

The Kitakata AIR artist residency is sponsored by The Japan Foundation and the IORI club

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.
It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.
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EAL/LA Creative Conversations

This post comes to you from Green Public Art

Lessons from Social Entrepreneurs: How to Add Value to Your Organization and Career

Emerging Arts Leaders/Los Angeles presents its day-long 2012 Creative Conversations Event

Tickets Available Now!

Social entrepreneurs seek to satisfy unmet needs within the community by growing an organization that often has a heartfelt and unprecedented mission that aligns with the founder’s personal values. At Emerging Arts Leaders/Los Angeles, we represent a groundswell of young professionals coming up in established organizations or looking to start our own. Often our members have a young, fresh perspective on social/community needs that no one else is addressing. Indeed, many older arts organizations often find themselves behind the curve when it comes to spotting new trends or opportunities for growth in the community.

April’s Creative Conversation will give us insights from entrepreneurs as to how we can identify unmet needs in our community or organization, and show us how we can shape our work to meet those needs. We will explore challenges our speakers have faced and the creative and logistical know-how they drew upon to face those challenges. By looking at our work through an entrepreneurial lens, even if it’s just an exercise for those who do not seek to build our own organizations, we will make ourselves and our points of view invaluable to our organizations and community, and find opportunities to advance our careers.  We’ll have the opportunity to join one another in group discussions and activities – who knows, you could meet your next collaborator on an entrepreneurial venture!

Saturday, April 21, 10:15am-3:30pm
Plaza de la Raza
Cultural Center for the Arts & Education
3540 North Mission Road
Los Angeles, CA 90031

PARKING: Use the lot directly in front of Plaza de la Raza or nearby street parking.

A catered lunch from Panera Bread is included in your ticket price. Within your purchase confirmation email you will be provided with an email address in case you need to indicate any dietary restrictions.

Finally, we hope you’ll join us afterward for Happy Hour at: Barbara’s at The Brewery
620 Moulton Avenue #110
Los Angeles, CA 90031

Driving directions to our Happy Hour location will be provided at the event.

10:15-10:30am: Registration

10:30-10:45am: Opening Remarks

10:45-11:45am: Keynote

Terence McFarland, Chief Executive Officer, LA Stage Alliance

11:45am-12:45pm: Lunch & Youth Mariachi Ensemble Performance

12:45-2:05pm: Your Arts Career Through an Entrepreneurial Lens

  • Rebecca Ansert, Founder & Principal, Green Public Art Consultancy
  • Edgar Arceneaux, Executive Director, Watts Tower Project
  • Molly Cleator, Owner/Founder, A Place to Create
  • Judy Tatum, Independent Non-Profit Consultant

2:05-2:45pm: Applying Entrepreneurial Thinking to Your Personal Goals: Small Group Discussions

2:45-3:15pm: Right Brain Entrepreneurism: Creative Collaborative Activity

Molly Cleator will lead us through a fun and energizing creative activity.

3:15-3:30pm: Final Wrap-Up & Depart for Happy Hour at Barbara’s at The Brewery!

Tickets Available Now!

 

Rebecca Ansert, founder of Green Public Art, is an art consultant who specializes in artist solicitation, artist selection, and public art project management for both private and public agencies. She is a graduate of the master’s degree program in Public Art Studies at the University of Southern California and has a unique interest in how art can demonstrate green processes or utilize green design theories and techniques in LEED certified buildings.

Green Public Art is a Los Angeles-based consultancy that was founded in 2009 in an effort to advance the conversation of public art’s role in green building. The consultancy specializes in public art project development and management, artist solicitation and selection, creative community involvement and knowledge of LEED building requirements. Green Public Art also works with emerging and mid-career studio artists to demystify the public art process. The consultancy acts as a resource for artists to receive one-on-one consultation before, during, and after applying for a public art project.
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Sustainable Practice in Public Art

This post comes to you from Cultura21

Chrysalis Arts in collaboration with MIRIAD at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) present a seminar about how artists and commissioners can begin to address the ecological and sustainability issues associated with climate change through their professional practice. With: Inspirational speakers – PASA case studies – Group discussions

Seminar – April 15th 2011 – 10am to 4.30pm – Manchester Metropolitan University, Sandra Burslem Building SB 2.10

Information & programme: www.pasaguidelines.org

Bookings: chrysalis [at] artdepot [dot] org [dot] uk 01756 749222 – Directions:www.mmu.ac.uk/travel/allsaints

MMU staff and students – free ; Freelance practitioners £12 ; Organisations £30

Supported by MMU, MIRIAD, Chrysalis Arts Development, Arts Council England, Lottery Funded.

Cultura21 is a transversal, translocal network, constituted of an international level grounded in several Cultura21 organizations around the world.

Cultura21′s international network, launched in April 2007, offers the online and offline platform for exchanges and mutual learning among its members.

The activities of Cultura21 at the international level are coordinated by a team representing the different Cultura21 organizations worldwide, and currently constituted of:

– Sacha Kagan (based in Lüneburg, Germany) and Rana Öztürk (based in Berlin, Germany)

– Oleg Koefoed and Kajsa Paludan (both based in Copenhagen, Denmark)

– Hans Dieleman (based in Mexico-City, Mexico)

– Francesca Cozzolino and David Knaute (both based in Paris, France)

Cultura21 is not only an informal network. Its strength and vitality relies upon the activities of several organizations around the world which are sharing the vision and mission of Cultura21

Go to Cultura21