Japan Foundation

Su Grierson 20th January

The heated table.  Photo and permission Su Grierson

The heated table. Photo and permission Su Grierson

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Day 1

The journey to Japan was good and easy.  Yoshiko Maruyama, the artist/ initiator of this project, was waiting for me at Narita airport.

The Japan Foundation wanted to meet me and receive my flight invoices and this meant an hour bus trip in the wrong direction into central Tokyo, but a smiling Mr Ohnishi met us, gave us lunch and towed my suitcase for me and after the formalities of paperwork he found us the correct train for our 3 hour journey up to Kitakata. He is promising to visit us in 10 days time to give us our generous fees and expenses.

I got a little closer to understanding why this project is being sponsored by the Japan Foundation and just what their hopes for it are. It seems there is a general desire of local and national government to counter the current negative images that accompany the word Fukushima internationally, as well as a desire to re-build the cultural activity of the area. Our impressions of our visit that we give to them and local people and also take home with us are just as important as any artwork we create here. They also talk of us conveying a positive image of the area to what they call the ‘Refugees’, in other words the survivors of the Tsunami who are living in temporary accommodation here that they must vacate after 3 years. I hope to find out more about that later.

I feel they see us as trailblazers initiating an artist’s residency in Fukushima that they hope others will then be willing to come to. It is refreshing that they and the other funders are happy to support a project without any clear idea of how it will proceed, instead just letting things fall into place as it goes along.

Day 2.

Yoshiko and I have now joined the two Norwegians, a sculptor and an architect and the first impression for all of us is the COLD, the second is of amazing scenery and buildings.

This is my seventh visit to Japan and I have never seen it look so stunning nor have I been so cold. We are staying in a traditional farmhouse style building with sliding walls with paper ‘glass’ on the inner side and glass on the outer wall (with a metre wide buffer zone between) none of which are tight fitting. There is absolutely no insulation and there is a general reluctance to use any electricity. This seems to stem partly from cost which is often mentioned – although the adjacent new part of the building does have solar panels on the roof (I haven’t yet had a chance to ask about that) – and also from a general attempt to reduce the use of electricity after their nuclear catastrophe. No one here seems to know how many of their nuclear plants have been re-opened.

As Margretha from Norway is an architect we have had long discussions about the nature of these building which seem to have been traditionally so unsuited to this climate, but then again they have also to withstand earthquakes and extremely hot and humid summers for which they seem perfectly adapted. We also don’t yet know the extent to which their approach to life was, and maybe still is, so different from our own age of ‘comfort’. The winters are cold so you just put on more clothes and don’t think about it. We are trying hard to do the same with varying degrees of success. The paraffin heaters and heated meal tables are a blessing. Our hostess has just produced some electric blankets – JOY.

The amount of fantastic food we are plied with also goes a long way to keeping out the cold. Today we have a ‘party’ to which all the funders and local supporters as well as Press will be coming. Tonight apparently we are moving to a mountain farm house for 4 days.

With endless outings being promised, we are wondering when there will be any time to make work for an exhibition in 4 weeks time.

Su Grierson

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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Su Grierson – Corresponding from Fukushima Province, Japan

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland
Japanese do seem to be obsessed by food  endlessly photographing  their meals and we have been  asked to take photos of what we  eat in our Northern countries. This is my Fruitarian Christmas  pudding awash with Brandy. I think the Kitakata speciality is noodles!"Japanese do seem to be obsessed by food endlessly photographing their meals and we have been asked to take photos of what we eat in our Northern countries. This is my Fruitarian Christmas pudding awash with Brandy. I think the Kitakata speciality is noodles!” (Photo with permission Su Grierson)

Su Grierson has kindly agreed to send ecoartscotland regular updates during her 10 week residency in Kitakata, Fukushima Province, Japan.  She is circulating this introduction.

I am now trying to get myself organised to go to Japan next Thursday. I am doing a 10 week residency based at Kitakata in Fukushima province. It is quite a way from the devastated coastal area but I am told we will be working there and with some of the displaced survivors. The project is funded by the Japan Foundation but I think the actual programme will be worked out when we get there. It seems we will also be working with the beautiful Fukushima Prefectural Museum of Art.  I will be working with 2 Norwegians, a sculptor and an architect and one Japanese artist with the overall theme of ‘Spirit of North’.

Making work for an exhibition seems to be the main thing but I have a feeling that the very generous funders might have their own expectations which we will find out about later! Watch this space – well you can literally follow my trip by signing up here to Chris Fremantle’s ecoartscotland network. He has offered to put out occasional reports from me which you will be able to find here or if you join up then they will come directly to your email address.

I think this project is part of a wider plan trying to restore normal life and spirit generally in this area and also to get a different picture of Fukushima out to the wider world. I am well aware of some of the more negative recent press, and of course that name Fukushima will always be synonymous with Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear meltdown, but I will hopefully try and find out for myself just what the situation is now.

It has just started snowing in Kitakata so its a question of how many thermals I can get in my case, but at least they make good packing for cameras, laptops and all the other paraphernalia I can’t manage without.

As part of my Survey exhibition and book at Horsecross in Perth next summer (Opening with Sunday Brunch on June 30th – all invited!) I have been commissioned to make a new work for the 22 screen Wave at Perth Concert Hall and I’m hoping to use that as a way of linking Fukushima and Perth.

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.
Go to EcoArtScotland

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Creating Cities: Culture, Space, and Sustainability – The City, Culture, and Society (CCS) Conference

Jointly organized by Japan Center, Institute for Cultural and Social Anthropology and Institute for European Ethnology, and Seminar of Economic History of Ludwig Maximilians University Munich, and Urban Research Plaza of Osaka City University

supported by

The Japan Foundation, Osaka City University, State Ministry for Social Affairs of Bavaria, Münchener Universitätsgesellschaft

The conference Creating Cities: Culture, Space and Sustainability, which will take place from 25 to 27 February 2010, investigates the forces that shape the conditions of urban development and the creation of cities in comparative and interdisciplinary perspective. In recent years, the notion of the „creative city“ has become a guiding framework for thinking about the present and future state of cities and their capability of coping with the impact and challenges of globalization. Cities are regarded as engines of regional, national, and global economic growth because they are the key centers for cultural production and consumption and target areas for mobility and migration. They are also contested sites because of increasing cultural and social diversity. Simultaneously, cities use cultural diversity and even counter-cultures to display appealing images and representations of creativity and innovation. Many citizens aspire to live and work in the cosmopolitan global environments that only metropolitan centers seem to be able to provide, but cities also provide vital space for the challenged, homeless, and other socially disadvantaged groups. The resolution of social disparities is consequently becoming an urgent policy task. Environmental and social sustainability, urban revitalization and amenity are major keywords of our time.

In this context, this conference focuses on the interactions among culture, sustainability, and space. We would like to emphasize inquiry into the dynamics of cultural creativity, industries and production, the risks and benefits of both cultural diversity and social inclusion or exclusion, the sustainability of efforts to plan and redesign the urban built environment to promote creativity, and the identity politics of representations of the city and creativity in the popular imagination as well as spaces of heritage and tourism. We recognize that there are many different groups and focal points related to creating cities, so one major purpose of this conference is to create a framework in which both practitioners and researchers of different disciplines can interact and share ideas about how urban environments are being transformed.

Introductory Session: Creating Cities & Creative Cities

As global market forces penetrate hitherto closed rural areas wherever market liberalization occurs, urbanization, too, is progressing rapidly. Even though regional differences obviously do exist the global ratio of urban population has now crossed the 50-percent line. While mega cities may be one of the most conspicuous phenomena of the present urbanization the term urban must be understood in a much broader sense. The fact that the majority of urban dwellers still lives in smaller and medium-sized settlements is frequently overlooked. Only through a combined effort of local supplier development, national institutional support, and foreign investment can there be any real benefits from for example creative cluster development and economies of scale and scope. Two prominent regions of Southeast Asia, namely the Greater Mekong Region and Singapore, will serve as examples as this session will investigate the relationship between the process of creating cities and the making of creative cities.

Session 1: Creative Diversity, Socioscapes, and Cultural Politics

This session critically reviews current notions and implications of cultural diversity in cities by bringing together broadly three strands: representation, socioscapes, and cultural politics. The interplay between creating particular urban images and the urban condition of particular socioscapes, ranging from less empowered groups such as those that are affected by transnational precarization to elite diasporas, will be examined.

Session 2: City Marketing

Cities are increasingly undertaking marketing activities to support their local economy. By way of example, this section will look at how city marketing may cope with challenges in terms of communication content, tools or media, and with regard to underlying organizational structures and processes.

Session 3: Mobility and Built Environment

Mobility is a crucial aspect of globalization and the development of more efficient mobility systems on a grand scale is a significant locus for planning activity in global cities. This session will compare and contrast corporate and planning approaches to mobility issues in several global cities.

Session 4: Networks

Global cities rely upon networks with other cities, and the institutions, infrastructure, character, extent and effects of such inter-city networking are the subject for this session. It will identify the possibilities and constraints on such network development.

See also the detailed conference program (as of 2010-01-14, pdf format, 600 KB).

Please note:

  • The conference will take place at the IBZ Munich, Amalienstraße 38, D-80799 Munich / Germany (how to get there).
  • Admission fee (regular/student) will be EUR 40/20 for the whole conference, or EUR 20/10 for participation on Thursday and EUR 10/5 for participation on Friday or Saturday, respectively.
  • If you would like to attend the conference, please register until February 15th, 2010 via E-Mail schicken an osakamuc2010@lrz.uni-muenchen.de E-Mail(Subject: Registration Creating Cities)
  • Please also consult our list of accomodations near the conference site.
  • For the duration of the symposium (25-27 February) our invited guests will be staying at the Savoy Hotel Munich at Amalienstrasse 25 (Tel. +49 (0) 89 / 287870 – how to get there). At the hotel, they will receive the conference folder, containing also a map with the symposium venue indicated. The symposium venue is literally just down the street, at Amalienstrasse 38, i.e. in easy walking distance (cf. the Google Maps location of the hotel).

Prof. Dr. Evelyn Schulz

LMU Japan Center

phone: +49 89 / 2180-9800
fax: +49 89 / 2180-9801

For further inquiries, please E-Mail schicken an osakamuc2010@lrz.uni-muenchen.de E-Mail us.

via Veranstaltungen – Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.