Japan’s Social Turn: An Introductory Companion

Japan’s Social Turn: An Introductory Companion


Justin Jesty


A note on names: The first mention of a Japanese person’s name in each article in this issue of FIELD is written with their last name in all caps to allow readers to distinguish first and last names. Japanese names sometimes appear with the family name first (the default in Japanese and in academic writing in English), but also sometimes appear with the first name first (the default for people born in or longtime residents of Europe or the U.S., and for journalism in English).


Understanding socially engaged art (SEA) is no easier in Japan than elsewhere. The duration of projects, the diversity of practices, the dense histories and politics of sites, the multiplicity of meaning sprouting from different audience and participatory positions, and the difficulty in defining what one is studying all make research and theorization difficult. The idea of socially engaged art itself might be partly to blame; it is both vague and ambitious, seeming to encompass far too much at too young an age. All art—as many have objected—is socially engaged. But, at the risk of making things worse, I have chosen to title this collection of essays “Japan’s Social Turn” with the hope that it is even more vague and capacious than socially engaged art. Let us take a step back and reaffirm that we don’t know much about what we’re talking about yet.

As Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen writes in the previous issue of FIELD, “Kester seems to be inclined to reduce FIELD’s potential criticism of Western art history to a question of the introduction of socially engaged art from elsewhere as if it is a question of geographic diversity, limiting the critical revision to an expansion of the already existing canon instead of an attempt to dismantle it.”[1] While not agreeing with Rasmussen’s assessment of Kester’s intentions, I fully share his high expectations about what diversity should entail: encountering other places and times should uncover blind spots and unnoticed assumptions. The goal of this introduction is to highlight places where Japan’s social turn might require that our assumptions, expectations, and habits of seeing relative to socially engaged art be revised. I emphasize “might” because such wants and needs are ultimately defined by the reader: the introduction is thus intended to be supplemental—a companion, providing background information and suggesting connections with ongoing debates in English—for readers who want it.

Before proceeding in more depth, let me flag three main issues. First are the art-historical ones. The genealogy of socially engaged art in Euro-America assumes the relevance of fields of recent practice that do not necessarily have the same relevance in Japan. As KAJIYA Kenji’s essay shows, public art is a major element in Japan’s social turn as it has developed since the 1990s. This is true everywhere to be sure, but in Japan, (new genre) public art is a relatively more prominent paradigm than relational or conversational aesthetics or, I would add, protest art (in the vein of what is featured in the Interventionists or Disobedient Objects exhibitions, for instance).[2] Institutional critique is another point of difference. If we take the term in a general sense then there is no lack of such critique in modernist and avant-garde practice across the twentieth-century in Japan. But the form of institutional critique depends on the shape of institutions themselves and, as Reiko TOMII’s essay indicates, Japan’s institutions of modern and contemporary art have been different from those in Euro-America. We should therefore make a distinction between institutional critique as a general avant-garde strategy and institutional critique as a historical genre, identified most strongly with New York in the 1970s and 1980s. Japan’s social turn is deeply informed by the former but its forms of practice and appearance differ from the latter. These differences require subtle but pervasive adjustments in expectation about where current art and organizational forms are coming from—what resources the past provides as well as what people are reacting against. The three essays grouped in the Histories section are aimed to bring out these differences.

The second point relates to social history. While deploying the term “social turn” for its vagueness, I want to preserve the historical claim of there being a “turn,” which includes transformation in art forms as well as in the terms of art’s social existence. Something in society and art began to change (or some ongoing change began to become more visible) sometime in the 1990s, give or take a decade. In art, this takes the form of what has been referred to as a post-autonomous condition (or, if one resists such a fait accompli phrasing, at least a renewed questioning of what art’s autonomy means).[3] Anthropologist Néstor García Canclini has argued that art’s post-autonomous condition is one aspect of larger changes: the unraveling of the welfare state, the disintegration of public culture, and the disappearance of shared narratives—the death of “everything that was modern in the organization of social life.”[4] Adrian Favell’s essay makes a similar point. And I agree with Favell’s argument that while Japan’s situation is not unique, Japan has seen the longest unwinding of modern assumptions (progress, development, expansion, etc.) among developed nations. Indeed, the consistency of slow decline since the early 1990s is so long-running and complexly determined that neo-liberalism becomes questionable as a sole cause or explanation. Neo-liberalism might be but one aspect of a set of larger-scale transformations.

This point, like the previous one, is a matter of emphasis. These are issues that socially engaged art and criticism deal with already. Japan’s case, however, prompts attention to the question of how artists are reimagining value and meaning in the absence of growth. Japan remains developed, highly literate, and globally-connected, but growth and expansion are no longer recognized as a basic organizing vector. Some people with an anti-modernizing frame of mind might celebrate this, but the most common experience and public understanding of the situation in Japan is negative; articulated as malaise, stagnation, deflation, disintegration. That negative valence, rooted in frustration, a sense of narrowing opportunity, and declining expectations, is fertile soil for the emergence of neo-nationalism. The question of how to create common values without the promise of growth (no matter how false a promise it might be) is a major challenge facing modernized cultures generally, and it is a particular challenge for inherited assumptions about value in modern art.

The third and final point, which I will return to near the end of the introduction, goes beyond the recent social turn and therefore does not relate directly to the papers in this collection. It is important to raise nonetheless. While it is true that the category of socially engaged art is fuzzy, it is not infinitely so. It has grown out of a genealogy of abstract, conceptual, and performance art that can be traced back to the 1960s in the U.S., Japan, and western Europe. As we look to new social possibilities in art, however, we should recognize that that very canon has been shaped by the exigencies of Cold War cultural politics and, in the U.S., racial politics. A devaluation of representation and mimesis often runs through definitions of socially engaged art. But that devaluation is entirely in line with modernism and recapitulates the historical marginalization of, and related theoretical deafness to, for instance, figuration and expressionism. Socially engaged art can be an opportunity to develop new social histories of art. But if that is to happen we will have to recognize that, indeed, all art can be thought of as socially engaged. Yet tracing out how it is engaged remains only narrowly explored insofar as we rely on the established canon of the (neo-)avant-garde as it developed in capitalist countries post-1945.


Autonomy Anomie


Reiko Tomii argues that one important question that socially engaged art in Japan can help illuminate is the way in which what she calls “the autonomy bias” still haunts contemporary art. Tomii separates artists’ work into two categories, operations and expressions, operations being organizational/institutional work and expressions being artwork proper. Modernism, which has been repeatedly critiqued over the years for its incoherent disavowal of market/institutional support for art and artists, tends to confuse these types of work: aesthetic autonomy is grounded in claims that the artist/artwork are autonomous (especially from state, market, or partisanship). Andrea Fraser and Peter Osborne have approached this question from different directions yet arrive at the same basic conclusion, that autonomy claims in institutionalized modern art are deeply contradictory.[5] To an extent, this is old news. Yet for all of the times that artists and critics have tried to break out of it, the autonomy bias remains remarkably difficult to confront for Euro-North American modern, contemporary, and avant-garde art criticism. Somehow it still remains somewhat scandalous to observe the way in which the avant-garde remains dependent on the support of the bourgeoisie, in the form of an “umbilical cord of gold,” to borrow Clement Greenberg’s well-worn phrase.[6]

Tomii senses the bias is still at work in the term “socially engaged art” itself—a term that would serve no definitional purpose if everyone recognized social engagement as an obvious quality of art from the outset. For a more extended example of how the bias can disrupt critical work, we can look to Claire Bishop’s Artificial Hells. Artists and artworks that Bishop praises aesthetically contain within their mechanism some implicit or explicit demonstration of autonomy from institutions, from society, or from mainstream ethical concerns. Artists and artworks she dismisses, on the other hand, are not dismissed on aesthetic grounds but because the discursive or institutional framing of their work is problematic. Oda Projesi is problematic because members and critics refuse to foreground art’s autonomy in their discourse (with little said about the aesthetic qualities of the projects per se). Video-based delegated performance must be carefully distinguished from faithful documentary, its validity grounded for Bishop in the fact that “the artist assumes a strong editorial role,” which implies that the aesthetic viability of the works hinge on the editorial autonomy of the artist. Marina Abramović’s designated performance piece at the 2011 LA MoCA gala is bad participatory art because it is so nakedly market-oriented.[7] Thus, while claiming to be speaking in the name of the aesthetic value of participatory art against the encroachments of ethical bases for judgment, Bishop’s own sensitivity to aesthetics is highly determined by ethical criteria. Thus Oda Projesi, faithful documentary, and Abramović fail on moral grounds first (failure to demonstrate autonomy), making aesthetic exploration of them unrewarding from the outset. Bishop herself notes her ethical investment briefly: “Instead of obeying a super-egoic injunction to make ameliorative art, the most striking, moving, and memorable forms of participation are produced when artists act . . . without the incapacitating restrictions of guilt.”[8] What she does not recognize is just how deeply these normative criteria contradict her main claim, to be rescuing the aesthetic freedom of the artwork. Aesthetic freedom is not in a dependent relationship with the institutional setting of a work, as Rancière (who Bishop often refers to in this regard) clearly demonstrates when he admires moments of modern aesthesis inspired by such market-saturated and socially encumbered cultural fare as decorative art, Charlie Chaplin films, and the furniture of share-croppers.[9] As Osborne argues succinctly in reference to the Kantian-Schillerian tradition, “The autonomy of art is not–although it has often been thought to be–the same thing as the ‘autonomy of the aesthetic’. Nor can the autonomy of the aesthetic provide a conceptual basis for the autonomy of art.”

Given that shifting understanding of art’s autonomy is one of the central axes of debate in socially engaged art criticism in both Japan and elsewhere, Tomii’s invitation to enter Japan is timely and relevant. Japan, as she points out, is an environment where modern art has never had the resources to enable the suppression of art’s social non-autonomy. The confusion of aesthetic autonomy with art’s autonomy may not have been so grave in an environment where neither market nor art institutions had the strength to keep up the fiction of the artist’s or the artwork’s autonomy. Artists and the critics interpreting them were not in a position to have to continually suppress the unsightliness of modern and avant-garde art’s “umbilical cord of gold” because they hardly had one. To use Bourdieu’s terms, modern and avant-garde art in Japan never established the same degree of autonomy as a field of cultural production as their counterparts did in the U.S. and Europe. With only one exception, art museums housing modern art did not exist in Japan until after 1945, and commercial galleries for contemporary art first appeared in the 1950s, with only a handful operating in the 1960s. Something resembling a field of fine arts only really began functioning in the 1980s.[10] This is a radical if not immediately obvious difference that becomes newly important in this moment of global change in art’s institutions and ontology.

Being free of the contradictions of the autonomy bias is hardly a utopia, however. Being “free” of monetary support and the labor of others (curators, critics, assistants, conservators, etc.) rarely feels liberating. Artists knew about the labor that went into making artworks visible because they were the ones providing much of that labor. They knew that art needed audiences, and that those audiences had to be carefully handled because they were the ones trying to cultivate those audiences. Few if any of them saw that as a blessing or as something to be proud of. And none of them saw their “operations,” to use Tomii’s term, as art. Until, Tomii argues, the late 1960s, where she begins to trace some of the underground streams feeding the development of participation, collaboration, and socially engaged art in Japan today. It is interesting to note that the pioneers she discusses began to think of their “operations” as a field of artistic expression at precisely the same time that the institutions that could sustain art as an independent field were finally beginning to consolidate in Japan.

Tomii’s approach leaves important questions open, however. She argues that for groups like GUN and The Play, the tension between operational work and expressive work (or, to use a modernist idiom, between market/institutional dependence and aesthetic autonomy) is no longer a major factor. They began to think of all of their activities (operational and expressive) as being expressive, meaning that the whole project can be approached as an aesthetic object, or at least a set of aesthetic beginnings, an extremely extended and elliptical performance. This is a crucial historical development to be sure, but I would also point to some limitations to this framing. Practical limits include the fact that the people she focuses on realized their work through barter and by dint of great patience, their audience was tiny and fractured, they had to work within larger systems of power like the law, and their efforts remain obscure even today. Undertaking artwork without the buffer of an autonomous field of production is tremendously demanding: it is not a path all artists or art can be expected to tread. To put this in slightly more abstract terms, Tomii’s approach does not confront the autonomy bias, but rather postpones it by presenting relatively pure cases wherein the bias becomes correspondingly moot. To the extent that the artists she introduces have gone out into the wilderness in order to create outside of an autonomous field (giving up even the relatively meager comforts of the field as it existed in Japan), the contradictoriness of claims to art’s autonomy evaporates. The social supports usually needed simply do not exist for them and indeed, they display—rather than disavow—what supports they’ve built when they begin to consider them part of their “expressions.” Such a focus, however, does not allow a systematic confrontation with the larger question of how art and aesthetics might be supported socially in ways other than by appeal to autonomy.

A similar limit appears in Grant Kester’s work. Kester focuses on the aesthetics of collaboration that can be found in unscripted (ex)changes that occur in the context of provisionally shared orientations towards undetermined futures. But he also tends to choose small-scale, pure examples to illustrate his argument, effectively postponing the question of how those aesthetic collaborations intersect with other contexts. This is not to say he ignores the issue. He mentions that class and education empower the artists in Dialogue vis-à-vis the Adivasi, he shows how militant radicalism formed the backdrop to Park Fiction’s confrontation with the forces of development in Hamburg, and he talks through the complexity of Project Row Houses’ relationship to urban redevelopment and gentrification. But the theory of collaborative aesthetics he develops does not address what forms of judgment and action should come into play at these thresholds of heteronomy. Both Park Fiction and Dialogue, for instance, are realized around “a deliberate, collectively realized, claiming of space,” but in both cases that claiming of space seems to be successful due to exercises of power that are at odds with the dialogic and collaborative models Kester traces in his account of aesthetics.[11] Perhaps that is reason enough not to explore them. But tending to leave off analysis at that point and for that reason re-inscribes a border between the inherent autonomy of aesthetics and the heteronomous operations of society, politics, and the economy.

I would argue that the situation in Japan is even more insistent in forcing us to face those thresholds of heteronomy, requiring us to think through heteronomy as such, without recuperating it into artistic practice itself.


Public Art Anew


The practice and study of public art requires both scholars and artists to remain attentive to both social context and the specific audiences involved in a given work. A number of recent publications in English have urged that public art be returned to the heart of debates over socially engaged art/social practice, because artists working in that mode are working in fields with decades of history and experience that predate the recent social turn.[12] Engaging discourses of public art becomes even more urgent in approaching the social turn in Japan.

The “art project (āto purojekuto),” which Kajiya Kenji investigates in his article, is a major feature of the social turn in Japan, and it is fundamentally a form of public art. While the rise of the “project” is not unique to Japan, its contemporary prominence may well be.[13] To be clear, not all socially engaged art in Japan takes the form or context of an art project. Artists such as the group Chim↑Pom, who work in an interventionist, media-savvy mode and invoke the Situationists as inspiration, are clearly engaged, socially and politically. By making tactical use of mischievous performances, their works’ publicity does not rely on the long-running support of a particular community or group of curators but upon media attention, their own documentation, and a talent for creating events that are ephemeral yet extremely generative and durable as rumors, as Miwako TEZUKA’s article shows. But works like Chim↑Pom’s are in the clear minority of socially engaged art in Japan. Many more works are in the form or context of the art project, and the predominance of art projects can be seen as one of the major reasons behind the relative lack of controversial politics in Japan’s contemporary socially engaged art.

As Kajiya writes, “because [art projects from the late 1990s] intersected with the policy of local governments they tended to avoid controversial works that could stir public disapproval.” As he also shows, some of the pioneering curators who led art projects in the late 1990s were less interested in the cultural and historical legacy of particular sites than in their spatial and visual features. While it would be wrong to assume that all art projects have suffered from the same oversights (the field has diversified considerably since the 1990s), it should be noted that discourses of (re)development and revitalization still form a broad umbrella for most of the hundreds of art projects around Japan—just as they did in the late 1990s. These are discourses that put the past on notice; experiences and histories that are compatible with the intended movement into the future are emphasized and repackaged for the journey while less convenient ones are left behind. Who defines that collective future—its image, form, and priorities—remains a critical, ongoing question for Japan’s long-running art projects. But the tendency to head off controversy rather than to welcome it publicly makes it rare for art projects to be the stage for those pointed debates. As the ending of Kajiya’s essay shows, an early supporter of and participant in Japan’s art projects, KAWAMATA Tadashi, has become critical of the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale for excluding the less assimilable experiences of its aging hosts—something particularly troubling when we realize they are among the stars of the show (if we think of the triennial itself as a kind of performance).

Part of the problem is particular to Japan: local governments have tremendous aversion to risk and controversy. From the perspective of career administrators, public debate over their policies and actions is welcome only within certain bounds. That is not to say that there is no space within art projects for play, for the unexpected, for the challenging, but there are still red lines, especially around sexually explicit works, to take one example; these are issues that will be taken up further in the second part of this collection in fall. Another part of the problem, however, is not particular to Japan: finding the ground to critique public art is generally difficult. Public art addresses itself to actual, diverse audiences—a far more complex proposition than is typical of modernist and avant-garde assumptions about audience.[14] New genre public art (including Japan’s art projects) complicates things further by opening itself to actual, diverse co-creators and participants. What critical standards govern the weight we give to the needs of particular audiences/creators vis-à-vis other particular audiences/creators? When, and to what extent, do we take the act of offending and shocking audiences to be legitimate? These are questions that have not been answered definitively anywhere; it may not be possible to identify any context-independent norms. Japan’s art projects raise these issues anew, and on a grand scale.

Art projects, I should stress, are not political and artistic dead zones. Speaking to the social/political questions they raise, one recurring issue is the unevenness of Japan’s post-growth decline. While the unevenness of growth is much-discussed, the unevenness of decline is less so, but is at least as fractious. Adrian Favell has written a number of articles about this, and he touches upon it in his essay here too.[15] For two decades, Japan’s economy has seen little growth and prices have slowly deflated. As Favell points out, its annual net population loss projected through 2050 is about half a million people a year—“equivalent to a city the size of Nagasaki.”[16] The places that bear the brunt of this loss, however, are not major cities, but villages in the countryside that return to nature after the last of their aged residents die or move into a care facility, and regional cities and suburbs that slowly empty out and fall into disrepair. Though this shift is well-known, what the situation means has not yet been imagined. There is no “epicenter” to focus our conceptualization of these processes, only a progressive fading out of the margins.

As Favell argues, “These kinds of social structural facts set a certain backdrop for any art which intends to be socially engaged.” When Japan’s art projects and artists engage with the elderly, with the socially isolated, or with decrepit town centers in provincial cities, this seems less a sign of political softheaded-ness than a way to address their work to people and places that neoliberal logic has neglected unto death. The question of how to create common value in these places, without recourse to the teleology of growth, is a major challenge. Writing about the situation of indigenous people in Australia’s Northern Territories and the work of the Karrabing Film Collective, Elizabeth Povinelli observes, “Indigenous sovereignty over space fully reemerges in the space of utter state abandonment and total capital despoilment.”[17] While there are major differences in the scale of capitalism’s violence in Australia and in hinterland Japan, despoilment by industrial development and abandonment under neoliberalism is something they share, as is the reemergence of sovereign difference amidst that abandonment. Precisely in its narrow, extractive fundamentalism, neoliberalism leaves a great deal out. At the close of her book on changes in the lives of young people in recessionary Japan, Andrea Gevurtz Arai writes:

But, neoliberal time is also producing, often out of necessity, a small consciousness revolution. When income no longer covers more than the rent in the major cities, a young person must turn elsewhere. The change I saw taking place represents a movement away from more than just physical space. Members of the recessionary generation seem to be rethinking notions of convenience and remaking the ideas of reciprocity and mutuality to create lives in and for the present and not in a race for the future. There is a sense of possibility in the spaces these young people are creating, in their making lives within a difficult set of conditions.[18]

What resources do modern cultures have for this situation, for finding value in living through decrepitude, decline, stasis? What about modern and contemporary art? When participant and audience are no longer assumed as the young, upstart, urban, on-the-move poacher, and when the topology of the social situation fundamentally disobeys the explosive, volcanic model of the epicenter, art will have to change in unfamiliar directions. Perhaps Japan’s experiments in new public art are the obverse of the avant-garde—scattered, ad-hoc, and somewhat unassuming attempts to find value amongst the pockets left after the pox of developmentalism has passed.

Favell’s approach to large scale post-growth art projects is also interesting in the way it might address some of the limitations noted above: the difficulty in expanding collaborative, conversational, or expressive-operational aesthetics to the more complex workings of power that inevitably appear at scales larger than the small or local collaboration. Although he leaves this analysis suggestive in the present article, Favell proposes that even the practical dimensions of the work of art organizers such as KITAGAWA Fram, YANAGI Yukinori, and NAKAMURA Masato can be approached as art. In another recent piece, picking up from what the art organizers say themselves, he has proposed that the gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art) could be a potentially useful concept in this context.[19] Approaching the organizational dimensions of large art projects aesthetically could indeed prove groundbreaking, as it would force confrontation with a much broader range of gray-area situations than usually explored: hierarchies; professional identities; norms of labor and resource allocation involving overlapping commercial-, gift-, and moral-economies; complexities of market-, artistic-, and heritage-understandings of ownership and usage rights; as well as multiple and often contradictory forms of administrative power in the public realm.

To my knowledge, no one has yet attempted to apply aesthetic approaches on this scale. Shannon Jackson provides a wonderful challenge and set of theoretical insights in her introduction to the concept of infrastructural aesthetics, but in her research she tends, like Kester, to stay within artists’ focalization of infrastructural questions. She traces the “unraveling” of the division of parergon and ergon—the outside world of support and the inside world of aesthetic autonomy—but does so from the perspective of the ergon: “unraveling . . . the frame that would cast the ‘social’ as ‘extra.’”[20] But moving through or inviting in the parergon only insofar as artists and theater groups choose to engage it provides only a weak demonstration of what removing that barrier might look like. Framing the question as one of “how can we admit the social as a main player in our artwork?” is relatively locatable and tractable compared to a question like, “how can art change the world?” Japan’s large art projects—with casts of volunteers, artists, art directors, resident-hosts, and local officials that reach into the mid-thousands; audiences in the mid-hundreds of thousands; a staging that makes a division between parergon and ergon all but impossible; and with ambitions to change deep socio-economic trends such as patterns of human migration—could push infrastructural aesthetics in fascinating new directions.

To return in closing to the Chim↑Pom-initiated project, Don’t Follow the Wind, which Miwako Tezuka introduces, its format could be read as an inverted art project and a particularly apt monument to its time and place. It takes the form that many art projects do: installations or events housed in empty buildings whose use has been permitted by the owners. This is an organizational mainstay of hundreds of projects around Japan. But the site of Don’t Follow the Wind is defined by inaccessibility and invisibility. There are no residents or visitors. The site has been forced into isolation and ruin very suddenly, in a concentrated demonstration of modernization’s outsides. If the emptiness left by neoliberalist abandonment is (dis)appearing slowly in other places around Japan, the nuclear disaster has forced the difficult-to-return zone to (dis)appear as an externality extremely suddenly: a site—or rather a state of existence—where the costs of extraction spike beyond any possibility of redemption by profitability. In that way it marks both a past and a future-perfect. For the residents who have had their lives and communities turned upside down and for those who empathize with their plight, the site marks a doubly unreachable past: one that is unreturnable in the usual sense, in addition to being unreachable as a present communal embodiment in the form of shared markers and spaces of loss. But it also marks a future past, an as-yet invisible monument to what will have been in everyone’s lives once they cross over into terminal expendability.


Scales of Change


When we begin with the framework of the art project and public art, it can be difficult to avoid a top-down or a mid-level perspective. Even with the most diligent attention it can be hard to track what participating in a project or appreciating an artwork does in and for an individual. UEDA Kanayo’s perspective is invaluable for enabling us to consider phenomena that emerge at the smallest scales of interaction and expression: one of her examples explains the difference that a miniscule habit of word-usage made in the life of one of the men who frequented the Cocoroom. Finding significance in such tiny ephemera of performance demonstrates the scales at which self-conscious expression (artistry?) can intervene in ways that make a difference.

There are two areas of understanding I would like to highlight that Ueda’s work contributes to. First, it demonstrates how individual expression is a social phenomenon. Many have criticized Jürgen Habermas for the assumption that people have basically equal capacity to express. Ueda’s work demonstrates that with undeniable concreteness. But beyond that, it also shows how we each create the conditions of others’ expression through our own speech and behavior, i.e., her work shows how people who have—for social reasons—great difficulty in expressing themselves can be afforded conditions where they can gain some ability to express. Ultimately whether they do so is up to them (many people never tread the path of the three relative successes she introduces), but at the same time their ability to express is not solely a matter of individual will, but also depends on the (self-)consciousness about expression among those around them.

Rancière’s political and historical work often contains a warning—sometimes explicit, sometimes implicit—that conscientious experts and do-gooders should not appoint themselves as custodians of the dispossessed. He is most interested in the moments of unbidden expression themselves as and when they happen, and he consistently avoids concerning himself with the conditions that might help the dispossessed to express themselves (that, after all, would introduce questions of social distribution).[21] His stance demonstrates a certain historical privilege (and possibly other kinds of privilege as well): when we can look back and cherry pick moments of surprising and world-changing articulation, we can sustain a certain account of radical political speech as something that emerges persistently but whose ground can’t be cultivated. Ueda’s work shows just how cavalier that assumption is. People do change the expressive capacities of others in their own speech and actions and, if that is the case, we should see it as a moment where expressive (self-)consciousness can effect change. The idea that one’s own behavior affects the dynamics of possibility for others is undoubtedly inconvenient for some, but I don’t think we should allow ourselves the comfort of thinking that transformational expression just happens. It is worth noting here that Rancière’s blindness to the sacrifices that speaking up can entail is far more cavalier and willfully ignorant of differentials of risk and reward across class, gender, and race than anything Habermas has proposed. That said, this is ultimately not a fundamental critique of Rancière’s model but of its usual scale of application: if his politics were conceived as being immanent in every moment of interaction then we would be close to understanding the revolutions the Cocoroom awaits and celebrates as they happen.

The second significant issue has to do with the space of the Cocoroom. As Ueda offers us a glimpse into this space, it is extremely open: it is available during business hours, has few rules, and makes few demands. Everyone and anyone can come and go as they please. Such openness has costs, however, as Ueda’s account also shows. While Americans like to pride themselves on being “free,” and while many people outside Japan have an image of Japan as being a particularly rule-bound society, the Cocoroom is a form of radicalism that might have trouble operating in the same manner in the U.S. Not because of direct regulation by governmental entities, but because of rental and insurance contracts. This observation is anecdotal to be sure, but I would like to propose that the operation of the Cocoroom is one example of the sometimes surprising level of flexibility, fluidity, tolerance and, beyond tolerance, active support that can appear at the neighborhood or town level of social life in Japan. When government and the law get involved it can be extremely onerous, but most daily life in Japan operates without reference to laws at all, but through ways of doing that are more flexible and tolerant of risk than one might expect. The infiltration of U.S. public life by the professionally uncharitable view of human capacity enshrined in liability protection is something Japan remains comparatively free of.


The Triple Disaster (Isn’t Over)


The triple disaster that began on March 11, 2011 was massive, and its effects will remain beyond full comprehension for the foreseeable future. While its size is one aspect, another key aspect is that it has affected and continues to affect different people in different ways, and those effects have changed over time. While it has enabled new alliances in response, it has also created deep divisions and brought to light existing ones.

To provide some basic facts, the triggering disaster was the Great East Japan Earthquake, which occurred off the coast of northeastern Japan (north of Tokyo). The earthquake caused a tsunami that inundated areas along that coast 10-30 minutes later. The huge volume of water destroyed just about everything in its path. In some areas it reached miles inland. The most recent figures (2016) put the number of people killed in these disasters at 19,500 with another 2,500 still missing, almost all of which are the result of the tsunami. Shinchi, whose evacuated residents staged the My Town Market that TAKEHISA Yuu introduces in her essay, was struck by a 9.3-meter tsunami that flooded one fifth of the town’s area. In a town of about 8,000 just over 100 died, and over 2,000 became refugees. The entire town center of Rikuzentakata, where KOMORI Haruka and SEO Natsumi work, was washed away. Out of a population of about 23,000, nearly 1,800 died or remain missing while 16,579 were made refugees. At its peak, the total number of refugees reached 470,000 and at present 123,000 people remain displaced.[22] The nuclear disaster began when the tsunami flooded the backup generator (located in the basement) of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, shutting down the plant’s cooling systems. This caused three reactors to overheat and begin to melt down; containment breaches and cooling operations have since discharged large amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere and ocean.

Radioactive pollution spreads as a particulate, some types of which are water soluble. Radioactive particles radiate, but not over long distances: the primary danger is if the particulates get close to the body, by landing on the clothes or skin or worse, being ingested or inhaled, where they can become lodged in internal organs and continue to radiate. Contamination spreads on wind and water currents, accumulating wherever it comes to rest. It is absorbed by plants from soil and water, and from there moves through the food chain. The complexity of these vectors, along with the fact that any amount is dangerous over time,[23] makes the geographic distribution of danger extremely difficult to map. That inherent difficulty has been compounded by the Japanese government and the TEPCO’s pattern of providing false, incomplete, and/or unreliable information. Reporters without Borders downgraded Japan in its World Press Freedom Index from 22nd place in 2012, to 53rd in 2013, citing “a lack of transparency and almost zero respect for access to information on subjects directly or indirectly related to Fukushima.”[24]

The government-instituted “zones” of danger around the plant very roughly correspond to the dispersion of pollution following the largest releases, but the zone designations have multiple problems. First, the standards used to define “safe” have been egregiously doctored since the disaster: the government’s original goal for decontamination was an exposure level of 1 mSv per year but they quickly raised this to 20 mSv per year. According to the ICRP (International Commission for Radiological Protection), 20 mSv is an acceptable annual exposure level for industry workers, not the general public. Second, measurement methods that establish radiation levels at a site have long been criticized for sampling airborne radiation: the much more serious concern is the radiation level on the ground and other surfaces. Third (though by no means final), the clean-up, which has centered on the huge undertaking of removing all the topsoil from relevantly zoned areas, has had many shortcomings, one of which is that it did not include wooded areas. Wooded areas tend to collect and absorb runoff water, making them natural radiation sinks. But short of tearing out all the trees and vegetation, they cannot be decontaminated. While the government has been encouraging former residents to return to their homes by declaring certain areas newly safe and ending subsidies for people displaced from them, if there are any woods in the back of these people’s house they are likely to still be dangerously radioactive even by government standards.

These events have affected different people differently and the type and pattern of problems has shifted over time. The original Artists and the Disaster exhibition, curated by Takehisa in 2012, was highly sensitive to the issue of temporality and the diversity of effects, as well as the diversity of artistic response. As the subtitle states, the exhibition was a “documentation in progress,” a single point in an ongoing process of being aware of and bringing awareness to the disasters which themselves were ongoing. She extends that documentation in this issue by revisiting three of the projects that continued after the exhibition. KITAZAWA Jun’s My Town Market demonstrates most clearly how site- and need-specificity can affect a project. The form of the market evolved largely at the refugees’ initiative, and answered particular needs that arose from dislocation in the sterile environment of prefab refugee housing, serving as a community event, a “festival,” a collective creative effort, and an affirmation of what they could do for themselves. The project did not continue beyond that situation.

Komori and Seo’s works reflect the changing situation along the Tohoku coast. The tsunami’s destruction of Rikuzentakata has since been followed by another wave of destruction in the form of reconstruction. The town is one of many examples of massive, poorly-conceived construction projects that have been pushed by the central government and often opposed by locals (the centerpiece of these plans is a 230km “great seawall,” Rikuzentakata’s section of which will cost about $270 million).[25] The town is now known for the project of raising an entire 124-hectare area of land by 12 meters to support a newly built downtown that will replace the one lost, at a cost of over $1 billion.[26] Construction has gone ahead regardless of the fact that there is no demonstrated local demand for the town center to be rebuilt in such a fashion: in a recent survey, 66% of former residents who will own plots in the newly raised area said they have no plans ever to return. Such experiences are multiply divisive. People and places have lost different things; people grieve and seek closure differently; some people get more assistance than others; arguments erupt over what recovery should look like and over whether to accept recovery aid if it is tied to boondoggle projects; some want to return or remain, while some have moved on to new lives elsewhere. Major differences simmer over public voice: should people complain, criticize, or raise alarms? Should they put on a brave face to attract visitors and investment? Having experienced the disasters themselves, survivors have been thrown into a position of having to navigate a politically and publicly fraught position as survivors, one that is rent by strong, conflicting loyalties. It is not only communities that are split, but individuals as well: a complexity of experience which Komori and Seo’s work traces over time.

Project Fukushima is interesting because it brings together many different kinds of people, problems, and responses, and because it has been relatively forthright in addressing divisions between people. Preparations for the festival involved volunteers who wanted to do something constructive following the disasters, including people who had lost loved ones, home, and occupation. Sewing together the giant piece of cloth (the furoshiki) that was to be spread on the festival grounds was one major part of that preparation. Before any semblance of daily life had returned, just having something to do could be a blessing. The music festival welcomes people from wherever they come and also encourages people around Japan to organize their own festivals in their own locales to correspond with the event. It includes aspects of citizen education and information sharing such as lectures on radioactive pollution and a radio program.

It also broadcasts critical voices: co-founder ENDŌ Michirō’s first idea was to call the festival “Genpatsu kuso kurae (Eat shit, nuclear power).” But that critical voice is combined with the goal of connecting Fukushima to the rest of the world and rejecting it being made into a pariah: what Endō meant by “nuclear” included both the nuclear power industry and anti-nuclear activists whose discourse turned Fukushima into a symbol of irredeemable devastation.[27] Like other places that host nuclear power plants, Fukushima was economically and culturally neglected for much of Japan’s modern history, making nuclear-led development an easy sell. The idea that Fukushima should then bear the taint of nuclear pollution reiterates the pattern of externalizing the ugly parts of modernization—the power from the Fukushima Daiichi plant had, after all, been going to Tokyo. As Noriko MANABE has pointed out, Endō’s use of “my” in his anthem “Genpatsu Burūzu (Nuclear Power Blues)” is significant in the way it connects the meltdown to the song’s narrator as an individual: it is not another place or person’s problem.


My nuclear power plant had a meltdown.          Ore no genpatsu, merutodaun

It’s spreading radioactivity.                                 Hōshanō o maki chirasu

I’d call it a massacre.                                          Ore no kotoba de minagoroshi da [28]


Insofar as this awareness of everyone’s implication in the meltdown is part of Fukushima’s connection to the world, the festival addresses local and global issues simultaneously. But the festival is constitutionally eclectic. Improvisation, participation, and fun are its basic modus operandi. That being the case, the framing discourse of promoting Fukushima and giving people a reason to visit could be taken to gloss over the issue of pollution and the nuclear, bolstering a “Fukushima strong”-style allegiance to one’s home prefecture. Simply put, does the project of fighting Fukushima’s isolation entail making Fukushima’s problems everyone’s or does it entail declaring Fukushima “normal”? The organizers consistently emphasize the former. But the latter message is much more palatable to the general public and certainly to officialdom; the support of public institutions like the prefectural government and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science, and Technology indicates that many supporters concentrate on the festival’s potential to normalize Fukushima. Given that the right wing, pro-nuclear government of ABE Shinzō is now pushing to bury concerns about the disaster and the continuing dangers of radioactive pollution by forcibly normalizing affected areas, and by withdrawing subsidies from those who chose to flee elsewhere in the aftermath, this latter valence has become more problematic in recent years.

We might ask, however, why it is that we expect people from Fukushima to bear the burden of anti-nuclear advocacy? Why should people whose lives and peace of mind have been destroyed by nuclear myopia be the ones who have to speak? The idea that they have a special testimony to bear as witnesses is particularly weak in this case. Given radioactive pollution’s invisibility there is little in their sensorial experience that makes that experience remarkable: the division between “us” and “them” is based purely on the assumption of “our” own safety. To the extent we live in the same state of undefined environmental menace, we are all required to speak. This kind of “identity-” or “site-bias” is a much broader issue. (Why is the work of female artists easier to accept if we can talk about them as female artists? Why is it easier to discuss if they take up gender issues in a legibly critical way?) We should at least be aware of such biases, as well as their inverses: people from Fukushima certainly do speak out, against nuclear injustice and also against the injunction not to speak out, not to make a scene, not to risk airing the “dirty laundry.” One of the strongest voices for justice is that of MUTŌ Ruiko, a Fukushima resident who heads a group of fellow residents pursuing criminal charges against TEPCO.[29]

To return to Don’t Follow the Wind, one further value to be taken from it is the way it complicates the idea of a site. The exhibition claims Fukushima’s “difficult-to-return zone” quite forthrightly but then refuses to fill that site in with any actuality. We can’t tour the neighborhood, we can’t interview the homeowners to get their side of the story, and the artists and organizers provide little information. By being absent, the actual site refuses to serve as the material vessel for whatever concerns the idea of the exhibition might call up. It refuses to locate the larger issue precisely. In that respect, Don’t Follow the Wind is a stochastic site. For all but a tiny audience it is unverifiable, it exists only as rumors and shadows, in a way that mimics the effects of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, together with all nuclear releases since 1945—spills that continue to course through earth’s ecosystems and bodies, though only as rumors, shadows, slim possibilities for all but a few. Danger is on the wind, not on a piece of ground in Fukushima.

While some of these projects doubtless speak to different readers differently, my own “conclusion” is that all of them are partial, all are successes, and all are failures. Don’t Follow the Wind has of course been criticized—legitimately—for its narcissism, for trading in disaster porn, and for missing the complexities of this or that issue. It appears that there is little clean ground to stand on. In the collective unavailability of whatever totalizing moral bottom line we might want to reduce them to, they are indexes of an even more profound complexity running through the issues themselves, as well as the reality that everything is still very much in progress.


Taste in Art and Politics


Taste is at work in evaluating politics as much as art. Shannon Jackson has written about this with great clarity, and I think the importance of her observations cannot be overemphasized:

as we come to terms with hybrid forms of socially engaged art, no doubt every citizen will find herself jostled between competing and often contradictory associations that celebrate and reject varied visions of ‘the social.’ This is a matter of what we used to call ‘taste,’ a regime of sensibility that we like to pretend we have overcome. Nevertheless, our impulses to describe a work as ironic or earnest, elitist or as literal, critical or sentimental show that many of us have emotional as well as conceptual investments in certain barometers for gauging … a socially engaged work.[30]

We cannot escape taste, but being aware of its operation helps. Kester and Jackson’s work can be read as a sustained critique of the operation of taste in judgments about politics and social change, and for that reason I will not retread the same ground here.

What I want to raise here is the point that there are also artistic structures of taste that affect not only how one sees art but also how one sees politics. To see this, let us frame a new question. Instead of asking how contemporary art has changed in the way it engages with the social (as tends to happen when we begin with the idea of socially engaged art), let’s briefly put art aside and think about moments of social change over the 20th and 21st centuries. These moments of social change can be large or small, well-known or obscure: revolutions, wars, genocides, liberation movements, civil rights and labor struggles, transformations to a city or neighborhood, changes in the household, migrations, even technological and environmental change. This is a very large category, but having picked out a couple of examples from this vast category, let us now ask what art has been involved with and emerged from those moments of social change. When we ask this question, the answer that history presents us will almost certainly overwhelm the generic and institutional boundaries of contemporary art. In a recent collection, Fukushima and the Arts: Negotiating Nuclear Disaster, to take one example, we can find essays on literature, documentary film, photography, music, poetry, theater, and manga, but out of the twelve essays only two deal with things that might appear on the radar of the art world (even the socially engaged art world).[31] If we are interested in a full range of artistic-political responses to the triple disaster, it is artificial to exclude work in certain genres.

More to the point, socially engaged art may miss certain political scenes entirely because of inherited assumptions about what constitutes valid artistic form. U.S. military bases—now mostly concentrated on Okinawa—have been the site of grassroots political struggles from the late 1940s to the present day, and those struggles have entailed large amounts of cultural production—poetry, music, theater, woodcut, paintings, fiction, documentary—but insisting that such work fit into contemporary canons of performance or socially engaged art would eviscerate most of it. Little of the work finds traction in Euro-American museums and, even in Japan, such political art has, until very recently, been relegated to municipal museums: appearing thanks to the work of a handful of maverick curators rather than any institutional mission.[32]

KuroDalaiJee (KURODA Raiji), chief curator at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum (FAAM), cites one example of such aesthetic/political skew from Korean art of the 1970s and 1980s. One major strand of art, known as Monochrome Painting (Tansaekhwa or Dansaekhwa), is a form of minimalist abstraction that “employs a unique tactile sensibility and oriental view of nature.”[33] Another strand, known as Minjung Art (People’s Art; Minjung Misul) played a part in South Korea’s democracy movements, which eventually overthrew the Cold War military-developmentalist dictatorship at the end of the 1980s. Minjung Art is more formally various, but political woodcut, music and poetry, and figurative painting are most prominent. Rather than arguing the point myself, I invite the reader to do a web search to see which has been more favored in its reception in English-language contemporary art.[34]

The differential is hardly random. Post-1945 Japanese art history has also been constructed as a progression from modernist expressionism (Gutai) to performance (Fluxus and Neo-Dada) to formalist minimalism (Mono-ha), a progression which should be unsurprising in its similarity to the canonical history of the neo avant-gardes in the U.S. Much gets left out of that history. To take one clear example, TOMIYAMA Taeko devoted most of her artistic career to social and political causes.[35] Yet, for that very reason, has been entirely excluded from major museums both inside and outside Japan. Her work has circulated primarily through activist networks, local and university museums, small galleries, and in the work of historians and anthropologists. Being that her work hinges on representational modes broadly speaking, it would also be invisible to socially engaged art if we assume it to be defined by performance, collaboration, participation, and dialogic forms. Expressionism, figuration (including drawing and woodcut), as well as traditional forms of arts, crafts, and performance can (and I think should) enter the discussion.[36]

Where “Japan’s social turn” places us in relation to the question of an expanded canon remains an open question. I for one would tentatively argue that the way Japan’s social turn has been less deeply wedded to relational and conversational aesthetics as forms of practice opens it to greater mixing and heterogeneity. Japan’s larger art projects mix multiple registers of culture—traditional craft, contemporary art, children’s games, hobbies, post-dramatic theater, photography, music festival, talent show, and more—into a chaotic hybrid. Some of the works are collaborative and conversation-based and have developed continuously over many years. Others are fairly traditional works of sculpture, installation, and photography that are not collaborative or even site-specific (although many do develop collaborative and socially-minded components when they are sited as or in an art project). A retrospective exhibition of Tomiyama Taeko’s work—the first ever—was held in an abandoned school building at the 2009 Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale. This event demonstrates that the format of the eclectic art project can accommodate more political diversity than any museum has been able to.


Until Next Time


The second part of this special issue, coming in the fall, will feature a number of essays on the institutional transformations of Japan’s art world over the past few decades, as well as essays introducing certain projects in detail, and two essays that touch on struggles over claims to the public. There is widespread concern that socially engaged art has emerged just as the government is withdrawing support from both social services and culture. This is a legitimate concern, though one that requires some understanding of larger institutional changes to answer. I hope that the coming issue will go some way towards doing that. Please have a look.


Justin Jesty is assistant professor of Asian Languages and Literature at the University of Washington, where he researches the relationship between visual arts and social movements in postwar Japan and teaches on Japanese film, literature, and post-1945 art. His book Arts of Engagement: Socially Engaged Art and the Democratic Culture of Japan’s Early Postwar, is expected out in spring 2018 from Cornell University Press. He has published articles on the realism debate in the arts in the late 1940s, photographer HAMAYA Hiroshi’s documentation of the 1960 Anpo protests, and a book chapter on the Minamata documentaries of TSUCHIMOTO Noriaki. See: http://washington.academia.edu/JustinJesty



• Thumbnail image: Tsubasa KATO, The Lighthouses – 11.3 PROJECT (2011). Photo by Kei MIYAJIMA. © Tsubasa Kato / Courtesy of the artist and MUJIN-TO Production.

1. Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen, “A Note on Socially Engaged Art Criticism,” FIELD 6 (Winter 2017).

2. Nato Thompson and Gregory Sholette, eds., The Interventionists: Users’ Manual for the Creative Disruption of Everyday Life (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004); Catherine Flood, Gavin Grindon, eds., Disobedient Objects (London: V&A Publishing, 2014).

3. See for instance, Shannon Jackson, Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics (New York: Routledge, 2011); Néstor García Canclini, Art beyond Itself: Anthropology for a Society without a Story Line, trans. David Frye (Durham: Duke, 2014); Sven Lütticken, Cultural Revolution: Aesthetic Practice after Autonomy (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2017).

4. Art beyond Itself, pp.132.

5. Peter Osborne, “Theorem 4: Autonomy: Can It Be True of Art and Politics at the Same Time?,” open! (May 1, 2012), http://www.onlineopen.org/theorem-4-autonomy (Accessed May 2017); Andrea Fraser, “Autonomy and Its Contradictions,” open! (May 1, 2012), https://www.onlineopen.org/download.php?id=363 (Accessed May 2017).

6. Clement Greenberg, “Avant-Garde and Kitsch,” Partisan Review 6:5 (1939), pp.34–49.

7. Claire Bishop, Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship (London: Verso, 2012), pp.20-22; 226-227; 230. In the case of the Abramovic piece, Bishop also objects to the “banality and paucity of ideas,” but offers no further analysis to account for her judgment.

8. Artificial Hells, p. See also p. 26.

9. Jacques Rancière, Aisthesis: Scenes from the Aesthetic Regime of Art, trans. Zakir Paul (London: Verso, 2013), Chapters 8, 11, and 14.

10. SUMITOMO Fumihiko, “Art Projects as the Post Avant-Garde: The Experiment of Arts Maebashi,” paper presented at the UW-JSPS Symposium on Socially Engaged Art in Japan, University of Washington (Nov. 12-14, 2015). Also see Adrian Favell, “The Contemporary Art Market in Galapagos: Japan and the Global Art World,” in Olav Velthuis and Stefano Baia Curioni, eds., Cosmopolitan Canvases: The Globalization of Markets for Contemporary Art (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 238-263.

11. Grant Kester, The One and the Many: Contemporary Collaborative Art in a Global Context (Durham: Duke, 2011), pp.205.

12. Cameron Cartiere is especially forthright on this point in her “Epilogue,” in Cher Krause Knight and Harriet F Senie, eds., A Companion to Public Art (Hoboken: Wiley Blackwell, 2016), pp.457-464. Other recent works include Cameron Cartiere and Martin Zebracki, eds., The Everyday Practice of Public Art (New York: Routledge, 2016); Claire Doherty, ed., Out of Time Out of Place: Public Art (Now) (London: Ar/ Books, 2015); Johanna Burton, Shannon Jackson, and Dominic Willsdon, eds., Public Servants: Art and the Crisis of the Common Good (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2016).

13. Bishop discusses the emergence of the “project” in Europe in “Former West: Art as Project in the Early 1990s,” in Artificial Hells, pp.193-218. Many projects in Japan bear similarity to the projects she introduces.

14. Kester has critiqued what he calls the “orthopedic” aesthetic, “in which the viewer’s implicitly flawed modes of cognition or perception will be adjusted or improved via exposure to the work of art.” The One and the Many, p.35.

15. See Adrian Favell, “Islands for life: Artistic responses to remote social polarization and population decline in Japan,” along with the volume this essay appears in: Stephanie Assman, ed., Sustainability in Contemporary Rural Japan: Challenges and opportunities (New York: Routledge, 2016).

16. Peter Matanle and Anthony Rausch with the Shrinking Regions Research Group, Japan’s Shrinking Regions in the Twenty-First Century: Contemporary Responses to Depopulation and Socio-Economic Decline (Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2011).

17. Elizabeth A. Povinelli, “Dear XXXXXXXXXXXXX, I Write Regarding Toxic Sovereignties in Windjarrameru,” in Public Servants, p.363. See also Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Economies of Abandonment: Social Belonging and Endurance in Late Liberalism (Durham: Duke, 2011).

18. Andrea Gevurtz Arai, The Strange Child: Education and the Psychology of Patriotism in Recessionary Japan (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016), p.171.

19. Adrian Favell, “Echigo-Tsumari and the Art of the Possible: The Fram Kitagawa Philosophy in Theory and Practice,” Fram Kitagawa, Art Place Japan: The Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale and the Vision to Reconnect Art and Nature (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2015), pp.143-173.

20. Shannon Jackson, Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics (New York: Routledge, 2011), pp.15-16.

21. I develop this objection further in my forthcoming book, Arts of Engagement: Socially Engaged Art and the Democratic Culture of Japan’s Early Postwar (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2018); Meg McLagan and Yates McKee also powerfully critique this failure of Rancière in “Introduction,” in Sensible Politics: The Visual Culture of Nongovernmental Activism (New York: Zone Books, 2012), pp.9-26.

22. See the website of Japan’s Reconstruction Agency, http://www.reconstruction.go.jp/english/topics/Progress_to_date/index.html (Accessed May 2017).

23. Alison Abbott, “Researchers pin down risks of low-dose radiation: large study of nuclear workers shows that even tiny doses slightly boost risk of leukaemia,” Nature, vol. 523, no. 7558, 2015, p.17+

24. Reporters Without Borders, “2013 World Press Freedom Index: Dashed hopes after spring” (January 30, 2013 – Updated on January 25, 2016), https://rsf.org/en/news/2013-world-press-freedom-index-dashed-hopes-after-spring (accessed May 2017).

25. David McNeill and Justin McCurry, “After the Deluge: Tsunami and the Great Wall of Japan,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 12, Issue 30, No. 1 (July 28, 2014). http://apjjf.org/2014/12/30/David-McNeill/4152/article.html (Accessed May 2017); “Rikuzentakata ni kyodai bōchōtei: takasa 12 mētoru zenchō 2 kilo,” Sankei Nyūsu (January 30, 2017), http://www.sankei.com/affairs/news/170130/afr1701300008-n1.html (Accessed May 2017).

26. Reiji YOSHIDA, “Tsunami-hit Rikuzentakata rebuilding on raised ground, hoping to thrive anew,” The Japan Times (March 7, 2017), http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/07/national/tsunami-hit-rikuzentakata-rebuilding-high-ground-hoping-thrive-anew/ (Accessed May 2017).

27. Noriko Manabe, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Protest Music After Fukushima (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), p.300.

28. Manabe’s translation, in The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, 304. Manabe notes the critique of masculinity that runs through the song and that can be glimpsed in this lyric.

29. See Norma Field, “From Fukushima: To Despair Properly, To Find the Next Step,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 14, Issue 17, No. 3 (September 1, 2016), http://apjjf.org/2016/17/Field.html (Accessed May 2017).

30. “Living takes many forms,” in Nato Thompson ed., Living as form: socially engaged art from 1991-2011 (New York: Creative Times Books, 2012), p.90.

31. Kristina Iiwata-Weickgenannt and Barbara Geilhorn, eds., Fukushima and the Arts: Negotiating Nuclear Disaster (New York: Routledge, 2017).

32. Programming at the Itabashi Art Museum, Nerima Art Museum, Meguro Museum of Art, and Nagoya City Art Museum in the 1980s and 1990s has been particularly important, along with the pioneering Reconstructions exhibit held in 1985: David Elliott and Kazu Kaido eds., Reconstructions: Avant-Garde Art in Japan 1945-1965, exh. cat. (Oxford: Museum of Modern Art, 1985).

33. Kuroda Raiji, Owarinaki kindai Ajia bijutsu o aruku 2009-2014 / Behind the Globalism: Sketches on Asian Contemporary Art 2009-2014 (Tokyo: grambooks, 2014). Eiko HONDA has published a partial English translation of this text at Curating Curiosities (Jan. 26, 2015), http://curatingcuriosities.tumblr.com/post/109193169092/owarinaki-kindai-ajia-bijutsu-wo-aruku-2009-2014 (Accessed May 2015).

34. Lest it not be forthcoming through internet search, I want to recognize the pioneering 1988 exhibition at Artists Space in New York titled “Min Joong Art: A New Cultural Movement from Korea.” http://artistsspace.org/exhibitions/ming-joong-art-a-new-cultural-moment-from-korea (Accessed May 2017).

35. Tomiyama’s work can be accessed readily through the website Imagination Without Borders: http://imaginationwithoutborders.northwestern.edu/ (Accessed May 2017).

36. Alexander Bortolot’s article, “Artesãos da Nossa Pátria: Makonde Blackwood Sculptors, Cooperatives, and the Art of Socialist Revolution in Post-Colonial Mozambique,” FIELD 6 (Winter 2017), demonstrates one way to approach this.