The exhibition’s called Cool Japan, and it's currently showing from 22 December to 17 Feb. Tadasu says it’s inspired by the notion that one is not born but one becomes Japanese (tip of the hat to Simone de Beauvoir); that creation of national identity by a larger collective.
Tadasu: There are many things that have never really entered our consciousness because they have been too manipulated or doctored in a way that hinders our imagination. Now we find ourselves in a situation where for the first time we are actually confronted with these things.
1. The Cool Japan Room: a mural celebrating Japan as a post-war consumerist paradise.
2. The Lost Lawsuit Room: an installation revealing that of the many civil movements and lawsuits against nuclear power companies in Japan, 99% have been ruled in favour of the companies.
(Tadasu at this point mentioned the thick, hairlike curtains between rooms.)
3. The Shojo Room: a shojo is a motto, usually exhorting people towards courteous, civic-minded behavior, written in 5/7/5 haiku form and found in every schoolbus and train.
4. The Ganam Room: ganam is endurance, perseverance, self-reliance, stoicism: the supposed core of Japanese character, which won them so much admiration from international community after the quake. Here the statues stand amidst continuous piercing noise and pre-recorded commandments to endure.
5. The Room of Free Expression: reflecting on the Japanese stereotype of reticence.
Tadasu: I wanted to make a cemetery for words, self-centred, self-loving words.
Tadasu: Before, when I showed these videos in Tokyo, some people got angry. Mito because it’s so close to Fukushima, and many people there cannot leave. Now the exhibition is held in Mito and I’m a little bit scared about how people will react to this video, especially.
Tadasu: I didn’t know this fact, but there have been more than 2000 nuclear tests in history. The ‘60s and ‘70s were the peak, but they still keep doing. And after Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, America’s still doing it.
Just before he reached his final room, Tadasu showed us footage – not artistic footage, just personal stuff – of the latest 100,000-strong anti-nuclear protest in Tokyo. It’s rare for such numbers to gather over such an issue in Japan, and he really felt it meant it could change something.
Tadasu: They’re still thinking. I don’t have an answer. Giving an answer is not art’s function. We’re asking the question, always the question. It’s what we do.
Tadasu: But I think I’m lucky enough to do this kind of project with the museum. Artists always have to be critical, that’s my opinion. But it’s always a collaboration with the museum, the curator. It’s always important to have colleagues. Museums belong to a system. I always try to be an individual, an observer of society. But to work with a curator, you can do this. I’m happy.