Open Proposal · オープン・プロポーザル

When it comes to the quote by Antonio Gramsci, “The point of modernity is to live without illusions, while not becoming disillusioned”, the Korean Dadaist and poet Yi Sang(1910-1937) failed to be a modernist. He lived with illusions of modernity and became disillusioned with Tokyo. I think, however, that this failure is a crucial key to speak about the modernity that Korea underwent in the course of the Japanese colonization (1910-1945), while I ask myself if we have really talked over it up to now.

Yi Sang first came to Tokyo in Autumn 1936. He stayed in Tokyo for about 6 months until he was arrested under futei senjin—“rebellious Korean”, “malcontent Korean”—in mid-February 1937. He died in the Tokyo Imperial University Hospital in April of the same year. His residence was at Jimbocho, 3-chome, 10-1-4, in an area that is well-known for second-hand book shops and belongs to Kanda area where the avant-garde movement flourished in the 1920s. He came too late to see the movement. He was a bilingual writer in Japanese and Korean—the first collection of his poems published in the magazine “Chosun and Architecture” in 1931 was entirely written in Japanese. During his stay in Tokyo he wrote several pieces, and one of them is an essay, “Tokyo”. In his “Tokyo”, he began with “Marunouchi Building”; “The “Marunouchi Building”—more commonly referred to as Marubiru—I had envisioned was a magnificent affair, at least four times larger than this “Marubiru.” If I go to New York’s “Broadway”, I might suffer the same disillusionment. At any rate, ‘This city reeks of “gasoline!”’ is my first impression of Tokyo.”

Today to become “knowledgeable” is to risk oneself. In the constant flux of knowledge and information, it is a great challenge to have a keen sense of critique and be aware of one’s own perception. Yet how does one stay positive in order to push oneself to question? What does contemporaneity of knowledge mean? By stressing an action for a need of understanding, the re -ing of researching encourages not fearing to trace a path to the past instead of heading for the future. Moreover, researching implies a gesture of everyday life by looking for, looking at and attempting to find out. It is a commitment of everyday practice. Having researched MAVO, a Japanese avant-garde collective of the mid-1920s, I attempt to call the modernity that they perceived and experienced into now in order to practice my history consciousness.

It gave me a more interesting opportunity that the radical activism of MAVO has been ignored and not institutionalized in Japanese art history either by its contemporaries or post-war. I was able to take an alternative angle to see MAVO which proclaimed itself as an interpreter of European modernism (MAVO, Gennifer Weisenfeld). Without climbing the mountain of the history of the avant-garde in the West, one would take advantage of it as a shortcut to look at MAVO, as if all Dadaists had suddenly reappeared this summer in Tokyo, such as the visit of the Dada monster, a creature from another planet (the big event of the Dada 100 Anniversary in Tokyo). MAVO, and Dada in Japan, should address different questions from those of the Western Dada when it comes to “historicizing the avant-garde,” and it calls for now. The attempt will be neither to produce a nationalistic discourse, nor to be read in a global context. Rather, it is an impossible task that needs to be carried out. I pay attention to the mind of Mavo, that they were conscious of the nature of the implantation of the Western Dada spirit—and the modernity—in Japan and confronted themselves with it. In other words, they knew what kind of weapon they had and its contradiction in the “modern” Japan.

It was by a coincidence that I had a book “Mavo” in my hand on my arrival day in Japan and there was the Dada 100 Anniversary organized by the Embassy of Switzerland in Tokyo. However, I have to admit that the event was not intended to contemplate Dada in Japan and thus, did not provide the threshold of the translation between MAVO and the contemporary art scene in Japan, while Dada was dealt with in a serious manner in a few exhibition venues; MAVO was still read as part of the “global” Dada movement that arose at the beginning of the 20th century. Here, I need to emphasize that Dada does not refer to “Dada” mounted in the mainstream of art history and defined as “modern” in the standard periodization, but its mind, radical thinking and urgency that the “contemporary” claims from us. These cannot compete for “an image of your Dada art work and win a trip for two, to the birth place of Dadaism”.

I take my investigation of MAVO to share the process of it and involve the action of the investigation in giving a platform for rethinking and creating knowledge. By building a temporary ‘Library’ and calling publicly for participation in ‘Librarying’, researching will be used as a main tool to produce this co-effect on the creation of knowledge. It is an open process to find out how to activate a library, not alternatively but radically, that is how to ‘Library’. The platform takes the form of this ‘Library’ and is built on the process of text collages, daily findings and collections of books by participation.

A deliberate mis/understanding, mis/translating and mis/transferring are used as a critical method, while a performance of a thinking process is exhibited. Addressing a question, what is ‘praxis’ in doing art, I see ‘re-enacting’ as a gesture of archiving in order to bring the performativity and the temporality of the practice of the work into a contemporary social and economic context. By doing so, the practice can be reinterpreted into “contemporary” that “swims against main, and rising, tide of actual contemporary usage”(Contemporary, Contemporaneity, Terry Smith). Therefore, it would be interesting to see if the contemporary art history works in this connection.

This open proposal attempts to experiment with a practice of doing together. While tempted by the aesthetic of Dada in its visual form, I became more aware of their acute perceptions and urgent need for responsibility. And these are “contemporary” sensitivities for an autodidact: Dada is “contemporary” in this sense. Thus, can we talk about MAVO?


This project is supported by ARCUS Project and Hiroyuki Hattori, guest curator in ARCUS Project. 





今日において知識を蓄えることは、自らをリスクに晒すことでもある。絶え間なく押し寄せる知識、情報。その中で、鋭い批評精神を維持し、自分の感覚に意識的であることは困難極まりない。それでも、常にものごとを問いただすために、どう肯定的であり続けることができるだろうか? 知識の現代性とはなにを意味するのか? 理解に到達するために、ある行動に重きを置く「researching」(再・「調査」する)という言葉の接頭辞、接尾辞の「re –ing」は、未来に向かうのではなく、恐れることなく過去に繋がる道を辿れ、と促す。さらに「researching」は、なにかを「探す」こと、なにかを観察すること、そしてなにかを知ろうとする日常の行為を示唆するものでもある。それは、日常的な行為にコミットすることでもある。1920年代半ばに活躍した前衛美術グループ、マヴォとその活動をリサーチしてきた私は、自らの歴史観を実践するために、当時マヴォのメンバーが感じ取り、体験していたモダニズムを「いま」に呼び起こすことを試みる。



このマヴォについてのリサーチでは、知の創造に繋がるような知識の交換のプラットフォームを形成するために、オープンなプロセスや、リサーチの「行動」の側面を取り入れている。プラットフォームの参加者を公募し、彼らの協力によって寄せ集めの図書館を作り上げることで、「researching」(再・調査すること)は再び、共同作業による知の創造のメインツールとなる。それは、以下のような問いに繋がる図書館をどう実現させるかを探求するためのオープン・プロセスだ。「知識をオルタナティブな方法ではなく、ラディカルな方法でどう共有するのか」、「図書館という営みをどう活性化させるのか」。パネル・ディスカッションも行われるこのプラットフォームでは、テキストのコラージュ、日常の中の発見、そして、参加者による本のコレクションを集めるプロセスによって作り上げられる「図書館」のかたちをとる。そこでは批評的方法論として、意図的に「misunderstanding」(誤解)、「mistranslating」(誤訳)、「 mistransferring 」(誤写)が採用され、また思考のプロセスがパフォーマンスによって表現される。ここでは「アートにおける実践とはなにか」という問いにおいて、私は「再演」をアーカイブ化の方法とみなし、作品の実践におけるパフォーマティビティーと一時性を、同時代的、社会的、経済的な文脈の中に持ち込もうとしている。こうすることで、「勢いを増す高波にも似た、現代における実際の使用に抗う」ような「現代」という言葉の意味において、この実践を再解釈することができる。現代アートの歴史がこの繋がりにおいて成立するかどうかは興味深いところだ。



サポート:アーカスプロジェクト、服部浩之(アーカスプロジェクト2016 ゲストキュレーター)

translated by Nobuko Aiso 相磯展子(Art Translators Collective)