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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 August 7 - 13  > Majority of Aichi Triennale artists call for reopening of ‘shuttered’ exhibition
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2019 August 7 - 13 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Majority of Aichi Triennale artists call for reopening of ‘shuttered’ exhibition

August 7, 2019

Seventy-two of the more than 90 artists participating in the Aichi Triennale on August 6 issued a statement protesting against the shutdown of part of the art festival, demanding that the shuttered exhibition be reopened.

In the 2019 Aichi Triennale, artworks which had been removed or rejected from public museums and other public cultural institutions in Japan were displayed under the theme, “After ‘Freedom of Expression?’”. These artworks, particularly the “Statue of a Girl” symbolizing so-called “comfort women”, victims of the Japanese military’s wartime sex slavery, became the direct target of political pressure and aggressive objections including threats of committing a terrorist attack. The “After Freedom of Expression” exhibit was taken down only three days after its opening.

Regarding the partial closure of the Triennale, the 72 artists in the statement state that they have grave concerns about “the occurrence of political intervention into the Triennale, as well as threats of violence against the exhibition.” The artists’ statement points out that an exhibition space is normally “meant to be an open, public site” and that the closure of the exhibit has “robbed people of the opportunity to see the artworks and foreclosed any active discussion of them.” They called for the Triennale to be free from political pressure and unjust violence and to bring back the artworks in question for the public to view in order to realize a “discussion that is open to all people.”

Later on the same day, Triennale organizing committee members submitted an open letter to Aichi Governor Omura Hideaki who heads the organizing committee.

In the letter, the committee members stressed that the shutdown announcement was made unilaterally and requested the governor to answer their questions, including how and why the governor decided to close the exhibition and whether committee members’ proposal for measures to deal with protests was implemented. They urged Omura to resume the cancelled display as soon as possible.

After the submission, four of the five committee members held a press conference in the prefectural government office building.

Okamoto Yuka pointed out that the “Freedom of Expression” section was closed without consent from participating artists and expressed her hope for the reinstatement of the section. ARAI Hiroyuki criticized the cancellation as being a gag on freedom of speech unprecedented in Japan’s history of censorship. Referring to the 72 artists’ statement, ARAI said, “Artists and organizing committee members are united in opposition. I hope the prefectural government will join our team to continue displaying the protested artworks and will adopt the clear view that Japan’s cultural forces never give in to unjust attacks on free speech.”

Past related article:
> Political pressure on exhibit of ‘statue of Korean girl’ in Aichi Triennale violates Constitution banning censorship: Koike [ August 4&5, 2019]
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