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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 November 6 - 12  > Japanese embassy’s rejection of art event in Vienna featuring freedom of expression brings discredit to the nation
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2019 November 6 - 12 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Japanese embassy’s rejection of art event in Vienna featuring freedom of expression brings discredit to the nation

November 10, 2019
The Japanese Embassy in Austria has suddenly withdrawn its approval for the art exhibition titled, “Japan Unlimited”, which is now being held in Vienna. Criticizing this act, artists in the event said that Japan will acquire a reputation as a nation suppressing the freedom of expression.

The “Japan Unlimited” exhibit is displaying art works of 19 artists working solo or in collaboration who challenge the limits and freedoms of political-sociocritical art in Japan. These exhibits include a video in which a man calling himself “the prime minister of Japan” gives a speech and an animation reproducing the scene where TEPCO executives offer an apology for the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns.

The Japanese Embassy endorsed this art event as part of the project celebrating the 150th anniversary of the establishment of Japan-Austria diplomatic relations. However, after the opening of the event, a troublesome situation arose with unjust attacks in Twitter such as labelling of the art works as anti-Japanese propaganda, and the use of influence by a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker on the Foreign Ministry.

In reaction to the situation, the embassy at the end of October, a month after the “Japan Unlimited” exhibit began, announced its decision to withdraw its endorsement for the exhibit. The embassy explained that it approves cultural and sporting events as part of the 150th anniversary project and allows them to use the project logo if they meet the requirements, including a contribution to the promotion of mutual relations and friendship during the year celebrating 150 years of Japan-Austria diplomatic relations. The embassy added that it provides no financial support to the approved events.

Despite the embassy’s withdrawal of its approval, the art works continue to be on public display.

One of the 19 artists, Mitamura Midori on Twitter referred to the fact that embassy staff visited the exhibition, but the embassy made no complaint, and said, “Nevertheless, the embassy retracted its approval soon after it found tweets full of hatred towards the exhibition. The Japanese government organizations tend to be easily influenced by emerging trends on the Internet."

Another artist, Aida Makoto, who made the video of a man calling himself Japan’s Prime Minister, in his tweet pointed out that the embassy’s decision has no harmful impact on artists and other people related to the “Japan Unlimited” exhibit. In addition, citing that major dailies in European nations made inquiries to the organizers, Aida said that the Japanese Embassy’s latest action only brought discredit to the nation.
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