AIT took part in 'Showcase' over the weekend. Organised by Emiko Kato of Art Autonomy Network Japan, around fifty non profit and alternative arts groups from around Japan gathered in ZAIM, Yokohama for the three day networking and general hang out-fest. I think Emiko was inspired by a similar gathering in Shanghai hosted by BizArt in 2004 called the 'International Meeting Between Autonomous Cultural Centres Stemming from Citizen and Artistic Initiatives', to which both Emiko and AIT were also invited. As I have posted before, Yokohama City is putting efforts into building itself into a Creative City, and one of the results of this has been an influx of small non profit arts groups gravitating towards Yokohama because of cheap space rent and a basically supportive environment. So it made sense to hold such a meeting here, although when one begins to ponder some of the consequences of this, a more complex picture emerges. One interesting comment I heard from an arts teacher from Kurashiki in Okayama prefecture was concern about Creative Cities adversely sucking up creative talent in focused spots, with the result that regional cities like Kurashiki end up becoming mere consumers of what is created in larger cities like Yokohama. Speaking with organisers from other areas of Japan, it becomes apparent that local government arts policies and funding structures are very different, meaning that initiatives create unique structures and methods of operation. For example, Osaka city supports arts groups with free or low rent of disused spaces, whilst Tokyo does not. Nov from REMO in Osaka was there, and we discussed how our respective organisations create communities. REMO focuses on new media forms of expression and is, I think, one of the interesting initiatives now in Japan. They hold regular video workshops, events and screenings, framing their practice within not only an art context, but within a much broader 'media' context. I was impressed by a video workshop they do called 'Remoscope', which involves participants making one minute videos within strict Ozu-esque guidelines, such as 'fixed camera, no sound, no zoom, no edit, no effect'.
I wished that Showcase could have organised more formal initial introductions between the various groups, and also held more discussion forums. I was actually surprised at how many spaces chose to use their allocated spaces as art installations - this made the event rather too loose I felt, when it could have been a good opportunity to concentrate on discussion and perhaps some kind of publication. Anyway, it was an enjoyable three days in Yokohama. As with these things, I suppose a deeper level of dialogue always begins after the event....on this front, AIT will moderate a roundtable about the meanings of alternative art spaces now at Yokohama Museum of Art on April 3, entitled "Alternative in Over! If You Want It".