Since all three of you are active in Ishikawa prefecture, can you share any impressions or feelings you had of each other when you first met?
The first time I met Yohei must have been about three or four years ago since it was right after he returned to Japan from Germany. I clearly remember being excited at that time because many artists who were involved in activities internationally began creating studios and places to exhibit works in Kanazawa, which in turn lead to a creative atmosphere. You could say that meeting Yohei gave me the feeling that a new art scene had arrived in Kanazawa.
I think his top knot hairstyle left an impression, and since he is a contemporary dancer like myself, I imagined he had his own unique view of the world (laughs). However, after actually speaking with him, I found he listened to what I had to say at my pace and asked questions that delved deeper into the issues I wanted to explore. As such I thought he held a very neutral viewpoint.
Actually, it was the interviews during the planning stage of last year's KANAZAWA FRINGE that lead me to ask the two of you to be partners this time round. I felt that Kurumi was someone who placed importance on things in the present and thought that Tomoya was someone who had a hunger for something, with questions needing answers, and was contemplating about what to do about it. But the characteristic you both had in common was that you want to express a life-sized version of yourselves without exaggeration or diminution. While this sounds straightforward, it's actually very difficult to pull off.
People who can express a life-sized version of themselves seem to have the uncanny ability to gently yet surely open the heart and mind of people they confront before they know it. Which reminds me, another common aspect between Tomoya and Kurumi is that you are both involved with welfare institutions.
That's right. While producing and exhibiting my own works I've been holding art classes at 14 welfare institutions across Ishikawa prefecture. This activity has allowed me to meet many other creators who have led interesting lives. Their works, which were created in private during a process of self-education, feature many unique aesthetics. The gallery "THE ROOM BELOW" was established to introduce people to the richness of these works. In addition to exhibiting their works, this time I will be exhibiting and presenting my own works I produced after drawing inspiration from them.
In addition to my activities as a choreographer and dancer, I've also been involved at several welfare institutions as a teacher of gentle yoga classes and dance classes in which participants enjoy moving their body freely. However, in these situations I regularly encounter language that tends to group people who are dependent on society into certain categories. For example, every time I hear words like "disabled person" or "healthy person", even though they are just words, there's an uncomfortable connotation that I find difficult to express... When considering the reason why people feel anxious or fearful about these words and the images they evoke, I definitely think that unfamiliarity is the most significant factor. That's why I wanted to develop a performance that enables people to experience unique body movements, characteristic expressions, and conveys the reasons for these while providing an actual opportunity for people to take the time to look, learn, and think about this subject.
While both of you take the same approach of connecting with people with disabilities through your own expression, you each focus on a different perspective. This is inherent in the project title of "The Artist's Eyes". Incidentally, how does this look to the eyes of director Yohei?
I think this approach works because both of you have roots in Kanazawa and have formed relationships of trust with a wide range of people. However, this is not about "aiming for welfare" or "welfare activities as part of my creative activities", but rather sincerely confronting the lessons and attraction obtained from involvement in welfare. I feel it's something like that.
Tomoya's work isn't just for appreciation, but aims to confront the fundamental question of "why do people create things?" Kurumi's work examines the boundary between the self and others through the idea of the "body", which is the source of our emotions and actions. I'd like to think that the experiences that this project provides can raise some questions in everyone participating.
This year's KANAZAWA FRINGE features a total of five works presented simultaneously. Lastly, tell us how you feel about the overall project.
In recent years I feel that genres thought to be separate and unrelated are coming closer together and art and welfare are a prime example of that. This is why I’m confident that the "The Artist's Eye" project can forge a new connection between art and welfare. Thanks to the KANAZAWA FRINGE project that focuses on the fringe outside of the mainstream, which already has a certain degree of established reputation, we have yet another chance to consider the concept of creation known as "outsider art" through interactions with different types of people and while giving something back to society.
As Tomoya said, I think KANAZAWA FRINGE is a project about connecting people. The theme I selected this time may have aspects that people don't usually observe, know, or contemplate in their daily lives. However, when considering the users of welfare institutions, their families, institution staff, my family, friends, and acquaintances, people with disabilities and healthy people in public places, all of these people are human beings. To cast one's eyes on others is to confront them while also confronting one's inner self. In doing so, it's the change in perspective and mindset in each of us that's the real important step in breaking down borders and walls within society.
As mentioned by both of you, I genuinely think that KANAZAWA FRINGE as interpreted from the viewpoint of the city and art is a project with two distinct sides. To give an example using scientific terms, I think the project can also be described as a good mixture of “art as applied research”, which refers to the pursuit of enriching people's lives, and “art as basic research”, which means things whose usefulness is unknown. Even things considered worthless in life but that are pursued for amusement and enjoyment could be regarded as one measure that the city is “culturally rich”. Therefore, instead of instantly dismissing things that seem useless at a glance, can we change toward attempting to accept and understand such things? I'd feel very proud if the KANAZAWA FRINGE project enables Kanazawa to take a step forward as a city with an even richer culture.