JP / EN
Brian, you're based in the United Kingdom and Yuko, you're based in Kanazawa. Since this is the second year that you have partnered on this project, can you look back and share any initial impressions you had of one another?
My initial impression of Brian when we first met two years ago was that he was very tall, quite talkative, and witty (laughs). But at the same time, I also felt a strong sense of conviction hidden behind his big smile. During our collaboration on this project, I've found that he possesses a delicate and warm humanity, intelligence, and sense of justice in his self-expression, which are characteristics that inspire respect every time I meet him.
I loved Yuko from the moment I met her. I know that, as an American, I can sometimes seem like a loud and overwhelming person to Japanese people, and even in the United Kingdom where I'm based, people I meet for the first time are sometimes frightened by the excessive amount of personal information I share very quickly. But what I loved about Yuko was that she just got me. She just asked questions, held the information, and then started a plan. The work that I make is rare in the world generally, but particularly in Japan, and it is to Yuko's credit that she just took a leap of faith with me and the team to just make this happen. It’s awesome.
In contrast to Brian's manner of openly sharing personal information with people he meets for the first time, Fun with Cancer Patients, which raises the sensitive issue of cancer, is being held in Kanazawa, a place traditionally regarded as conservative. Ostensibly this project may be perceived negatively. What is behind the intention to purposely hold the project here?
My own interpretation of KANAZAWA FRINGE is that it is a project in which artists use locations outside the museum to inspire the idea that art is everywhere, and that everywhere holds the potential for beauty and inspiration. Based on this interpretation, Fun with Cancer Patients intervenes in the city by telling audiences that actually those who are sick are part of the city, not separate from it. For so many people who are ill, the world doesn’t see them as part of our regular world - they are set aside, hidden, left to heal before they can come back. However, when taken the other way, this is equivalent to saying that the prerequisite for living in society is that one must have no health problems. But everyone deserves to be a part of society, and people with cancer simply have a problem with the part of that concerning health. People with cancer are not our objects of pity, sadness, or shame. This identity is critical to be seen and shown and talked about in Kanazawa, in Japan, and in the world.
Many of Brian's works, as he describes them, are always tied to the self and others as well as society. All of his works are exciting and provide unforgettable experiences. However, his works are not simply about questioning or pointing out problems, but include the improvisation, flexibility, and creativity essential for encounters with people and society at every turn, combined with the humor and wit of Brian himself. This is why I think that through holding conversations with participants in this year's Fun with Cancer Patients, his positivity will spread to those around him and fill the city of Kanazawa and its people with positive energy. I expect this to be a project with such potential.
So the city undergoes change not through created "works", but by the artist's personality and enthusiasm, and the propagation of relations nurtured through the process of creating works. This feels characteristic to Brian's works, which focus on conversation. Can you tell us about any memorable encounters in Kanazawa thus far?
Rather than just memorable encounters, most encounters have been a case of if we didn't involve all of the people we met then the project would have never left the ground. However, within this group I think the key connection has been the Hanaume, Cancer Support House of Ishikawa Prefecture, and Miyo Kimura who works there as a nurse, as well as all 50 or so Kanazawa members who expressed their intent to participate in this year's project. Hanaume is an open and comfortable salon where people may casually drop by and an environment that leads to many encounters occurring on a daily basis. Miyo immediately understood the point of our project and connected us with about 50 people who we refer to as the Kanazawa members in the project. In June this year, we held a two-day retreat with a number of these members where we took the time to think about the meaning of cancer and take a good look at ourselves while listened to people's experiences and feelings on the subject. Although we had a strong impression of Kanazawa as city with many shy people, it came as a great surprise to both Brian and myself at the number of people who were not only interested enough to participate, but who showed tremendous courage and curiosity.
As Yuko said, meeting with the participants was an indispensable part of this project. Moreover, members that have proved indispensable to me are Kanazawa resident Maki Hashizume and Jo Allan from London who translate my words and ideas. Also, artist Mamoru Iriguchi who is realizing our work's concept in terms of venue and design, and photographer Christa Holka who records the entire project and provides various support. The conversations about cancer, illness, death, and disability are so specific to different cultures that having dedicated translators and co-workers makes the work possible. And I must not forget the okonomiyaki! (laughs) We need to share food - this is the easiest way to break the ice, start conversations, and build trust. Without shared meals over okonamiyaki, takoyaki, or bento, we would have no Fun with Cancer Patients.
This project is a collaborative production created by many people who are able to overcome language and cultural barriers while handling themes that are considered delicate the world over. This is the real charm of the artist in residence program. So finally, can you both tell us about your expectations through this project?
Patients who know their own bodies better than anyone, medical professionals who can share their expertise with anyone who wants to know, families who can convey love and courage to their loved ones, everyone has the power to touch the hearts of others. People always seem to avoid thinking about illness until they themselves become ill. However, the reality is that there are plenty of people with illness around us that we are unconscious of as we go about our daily lives. And even you who is reading this may at some point have to deal with becoming ill. Perhaps at such a time you will be able to accommodate the presence of an illness and are able to hold some self-confidence for yourself. I hope that Fun with Cancer Patients is able to provide such an opportunity to think in this manner. I expect that this project will undoubtedly result in conversations as beautiful and meaningful as any sculpture or painting in the museum.
As Brian said, while we will be presenting performance art comprising aconversation together with participants about cancer during the event in November, the actual approach to this conversation will be slightly unconventional.
However, what I can say is that while it will be a lot of fun, it will be held in a space that is comforting for the mind and body. I think this is an important challenge of awareness not only to create the necessary space in which people can say what they really think, but also for the museum that normally does not deal with the issues of health and welfare.
Since the KANAZAWA FRINGE project promotes diverse ways of life, thinking, and existence while searching for true forms of creating and the potential held by the land and people of Kanazawa, we expect that all participants in Fun with Cancer Patients will experience a rediscovery of themselves.