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Artist Koki Tanaka Joins Protest Over Censorship at Aichi Triennale


Two weeks ago we posted an open letter entitled “In Defense of Freedom of Expression at the Aichi Triennale.” Signed by several artists whose work was on display at the show, the letter concerned the decision by the Triennale to indefinitely close a section of the exhibition entitled “After Freedom of Expression?” This move came in response to political pressure and anonymous threats targeting a specific artwork in this section: Statue of a Girl of Peace by Kim Seo-kyung and Kim Eun-sung, pictured above. The artists who signed the letter demanded that their work be taken off view as long as “After Freedom of Expression?” was closed.

The Japanese artist Koki Tanaka has now joined the protest, penning an open letter of his own. The letter charges officials of the Aichi Triennale with using concerns over “safety” as a pretext for censorship. Rather than asking that the film he contributed to the Triennale be removed from view, Tanaka has vowed to use it as a platform for organizing assemblies in the museum space to discuss issues of nationalism and cultural diversity. Check out an excerpt from his letter below.

In order to protest this situation, in order to think about it as our problem, I think it is necessary to reset the frame of my work itself. What I’m doing here is not a “temporary suspension” but turning my “work” into a performative situation. This project is meant to deconstruct the fictional image of the “Japanese” as a homogeneous race and encourage viewers to open their ears to the discrimination the protagonists have encountered in their lives. I had originally planned on holding a two-day event as an extension of my work for the Triennale’s Performing Arts program. Now I will further extend the extension event by holding it every Saturday as an assembly in the exhibition space. It will be a place for viewers to listen to the protagonists’ voices through the films, think about what was said/not said, and speak with each other using the protagonists’ words as a guide. Its function as a display (a form of spectatorship in which people randomly come and go during opening hours) will be limited. But I will turn the “display” into an “assembly” during that limited time.