At the 13th VIVA ExCon in Bacolod, the curatorial forum initiated a discussion about current curatorial practices in the Philippines and around the world. Patricia Tumang spoke with some of the visiting curators to ask about their curatorial practices and approaches, and their thoughts on VIVA ExCon, past and present.
Read the full Q&A with Keisuke Ozawa, visiting curator from Tokyo
Patricia Tumang: Please tell me about your background and curatorial practice.
Keisuke Ozawa: I’m one of the curators of AIT, Arts Initiative Tokyo, a curator and arts management collective. We started out as a self-funded organization. We organized an independent art school in which we teach students critical theories and contemporary art histories.
PT: Was that missing before in Tokyo, a school dedicated to that kind of pedagogy?
KO: Art management courses were taught at the art colleges and universities, but there was nothing about curatorial things or critical art theories. That part we decided to do.
PT: What informed your interest in critical art theory?
KO: I studied 20th-century art history at Goldsmiths College in London. My courses were related to modernism, postmodernism, and post-colonial studies.
PT: How did you relate what you learned there to what you were seeing in Japan’s art scene?
KO: The Japanese art scene can be divided into two parts. One is commercial, and the other is related to cultural aspects. I was at some point into post-colonial studies related to art practices. When I was back from Goldsmiths, I started researching about Okinawa. It’s the island located in between mainland Japan, Taiwan, mainland China, Korea, and the Philippines. Okinawa used to be a kingdom, but it was colonized by Japan. After that, through World War II, it was controlled by the US. Then it came back to Japan. That complex history informed a variety of art practices and literature. I didn’t see those complex cultural situations before I went to Goldsmiths, but through my studies, I started seeing the art scene as well as the cultural scene in Japan. Now I teach art history as well as critical studies in how to look at Japanese society through representation and art practices.
PT: Which contemporary Japanese artists do you admire?
KO: Many, but there’s an artist named Yuken Teruya. He’s originally from Okinawa. After studying in Tokyo, he went to New York, where he’s now based. His practice is mostly related to the complex situation in Okinawa. One of his earliest works involved traditional Okinawan cloth. Generally, there are some flowers or birds from Okinawa that are printed on that, but he decided to represent the realistic Okinawa, so he put together all those elements along with US military helicopters and printed them on fabric. In the beginning, he wanted to be taught by a master of printing, but he was rejected because he wanted to do art using printmaking techniques. So he was self-taught. He made it by himself. There’s a typical dyeing technique in Okinawa called Bingata.
PT: What brings you to VIVA ExCon?
KO: I was invited by the Japan Foundation. I will be speaking about my curatorial practice and approach at the curatorial forum.
PT: What do you think of the Visayas Biennale so far?
KO: It’s difficult to say in one word. But when I think about one of their objectives, which is communicating with each other, I think it’s successful in that sense. I do like this type of atmosphere because it’s an alternative to the mainstream, so I hope they continue pursuing this type of local gathering rather than making a big international exhibition.