Beaming an Artistic Light of Hope

Once again Roppongi became the heart of the Japanese art scene for two days and one crazy night

poster for Roppongi Art Night 2013

Roppongi Art Night 2013

at Roppongi Hills Arena
in the Roppongi, Nogizaka area
This event has ended - (2013-03-23 - 2013-03-24)

In Photo Reports by Tokyo Culture Creation Project 2013-03-29

Part of the Tokyo Culture Creation Project’s annual program of events in the city, for the first time in its history Roppongi Art Night (RAN) appointed Katsuhiko Hibino as artistic director in order to shape the event into a comprehensive project. Hibino is a RAN habitué who in the past has actually lived in the area, and this experience clearly helped him turn the event into a cohesive artwork in itself.

Like in 2012, Hibino chose to focus on the artistic and social response to the Great East Japan Earthquake, starting with the tall lighthouse that from the Roppongi Hills Arena was meant to beam a light of hope toward Tohoku. The theme chosen this year – “Trip – Witness Today’s Transformation into Tomorrow” – was also a reminder of how art, like a long journey, can change people’s values. For Hibino the sea, rivers and boats are symbolic of movement and time passing, and indeed, boats of many sizes and shapes could be found everywhere, each one carrying different messages and artistic delights. A strong cold wind joined the festivities as if to blow the ships on their night trip around Roppongi, but failed to stop the people from joining in the fun.

The 'SS Shouting Star' was one of the many ships that dotted the Roppongi landscape. Rebirth Project group and art director Yayoi Kato developed a system of plastic and metal tubes that produced enchanting siren-like sounds. This one was hands down the kids' favorite attraction.

The 'Apple Bear Maru' by creative unit Daisy Balloon was assaulted by children and a horde of giggling girls determined to snatch one of the ultra-cute bear balloons!

By far one of the more visually-arresting works was Kotaro Sekiguchi's sculpture. Seen from afar, the different elements form the Japanese letter 'a', but at close range they call to mind the debris left by the tsunami in Tohoku.

RAN artistic director Katsuhiko Hibino used Bhutanese artist Jampel Cheda's 'prayer flags' to decorate his 'SS Today to Tomorrow' and convey people's hopes for a better future.

Another one of Hibino's ship-related projects was the 'TANeFUNe' (Seed Ship) that last year actually sailed the Sea of Japan gathering people's memories on its way from Kyoto prefecture to Niigata.

While walking around Roppongi Hills we caught artistic director Katsuhiko Hibino being interviewed in front of his 'Lighthouses on Water' works that were shown last year at the Water and Land Niigata Art Festival.

The Roppongi Hills Arena was packed as usual for the official start of this year's edition. On the right stood the 8-meter-high lighthouse on top of which burned charcoal made from cryptomeria trees killed by the tsunami in 2011.

Roppongi Art Night 2013 had barely started, but off-Nibroll and the music-video-dance group Open Reel Ensemble got the crowd excited with their pulsating performance 'Ship Ahoy!'

Word artist Hiroko Ichihara gathered a lot of attention with her witty and warm life-affirming phrases. From left to right: 'Happiness lies before your eyes'; 'I'll do it MY way'; 'DEFINITELY inspiring'; 'When it happens it HAPPENS'.

A dozen robot-like Snow Whites – some of them armed with submachine guns – invaded Tokyo Midtown's basement floor and held the public hostage for the duration of 'Le Banquet' – Catherine Bay's latest version of her Snow White project.

A palpable tension kept hundreds of people wondering until the end whether the cute-but-menacing Snow Whites would end up eating a poisoned apple or shooting each other.

Under an increasingly bleak sky, people converged to a vacant lot to watch Masaru Iwai's 'The white building washing'.

Projected on three connected large screens, Iwai's video documents the cleaning of a derelict building in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, highlighting some of the local social issues.

People reaching Tokyo Midtown directly from the station were welcomed by the 'Street Museum' displaying works of up-and-coming artists. Among them, Hiromu Miyamoto's models.

One of Hibino’s goals was to create “ordinary art in everyday life”. This was also apparent in the ‘poor’ materials often chosen by the artists to make their works – in many cases waste materials that were rescued and recycled, giving them a new identity.

According to Hibino, recent trends in art point toward a new attitude which cuts through barriers and categories. In this sense art is getting closer to life in both tackling sensitive social issues and embracing interculturalism. Hopefully the many people who stayed through the night were sucked into that special time zone where imagination runs wild and we can freely share our dreams.

Randy Swank
Escaped from his home country in 1992 and found refuge in Japan, where he promptly found a job teaching people how to shout HELP! and avoid being robbed on foreign buses. Since 1997 he has been unhealthily active in the mail art network, unleashing on the unsuspecting public, among other things, the Treatise of Pataphysical Anatomy and the international fake political campaign poster project. When not running after his two kids and from his wife, he is usually busy making zines (one of them is about Tokyo and all things Japanese), writing for high- and lowbrow magazines, and exploring Tokyo. You can read his uncensored, Gonzo-like adventures in Artland at The Randy Reviewer. See other writings

Tokyo Culture Creation Project

Tokyo Culture Creation Project. Tokyo Culture Creation Project, organized by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture in co-operation with arts organizations and NPOs, aims to establish Tokyo as a city of global cultural creativity. The project facilitates the involvement of a larger number of people in the creation of new culture by building regional bases for culture creation across the city, and offering opportunities for creative experiences to children and young people. Moreover, it creates and globally disseminates new Tokyo culture through organizing international festivals and other diverse events. » See other writings

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