As a matter of fact, “you” were chosen by TIME Magazine as the Person of the Year 2006, acknowledging the gradual power shift in the media that has been magnified by evangelists of the “Web 2.0” phenomena.
Today, humanity seems to have conquered all terrains on earth and connected every region with the global Internet; as a matter of fact, “you” were chosen by TIME Magazine as the Person of the Year 2006, acknowledging the gradual power shift in the media that has been magnified by evangelists of the “Web 2.0” phenomena. In short, we have domesticated our lands and our cyberspace quite well, allowing us to move quite freely on the bi-dimensional plan. However, the following questions remain unanswered: Have we mastered the airspace above our heads? Can we do anything about the fact that superpowers are still illegally bombing innocent citizens? Who owns the sky and how can we reclaim it?
OpenSky is a continuous project by Kazuhiko Hachiya, focussing on fabricating a personal jet-engine flight vehicle, and it is in fact also a critical initiative that responds to such cultural and political issues, all wrapped up in a pop package.
On the surface, one can immediately sense the implicit reference to Hayao Miyazaki’s “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” (1984) where the heroine flies over the world she strives to save, with her glider-looking jet vehicle called “Moewe” (pronounced mee-ve). Hachiya actually intends to make it possible for girls to ride his own Moewe, not only so that they can connect with Nausicaä, but also to stress the physical accessibility of his realization. Indeed, his work, including the exhibition space, the flyers, and the documentation videos, welcome any type of audience with its cheerfulness and familiarity. Another metaphorical layer is hidden in the “2.0” of the title, conveying the idea that Hachiya’s vehicle is above all a personal attempt to construct such a complex structure as a personal airplane.
However, the project’s intention can also be understood at a deeper level. In a discussion hosted by the Derridian philosopher Hiroki Azuma along with art critic Noi Sawaragi, Hachiya confesses the initial factor that triggered this idea was the “Korosu-na” movement lead by Sawaragi in the wake of the US-led invasion of Iraq. Although sympathizing with the protest, Hachiya refused to participate to the anti-war marching on the street because he felt that act was powerless in the face of the US government’s will. However, one day he hit upon the idea to reclaim airspace so as to counter the Open Skies Treaty revived by the first Bush Administration in 1993. The treaty, put into effect right after the collapse of the USSR, allows participating nations to send surveillance airplanes over each other’s territory. Of course, the treaties were designed to act as much in favor to the US as possible, so in reality the Open Skies Treaty meant another reinforcement for US armed hegemony. Therefore, Hachiya chose “Open Sky” as the title of his ironical counterpart for this existing political framework.
The artist does not explain his tactics word for word; he is not a boring dilettante or a preaching activist, but rather a stealth hacker, over-riding the existing protocols instead of countering them directly. This diversity of presentational strategy can be considered to be at the heart of today’s so-called field of ‘media art’: when we extend the meaning of the term ‘media’ from just the physicality of the work to the realm of social complexity in which the work itself is located. In other words, artists today are confronted with, as much as they are empowered by, the ability to control the multiple layers their works consist of. In this sense, this exhibition is rich in both documentation and participation, revealing the very essence of Hachiya’s tireless and diverse activities over the last decade and half. At the end, the plausibility of the artist’s ideals and the aesthetic judgement of their deployment is left to the visitors themselves. This exhibition’s ‘pop’ presentation of an on-going project is delightfully unusual in the norm of regular white cubes, pushing the possibilities of presentation. As we say, only the sky is the limit.
Not only because the ‘pop’ presentation of this ongoing project is delightfully unusual within the constraints of regular white cubes, but this exhibition also affords interventions from the audience on multiple levels – costume play and photography are allowed inside the exhibit space, but further reinterpretations of the artist’s activity (which itself draws inspiration from many sources) might be also left open to the visitors’ imagination. As we say, only the sky is the limit.