We hereby present the temporary artist-run space Sanatorium. “Curating is curing,” writes Boris Groys in his book Art Power. “It is not a coincidence that the word ‘curator’ is etymologically related to ‘cure.’” While there is no curator here, in the spirit of the root meaning of curation, we are operating Sanatorium as a “prescription” for the situation we currently find ourselves in.
Due to a series of uproars, Aichi Triennale 2019 and its participating artists have been pitted against one another politically. We must first heal these wounds. We must take a cool and calm attitude, do our best to avoid the pitfalls that cause division, and search for a way to unite. Through verbal appeals, bridge-making, and exhibiting works that stir the emotions, we most of all wish to demonstrate our commitment to unity. Until the Aichi Triennale officially closes on October 14th, we will continue to put forth new projects and works, and invite others to propose their own. As collaborators increase, so the content of the exhibition will keep changing.
On August 3rd, the Organizing Committee of Aichi Triennale 2019, comprised of Artistic Director Tsuda Daisuke and Committee Head Aichi and Prefectural Governor Omura Hideaki, decided to close one section of this international festival, titled “After ‘Freedom of Expression?’” This was done out of concern over a large number of complaints and threats in response to the section’s content. Among the 770 emails received were ones that stated: “I’m going to show up with can of gasoline if you don’t cancel the exhibition”; “I’m going to douse elementary, middle, and high schools, nursery schools, and kindergartens in the prefecture with gasoline and light them on fire”; and “I’m going to pour sarin and gasoline on the Aichi Prefectural Government.” In addition, there were messages on the internet threatening prefectural staff by name, and emails threatening to “shoot and kill employees of the prefectural government.” Staff members of the exhibition became emotionally burned out, and office functions ceased operating as they should.
In response to the closure of “After ‘Freedom of Expression?’”, South Korean artists Park Chan-kyong and Minouk Lim withdrew their works from the exhibition temporarily, while the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) did so permanently. At present (August 14), the following artists have also requested their works to be temporarily hidden from view: Tania Bruguera, Javier Téllez, Regina José Galindo, Mónica Mayer, Pia Camil, Claudia Martínez Garay, Reynier Leyva Novo, Dora García, and Ugo Rondinone.
Deeply concerned about the situation, a group of participating artists met with Director Tsuda in a public discussion on August 12th. There, Tania Bruguera stated, “Whatever the reason, for the exhibition to be closed due to external pressure constitutes censorship.” One of the Triennale’s curators, Pedro Reyes, warned, “Policing lives within all of us and forces us to censor ourselves—that is the real problem.” Stuart Ringholt claimed, “What we need is a sanatorium.”
While we sympathize with all participating artists’ positions, we believe that it is urgent to transcend the binary oppositions of organizing committee/artist and Right/Left which have fueled the furore. The Sanatorium has been opened for the purpose of nurturing the exchange of honest opinions to that end. Nothing will come of division. We will take seriously the unfortunate reality that exhibitions can be closed simply by threatening violence. We will also earnestly engage with the complaints from the public. We will also seek to develop institutional structures and the personal strength to respond concretely to threats of violence, by inviting specialists in the fields of anti-terrorism, disaster response, law, architecture, and education for instruction and debate.
Sanatorium was able to open here in the Endoji Honcho Shopping Arcade thanks to the efforts of artists who had residencies in this area and supporting exhibition staff. It also would not have been possible without the generous cooperation of neighboring shop owners and residents. We also recognize the hard work and long hours of volunteer staff members of the Triennale who have stuck with the festival despite all of the troubles. It is precisely with these people with whom we should open discussion and hold debate. After all, freedom of expression is a public issue that implicates everyone, and not just artists. We firmly believe that exploring options here, in a shopping arcade that is enmeshed with the daily lives of common people, rather than within the confines of a museum, is a correct first step toward creating methods that guarantee our autonomy in the future.
Aichi Triennale 2019 participating artists at Sanatorium
2-10-10, Nagono, Nishi-ku, Nagoya City, Aichi, 451-0042, Japan