Japanese exhibition explores Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing conflict

Tokyo, March 18 (IANS) Barcelona-born artist Antoni Muntadas takes a peek into the intense and conflict-ridden relations between Japan, South Korea and China with Asian Protocols, his exhibition that opens on Saturday in Tokyo aiming to spark a debate on self-censorship.

“It interests me that relations among the three countries is based on a series of similarities and differences, but also a string of conflicts, which I wanted to explore,” Muntadas told Efe on Friday, while finishing off preparations for the exhibition, to be on view till April 17 at 3,331 art centre of Tokyo.

Approaching the reality of Japan, South Korea and China “as an outsider”, the winner of the 2009 Velazquez Prize for Plastic Arts, aims to point out what unites and separates them, from a conceptual and multidisciplinary perspective, which includes video-art, photography, text, and objects such as books or print media clippings.

“Blackboard Dialog,” one of the installations, examines 40 concepts, including family, gender, marriage, fashion and the army from the point of view of the Japanese, the Chinese and the South Koreans.

In an enormous hall, lined with blackboards and written-on with chalk, the visitor can read about the meaning of, for example, human rights in these countries, similar in that “the discourses of hatred have become a serious problem for society, especially those disseminated through the internet.”

The difference, however, lies in who the victims of these hate discourses are — for the Japanese, it is the South Korean residents in Japan, for South Koreans, it is women, and for the Chinese, it is sexual minorities.

“An exhibition is always a device in the anthropological sense in that it has to be activated, it is not born solely to be seen and celebrated,” said Muntadas, who wants his exhibition to trigger a debate between the three communities, who share historically tense relations.

The New York-based artist will also exhibit several textbooks from the three countries, currently being taught in schools, differing in their treatment of conflicts related to Japanese imperialism or the disputed archipelagos between Japan and China or those between Japan and South Korea.

Muntadas has also included a photographic journey through Chinese localities in Japan and South Korea, Korean strongholds in Tokyo and Seoul, and those of the Japanese living in Beijing and Seoul.

“I am not trying to impose or explain anything, but just trying to launch a series of questions to initiate a debate in countries where there is a certain censorship or self-censorship concerning these subjects,” explained the Catalan artist, who believes his mission as an artist is that of a catalyst.

The exhibition is part of a project that has already toured Seoul in 2014 and is expected to show in Beijing in 2018.

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