image of the voices: listen and talk

post: 2013/06/10

Jisun Kim is attempting to cross boundaries around rigid social system and seeking a kind of “resisting gesture” in its interspaces, and she has experienced the greatest flavour of representative democracy—the election—in two cities, Tokyo and Seoul. Regarding to virtual spaces that she has been engaging with so far, this experience threw up the issue of a new platform for democracy. The possibility as for a new democracy without communication that Hiroki Azuma describes in General Will 2.0 generated an important keyword for this second residency. The r:ead participants, coming from four different countries, all spoke about the crisis of democracy in their own country. In this context, Azuma’s ideas certainly show a fascinating new potential for politics that goes beyond language and nations. Azuma’s recent tweets reacting to the statement of Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto’s remarks that “the comfort women were necessary” were for a while discussed in Korea as Azuma’s “rash remarks”. What might he think about that? At international events, English is often used as common language, under the implicit premise that communication otherwise is impossible. But during r:ead each participating team could speak in their native language. Instead of being confronted with the barrier of imperfect communication, we gained the scope for an attempt to cross borders of each cognitions and practices. As a result, I think it became possible to read our invisible differences and conduct mutual dialogue. In fact, we had the chance to meet several people, including the Korean translator of General Will 2.0, An Chun, and due to their intellectual achievements leave behind our knowledge so far and decipher Japanese society.

During the first presentation in Tokyo, Jisun and I talked about “anonymity”, the theme we wanted to research during the residency. Jisun developed her thoughts using the form of a portal website. After the presentation some people said that we should be careful about the negative effects of anonymity. Examples of the manifestation of online right-wing fascism (netto uyoku), the regrettable death of Aaron Swartz, and “hacktivism” (a combination of the words “hacking” and “activism”), and the borders between sharing and possessing, independence and attack, resistance and illegality online were also all much discussed. But considering this problem, rather than the aspect of controlling conflict and danger, I want to think about its necessity in the dimension of structuring the world. The words Ingyeo or Dutbojab (literal translation: things neither seen nor heard) were born on the internet. Assuming that exclusion is caused by expert knowledge of the level of awareness of reality, the restriction of authority, and an increase in expenses, we naturally should regard the database of the existence of such “unconsciousness” as an element to supplement the existing democracy.

The Korean literary critic Do-hoon Bok writes in The Four Knights of Apocalypse, based on the famous painting by Albrecht Dürer, four analyses of today’s world that faces catastrophe. He says the four knights stand for the history of self-destruction of capitalism, the danger of the political imagination which divides between friend and foe, the barbarous battle for equality and inequality, and ideological sphere of biopolitics where the values of life and death got lost and only existence itself exists (an important principle that Michel Foucault refers to in his book “Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison”). Jisun Kim’s “Well-Stealing”, a subversion of “well-being” as a cross-section of Korean society, is connected to the scale which the third knight is holding. The threatening idea, that we have to be advantageous compared to other people—that we must not lose—eliminates the elements that threaten our life, but by this also eliminates life itself. “Well-being” is the face of a different existence, where the method of survival itself forms the goal—end. Maybe Ingyeo is the people who have been left out of this existence. Going back to the metaphor of the apocalypse, these people are neither “subjects” of a feudal society nor modern “subjects”, nor somebody whose life could be called “anti-modern”. We tried to connect them to Hiroki Azuma’s “humans as animals” and Jisun Kim’s “Ingyeo”. When Jisun tried to find their faces, she went beyond the scope of the internet by meeting Hajime Matsumoto and his neighbors who are running second-hand goods shops in Koenji, and the others who are gathering at the Genron Café. Following this process, she stole the format of the quiz from the Genron Café. A quiz is a conversational platform that comes to shape by answering questions and demonstrates a mechanism of making the existence of strong connections to self-awareness and enlightenment the subject. Jisun created a quiz that aims at the disturbance of minds heading towards the right answer, though there is no answer—while knowing that she would fail. Coincidentally, the day of the final presentation was March 11th, the other day when two years ago the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred so that made a catastrophe scenario visible to the whole of East Asia. The countries of East Asia are involved in one part of this apocalypse—the past, present and future. Can we find a new paradise in East Asia? We are still uncertain about the answer to that question.

During our interview, Hiroki Azuma said that he worries that “people from outside who criticize the swing to the Right in Japan in diverse social dilemmas invite controversy about interference in domestic affairs, and merely feed opposition”. He also said that the problem of Japanese society is that it has no problems. These two comments made me think of the naïve attitude of intellectuals, as well as the non-political tendency of Japanese society. They do not want to debate issues from the viewpoint of critical awareness or the experience of democratization. Politics means a time and space where different values confront and become aware of each other. The most relative result of this space is what we call today’s democracy. A paradise where we continue talking about enemies without avoiding them, where we turn a constellation of opposition into neighborly friendship. Does that not exist? At this point I recall what I heard from the neighborhood gathering at the Nantoka Bar in Koenji: Yeah, somehow by all means, at least, in the end, they are unclear about democracy, politics and the sphere of society. Why? Is it not only democracy but also the art of modernism and contemporary art that have been implanted in such a very short time—without paying the bill? Are therefore some outstanding artists trying to pay the bill and with their activities follow the lines of political correctness? Can they pay the unpaid bills only by this kind of social intervention? The theatre producer Yasuo Ozawa remarked in our interview that he sees no publicness anymore in theatre and is therefore trying to find a new platform for theatre through online. It might be happened in virtual or different places—but at any rate, seems quite sure that arts need society. We still do not know the method of how to pay the bill but I hope that we continue committing the problems to remembering, without being romantic about the fact that we do not have a solution. Not even in five years when —as we said—we will meet again.