TURN Art Project and the Possibilities of Individual Art

Aiming for Art That Acknowledges Each Person’s Uniqueness

— Part Ⅰ—

2021.01.13 release
HIBINO Katsuhiko, TURN Supervisor / Artist

HIBINO Katsuhiko, TURN Supervisor / Artist

“TURN” Has a Wide Range of Meanings, Regardless of How the Word Is Defined.

TURN started as an art project intended as an expression of the interaction produced by encounters between diverse people across “differences” of background and customs, including disabilities, age, gender, nationality, and living environment.
HIBINO Katsuhiko is the one who serves as supervisor of that project. He says its establishment was a result of his discovery of the word “turn”.

“There’s a French term, art brut, that translates to ‘raw art’ in English. The word brut means unprocessed or unmixed, and it describes art by people who haven’t received a specialized art education.
“However, in Japan, it gives the strong impression of art that is done by someone with a disability. It’s also known as outsider art, and I’ve had the strong impression that this inevitably depends on a variety of information sources.”

Art brut, which was championed by Jean Dubuffet, is one of the currents that emerged from the European avant-garde ideology after World War II.

“Defining words is a difficult thing. For example, suppose a teacher with an arts education background goes to an institution for disabled people to do things like teach. In that instance, can the works of art that are produced there be considered art brut? So I looked for terminology that wouldn’t raise the question of whether a definition was correct or not, and I discovered the word ‘turn’.
“After I became responsible for general oversight of a joint exhibition by four Japanese art galleries that specialized in art brut in 2014, I spent a lot of time developing a concept with the art gallery curators. This was the name we selected and announced.”

Exploring People’s Innate Capabilities

The TURN joint exhibition has been given the subtitle “From Land to Sea (Exploring People’s Innate Capabilities)”.

“Before we hosted the TURN joint exhibition, there was a project called The Seed Is a Ship that consisted of an 80-day voyage across the Sea of Japan with stops at small ports along the way. At that time, I strongly felt the perspective from the sea. The landscapes we are used to seeing from the land felt very different when viewed from the sea.
“Humankind originally came into existence as sea life, and we got where we are today by coming out onto the land. That’s called evolution, and yet, maybe we lost something too. That was the idea. Thus, we added the subtitles ‘From Land to Sea’ and ‘Exploring People’s Innate Capabilities’ to TURN.”

This contemplation of Hibino’s might have some partial overlap with his personal thinking...

“I also received an arts education at university, but rather than focusing on technical training or carrying on traditional techniques, I’ve always produced the art that I wanted to create, and that’s the kind of artist I’ve always wanted to be.”

Going Beyond the Age of Gratification Through Material Consumption

“When I started my art career in the 80s, there were companies — particularly companies in the distribution industry, such as Seibu, Parco, and Isetan — that were drawing attention for their innovative advertising exhibitions, and it was a time when they each had their own art galleries. I myself got my start in 1982 by winning the grand prize at PARCO’s third Nippon Graphic Exhibition. That time was known as the age of perception, and places like Koen-dori Street in the city of Shibuya, which was a launching point for youth culture, functioned as a symbolic presence. Different genre categories — literature, music, theater, fine art, and so on — would mix together, and new artists that crossed these boundaries were emerging and creating a series of expressions that evoked the next new stage. You could think of this as a time when diversity was in the air from the very start.”

However, this experience exposed the fact that such artistic expression was a contributor to the excesses of consumer society.

Art Can Likely Solve Social Issues.

“In another sense, the 80s could be considered the peak of material civilization.
As we entered the next decade, the 90s, the serious problem of global warming received great attention. Additionally, with the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake and other natural disasters, were confronted with problems on a scale that had us considering what the earth would be like in 100 years or 1,000 years.”

After that, there was The Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale that took place in 2000, a major turning point for the era. Since then, this event has been held every three years, using rice terraces, towns with aging populations, and other depopulated areas referred to as marginal villages within Niigata as “an art gallery without a building”. Also, the Setouchi Triennale was held in 2010.

“These festivals have allowed artists to create a value transformation by incorporating new value and drawing out the unique power of places that had previously been forgotten by the rest of the region due to marginalization, aging, and declining birth rates, of closed schools that had been deemed useless, of decommissioned facilities and houses, and of unassuming natural landscapes. People began visiting those places, and some of them even moved there and lived there. I think we’re starting to clue in that art can be part of the solution to social issues.”

The transitions taking place during that era included the hosting of the TURN joint exhibition in 2014.
Major social issues that TURN had to confront in 2020 were the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on behavior and movement in order to prevent that spread.
In part two, Hibino talks about the future of TURN and his own art.

Coverage and editing: OKAJIMA Akira

Profile: HIBINO Katsuhiko

Artist, dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts and professor at the Intermedia Art Department, Tokyo University of the Arts. Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Gifu. Japan Football Association Executive Committee member and Committee for Social Responsibility chairman. Born in Gifu Prefecture in 1958. Won the Grand Prize at the Nippon Graphic Exhibition in 1982. Participated in the Biennale of Sydney in 1986. Participated in the Venice Biennale in 1995. Has participated in the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale since 2003.
Has participated in the Setouchi Triennale since 2010. Served as artistic director of Roppongi Art Night 2013–2015. Received the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Award at Japan’s Art Encouragement Prize in 2015 (Art Promotion Division). Has supervised “Turn — From Land to Sea (Exploring People’s Innate Capabilities)”, a 2014–2015 joint exhibition by Japanese art brut art galleries supported by the Nippon Foundation, since 2014. Since 2015, he has worked as supervisor of TURN, a leading project in Tokyo that is spearheading the cultural program for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

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