Statement on Launch of
We are artists participating in Aichi Triennale 2019 from around the world. We are announcing the launch of ReFreedom_Aichi, an initiative seeking the return to view all of the works that have been withdrawn from the Triennale due to suspension or temporary boycott.
Through this project, we are calling on society to stand up for freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and the right to live one’s life free from coercion by others—freedoms that must be protected by and for all. Joining together with the audience members who are now unable to see the works, we will reclaim the public’s right to see and to know.
The Aichi Triennale 2019 is confronting a grave situation. Since the closure just three days after the opening of one of the Triennale’s sections, “After ‘Freedom of Expression?’”, twelve artists and groups have decided to alter their works or withdraw them from view in protest. The current state of the Triennale’s venues speaks to the extremity and urgency of this crisis.
In response to this situation, two artists have set up independent spaces at locations near Endoji Temple in Nagoya to enable the discussion and exhibition of works without reliance on public funds. Refuting the misogynist and racist attacks directed against Korean artists Kim Seo-kyung and Kim Eun-sung’s sculpture Statue of Peace—a work addressing women’s human rights at an exhibition that upheld gender equality as one of its guiding principles—a group of artists and cultural workers have released a statement objecting to all forms of gender discrimination, as well as discrimination in general. Other artists have released their own statements, and are planning actions including workshops, symposiums, and exhibitions.
We have established ReFreedom_Aichi to reconsolidate these actions under a single, shared platform. We:
Condemn politicians such as Nagoya mayor Takashi Kawamura, Kanagawa governor Yuji Kuroiwa, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga who have made statements that undermine the integrity of the Aichi Triennale, and any officials who incite prejudice through their denials of history
Object to the criminal threats of violence that forced the closure of part of the Triennale, and demand an appropriate response to these threats from the prefectural police
Call for the Triennale organizers to review and strengthen the existing safety measures, in concern for the well-being of the staff who continue to respond to complaints by telephone and on site
Urge Aichi governor and head of the Aichi Triennale organizing committee Hideaki Omura to set up a body for planning the reopening of the closed exhibits and works as soon as possible
On the basis of the above positions, we will give rise to a movement involving the participation of the broader public through concrete practices such as workshops, art projects, collaborative actions, symposiums, and lobbying. Our aim is for the complete recovery of the freedom of expression at the Aichi Triennale, which can only be realized with the full reopening of “After ‘Freedom of Expression?’”
Our solidarity will connect not only artists and public, but also extend to the curators and organizers of the Aichi Triennale itself, in the hope that we can all work together to restore the autonomy of the Triennale’s curation. Going beyond even the Triennale, we call on everyone involved in the arts, on all people who wish to stand up for freedom of expression, and on those around the world who continue to suffer repression to transcend social positions, generational differences, and national borders to join us in common cause. This movement could become the biggest struggle for freedom of expression in the history of postwar Japanese art.
We will have to pull off a miracle to regain our freedom. The Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, one of the participants in the boycott action, says, “Over all my experiences of censorship, I’ve never seen a work that went back on view.” But, she tells us, “For the first time in my career, I feel there’s a chance it could happen.” South Korean artist Minouk Lim was among the first artists to withdraw her work from the Triennale. She says it was an incredibly difficult decision for her, and many of the artists who joined the boycott have also had to grapple with conflicting emotions. But they had to do it. Because they know what it’s like to live under repressive regimes—whether contemporary Cuba or prodemocracy South Korea. Nor can we forget that in prewar Japan, authorities forced the same ideology on the whole society, stripping people of their freedom of thought and expression, and imprisoning and killing not only artists but all others who were considered dissidents.
Our freedom of expression is founded on the struggles of everyone from across history and around the world, past and present, who has given their lives for the sake of freedom. We all bear a responsibility to both past and future generations to uphold that freedom.
As individuals, we each think, express, and speak for ourselves. Without the guarantee of this basic principle, and of spaces for open discussion, how can we possibly feel secure in our ability to create a democratic society, to make a way of life free from the coercion of others?
Now is the time to draw on our knowledge, share our ideas, and display our creativity in working toward this shared goal. Connecting to struggles taking place concurrently around the world, this is a major challenge that goes far beyond the survival of the Aichi Triennale as an art festival: The freedom of humanity is at stake.
By achieving the reopening of all works and exhibits, we will transform the Aichi Triennale from a symbol of censorship into a symbol of the freedom of expression.
Signed Artists of ReFreedom_Aichi