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<nettime> (fwd) ART iT article: Is the ICC (Tokyo) closing?
Andreas Broeckmann on Sat, 20 Aug 2005 13:39:29 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> (fwd) ART iT article: Is the ICC (Tokyo) closing?


[on 13 june 05, Rob van Kranenburg asked on this list: 'what's 
next?', quoting the 'restructuring' of IVREA and the closure of the 
MIT Media Lab in Dublin; we have also recently seen the termination 
of the Radiator Festival, Kopenhagen/DK, of CICV, Montbeliard/FR, of 
the World Wide Video Festival, Amsterdam/NL, as well as the scaling 
down of Electrohype, Malmoe/SE, Public Netbase, Vienna/AT, and of 
HTBA Hull Time Based Arts, Hull/UK; while each of these cases has its 
particular local, national or even personal reasons, it is difficult 
not to think that there is some sort of a pattern which, at least in 
part, reverses the 1990s institutional expansion of media culture and 
media art; and what do we make of these rumours from Tokyo? abroeck]

posted by permission of the author, Mr. OZAKI Tetsuya, of ART iT and 
REALTOKYO - http://www.artit.jp/ - http://www.realtokyo.co.jp/ )

a PDF version in Japanese and English is at
http://www.realtokyo.co.jp/japanese/column/102-103_Behind_the_Scenes.pdf



Behind the Scenes #003
NTT InterCommunication Center
Reporting/text: Ozaki Tetsuya (ART iT editorial department)

Is the ICC closing?

Rumor has it that the NTT InterCommunication Center (ICC) will close 
at the end of the 2005 financial year, i.e. in March 2006. So is this 
pioneering facility so central to Japanese media art really about to 
disappear? ART iT went in pursuit of the true story.


When asked to respond to questions on the rumored closing of ICC, 
"regretfully declining" to meet in person to discuss the matter the 
Nippon Telegraph and Telephone East Corporation (NTT East) public 
relations office stated, "Basically this is an issue we're looking 
into at present, while monitoring the operating environment. We need 
to achieve greater efficiency in operations, and are investigating 
closure as one option, but at this stage can't comment further."

	However, the exhibition schedule for ICC only runs to 
December 2005, while the library and cafe in the lobby were closed in 
March this year. Insiders say that although they've been told an 
official decision has yet to be made, exhibition plans from the end 
of the year are under wraps, and they've been directed to "finish up 
all paperwork" by March 2006. Several people involved with ICC have 
testified that news of the closure policy came from above around the 
end of 2004/start of 2005. ICC is run by NTT Learning Systems, part 
of the NTT Group, and "above" refers to further up the chain, i.e. 
NTT East itself.

Radical changes in operating structure over the years

The ICC project was launched in 1990 by NTT to mark a century of 
telephone services in Japan, with pre-opening activities commencing 
the following year once the basic concept was in place. These were 
ambitious endeavors, and included The Museum Inside the Telephone 
Network exhibition (1991) predating widespread use of the Internet, 
and launch of the bulletin InterCommunication (1992). Opening in 
April 1997 in Tokyo Opera City, ICC became an international base for 
media art on a par with Ars Electronica Center, Linz and ZKM in 
Karlsruhe. Closing temporarily in autumn 2000, it reopened the 
following spring in far smaller premises with major cuts to staff and 
budget.

	During this period ICC underwent some radical changes in 
operating structure. Initially the trio of Asada Akira (history of 
social thought), Ito Toshiharu (art history) and Hikosaka Yutaka 
(architect) were closely involved in drafting programs for the 
facility as members of the ICC Committee, however 1996, the year 
before opening, saw the appointment of art critic and former 
researcher at the National Museum of Art, Osaka, Nakamura Keiji (who 
passed away in March this year) as deputy director of ICC, 
accompanied by frequent replenishment and additions to the curatorial 
ranks. About two years after opening, the system changed to one of a 
program committee including the trio above, while at the same time 
meetings of a group of "elders" including the architect Isozaki Arata 
continued to be convened. One thing very Japanese about the whole 
setup was the way in which the museum director was appointed: the 
first assigned by NTT head office knowing nothing about art as whole, 
let alone media art.

	Following the opening of the revamped ICC in 2001, incredibly 
NTT decided not to appoint a director at all. Conversely though 
perhaps this and the other substantial cuts to operations actually 
did some good, as the museum's programs seemed to roll out more 
smoothly. In particular, since 2004 the ICC has acquired some 
powerful assistance in the shape of Sumitomo Fumihiko (see ART iT 
Vol. 2 No. 4 Curator Interview A.I.T.) of the Office for the 21st 
Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa Construction, and 
Shikata Yukiko (see ART iT Vol. 3 No. 1), producer of numerous media 
art shows for the Canon Art Lab, Mori Art Museum and as an 
independent, forming a three curator team with sound art expert 
Hatanaka Minoru that has organized a series of interesting shows. The 
museum attracts around 40 - 50,000 visitors annually. Average 
admissions are around 10,000 for each show, with Maywa Denki's The 
Nonsense Machines drawing 23,000.

"NTT's social responsibility"

However, closing the ICC would mean laying off Sumitomo and Shikata 
not even two years after their appointment. In fact not just this 
pair but the majority of the just under 20 staff, i.e. curatorial, 
public relations, engineering and reception staff, are either 
contract employees, temps or part-timers, so would suffer a similar 
fate. And while the issue of their employment is important, there are 
two other problems accompanying closure that also come immediately to 
mind.

What will become of the collection?
ICC has a collection of 14 works by artists such as Iwai Toshio, Dumb 
Type and Jeffrey Shaw, as well as video works by Bill Viola and Gary 
Hill to name just two. What potential is there to donate these to a 
similar facility, rather than returning them to the artists?

What will become of the ICC databases?
Apart from a program of database construction in place since ICC's 
opening, the facility is currently developing an archive dubbed HIVE. 
At present the archive is limited to local use, i.e. within ICC, 
however word has it that the system is being upgraded with the idea 
of making it available generally on the Internet. Would this continue 
as a Web project after closing?

There are numerous other issues surrounding closing of the ICC that I 
won't go into here, such as whether the 15 years of the facility's 
activities will be documented in any way, and what kind of facility 
or institution will take over the international connections 
cultivated over the years of ICC's existence.

	At ICC itself some are hoping management will pass to another 
company in the NTT Group, however as far as one can tell from the 
current situation, this seems unlikely. NTT (the holding company, 
i.e. even further up the chain) posted a year-on-year decline in 
operating income of 22.4% down to 1.2 trillion yen for FY2004, the 
company's first fall in profit since privatization. At an interview 
with the author in 1998, the first director of ICC stated that "being 
part of NTT's policy of social responsibility, we won't let this 
project die." But how much faith can we put in such assurances...?

	The best outcome of course would be for ICC to continue its 
activities. If this is not feasible, as the next best course of 
action I hope those at the top, if they do decide to close the 
facility, take sufficient time to complete the necessary mopping up 
operations, including solving the aforementioned problems. Even just 
finding a destination for the collection is not a task able to be 
completed in a few months. The whole scenario is connected also with 
the recent issue of problems with the operation of public art 
museums, but whether public or private, museum operators need to 
seriously consider what it means to be a facility for the community.


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