geert lovink on 16 Sep 2000 16:34:19 -0000

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<nettime> Interview with Yukiko Shigata (for MAAP)

(see also: for the streaming media event out of the Brisbane
Powerhouse on Sunday September 17 with participants from Mumbai, Tokyo,
Beijing, Bandung, Seoul, Melbourne and Hong Kong).

An E-mail Interview with Yukiko Shigata
By Geert Lovink

For many years Yukiko Shigata has been curator for new media arts at Tokyo
Canon ArtLab. She is very well informed about the latest works and trends
within electronic arts, both in Asia and Europe. Because of schedule
reasons, Yikiko Shigata was not able to participate live during MAAP
festival's  streaming media event (Brisbane Powerhouse, September 17, 2000).
Instead, a short e-mail exchange was arranged.

GL: Over the last 10 or 15 years there have been a lot of complaints in
Japan about a structural under/zero funding of new media arts, compared to
the size of the country, its wealth and most of all, its focus on new
technology. With the spectacular rise of Internet and the capacities of
computers, for example to do digital video editing, perhaps young people
working with new media don't need institutional support anymore. Do you see
any sign in the direction of a more independent media culture? Is working
inside big companies still the only option for young people?

YS: As you know well, it became much easier for Japanese young people to
have access to the computers and other new media equipment, compared with
the early 90s. But the point is actually not on the amount of available
equipment, but the motivation to use it creatively and tactically, as
independent media. The notion of "independent media" and the necessity of
having it is rather weak in Japan, being somehow concealed in the society.
The necessity of "independent media" rises when (1) the people shares the
notion of "being independent" as one of the fundamental human right, (2)
they are aware of being in a crisis of individuality by social and/or
political reason, (3) they are conscious of role of media. In the society
such as Japan (as a virtual "homogeneous body"), it is not easy to find an
"independent media culture", compared to elsewhere, especially Europe.
Japan is good in producing portable, wearable gadgets. By having smaller,
cheaper gadget people's obsession to be on trend will be satisfied. They
feel themselves as part of "now, here" in man-machine environment. People
are made by the products, such as fetish objects. The new products form an
economical loop between the user and the company, and it is not that easy
for most of Japanese to get out of it.(of course, enjoy being in the loop
and trying to make independent/creative breakthrough does not contradict
each other, and only from that point, Japanese young people could be
By the way, I think institutional support would make sense, if it provides
artists opportunity to make totally new kind of creation. The thing can be
achieved with institutional support is different compared to the
personal/independent level. Of course very few places in Japan and even in
the world where artists can utilize the higher level of equipment and
sometimes professional engineers. One of such places is Canon ARTLAB where I
work as one of the curators.

GL: What do you think of WAP cell phone as a platform? The text message as
new Haiku? Or the cracked games culture of PlayStation and Dreamcast? A
settopbox interface culture? Are we really getting away from the personal

YS: Cell phone is getting more and more popular platform for the mobile
communication.text message would be a kind of monologue, coming from the
unconscious flow.not formalistic and minimal as Haiku output. (and all the
people know commercially, this is the strategy of Europe and Japan to shift
more mobile, cell phone-based culture, making initiative in the field far
advanced from the personal-computer-based U.S. business). The ways of
communication will be surely change by different interfaces, and this would
in turn change our style of thinking. At the moment I cannot say that we are
getting away from the personal computer, but being conscious of the
different of each media, and use them parallel would make sense. At least we
have to watch the situation by our own responsibility.

GL: Do you know of streaming audio and video initiatives in Japan? Or do we
see the same trick of companies like NTT, to make streaming so expensive
that no one is going to even think about it? How did Japanese kids respond
to the Napster MP3 craze? Does this put the recording industry under
pressure in the same way as, let's say, in the United States?

YS: There are very few. Tetsuo Kogawa (media theorist) and Jun Oenoki (media
artist) are the ones initiating audio streaming. They have the experience of
free radio activities for a long time, raising the issues to the public.
Japanese kids did not respond to the Napster MP3 craze that vividly. They
are rather watching the hype as observers, unconsciously controlled by their
existing role in society... not finding the way. I personally am in favor of
Napster, Internet culture and the new rules which belong to this new

GL: The NTT InterCommunicationCenter in Tokyo has lost half of its budget
and will have to move its exhibition space to a much smaller premise inside
the Tokyo Opera City building. This happened not only because of the breakup
of NTT in NTT-East and NTT-West. What do you think of this development? Is
it good or bad? ICC has been criticized a lot for its megalomaniac approach,
its narrow definition of new media arts and mafia type of organization. Is
this likely to change? On the other hand, last December ICC brought Survival
Research Laboratories to Tokyo to do a free performance. Was this a clever
way to silence its critics?

YS: It is a pity that ICC will be smaller with less budget, in addition to
the existing structural problem. It is true that SRL in Tokyo, the wild
event realized by ICC, in outside space, provided a kind of critic to ICC
from inside. But it's also true that it would not silence the critics to ICC
in general. But even that, I think it is very important that ICC goes on, as
ICC is only one in Japan and one of the few in the world which exhibits new
media arts on a permanent basis. I just hope ICC would be more flexible in
organizing independent activities and smaller events, rather showing a kind
of "masterpieces" of media art. I think that we are getting out of the time
of media arts which represented individual artists by using hi-end machines,
in a closed dark space or environment. Going into the 21st Century, we are
shifting into the more actual, connective environments, which would be done
in/with the public space such as Internet or in the city. These would be
more collaborative, communicational activities, such as "Vectorial
Elevation" (by Rafael-Lozano Hemmer and his team) and the works of Knowbotic
Research. It could be a kind of hybrid of research, communication,
activities, between artists, theorists, researchers, curators, etc.,
interwoven, with the filter of "art". Not art in the traditional way. I
would like to keep on being involved in such activities, as one of

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