Roger McDonald x Andrew Maerkle
Where Are We Now? Revisiting Japan’s Locality Art Phenomenon
The proliferation of local art festivals and projects organized with the goal of community revitalization has been one of the most remarkable features of Japan’s art ecosystem of recent decades. Collectively referred to as “locality art” (chiiki āto), such events have been both an incubator for socially engaged art practices and a flashpoint for socioeconomic, environmental, and political tensions. In this conversation, Andrew Maerkle and Roger McDonald revisit important examples of the locality art phenomenon, such as the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale, founded in 2000, which is often held up as one of the great success stories of using art for community revitalization; the alternative locality art event, Don’t Follow the Wind, ongoing since 2015, for which artists have installed works in the Fukushima Exclusion Zone; and the Aichi Triennale 2019, where a nationwide controversy over free speech erupted when works addressing political taboos became the target of terrorist threats. Conversing in English, Maerkle and McDonald will tease out some critical aspects of these exhibitions, introduce key texts on the phenomenon, and discuss how the phenomenon relates to similar developments outside of Japan.