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Message from Professor

Mami Kataoka 片岡 真実

Mami Kataoka

Global Seminar Director

I want to train artists and curators who can take great leaps into the global art scene.

What are some shared training / knowledge necessary for artists to survive in the world?

The value of artists in today’s world is diverse. This can be in the form of selling works at high prices, being invited to well-respected international art exhibitions such as Venice Biennale and Documenta, or holding solo exhibitions at renown museums. In any case, it’s very important to conform with the needs of the period and propose new ideas from a perspective that is based on historical context yet is grounded in the age you live in. Also, artists who have had long careers and are approaching their 70s and 80s are being re-evaluated. In that way, one important factor to being an artist is the “resolution” to make a living as an artist and the ability to maintain a proper “environment” to allow you to continue to create. Furthermore, although I think this is true for any field such as contemporary art and traditional performing arts, a common quality of artists who can continue to create for long periods is the sense of “not being satisfied.” Only those artists who don’t settle for the current situation and always set high goals to grow are recognized as top-level artists in the world. In other words, you always need to keep a critical attitude toward yourself.  

Finally, I think it’s also essential to “go and meet those who can give you recognition” such as curators and gallerists. It’s not just meeting anyone but having a sharp perception about finding those figures who can recognize your artistic sense and be a portal to the world. You must give presentations to them. To that end, you have to clearly summarize the concepts behind your works, and communication ability is required at a high level. In short, besides sense and inspiration, there are various practical abilities that are valuable and necessary for an artist. 

At the “Graduate School Global Seminar” which was established in 2018, making art through multitiered research and taking account of history is greatly valued. Can you tell us the reasons behind this?

It is said that contemporary Japanese art is showing a global expanse in recent years. It’s an entirely different picture from the times when you could be an “international” artist only by grasping the situation in Japan, Europe, and America. Art is being “produced” in various regions of the world such as Asia, Latin America, and Africa, and circulated in this contemporary age, so it is important to make clear what kind of values are behind art that is made. Unraveling the departure point of “Where do I come from? Who am I?” is seen as inevitably very important. Unless you try to understand by yourself how your sense of values is shaped by social trends and the particularities of the age you live in, you will not be able to stand on the start line of becoming an artist. 

Also considering this from art history perspective, in the 50 some years since the beginning of conceptual art, a great number of art has been made during that time. If you plan to make works from now as an artist, it means you are placing your art on top of this historical context. 

There is clear line drawn between contemporary art and the drawing and manual arts taught in school. Although it’s important to improve one’s technical skills, the study of a comprehensive history that includes art history, sociology, anthropology, and politics is crucial. Recently, contemporary art is more and more defined as a comprehensive field that is based on history where an individual touches on various other fields such as physics, mathematics, and medicine to discover how society works. It’s important to begin with a concept that has breadth and depth and bring the work to fruition after carrying out research. Especially in this age where the internet is everywhere, I think it’s more important to have extensive research and not just be catchy. 

What is the importance of having art transmitted from Asia?

The tendency of art is to operate in a political and economic power balance. If the economy of particular region develops, it inevitably gains more political significance in the world. With flourishing markets, if an upper class is created then this activates the art market. 
In other words, as Asia has seen continual population growth and economic development, one can say it’s inevitable that its importance in the international art scene increases. Although there are already famous artists, curators, and collectors from Asia, as long as there’s room for economic growth, there is still ample possibility for the Asian art scene to gain much more importance. 

Currently, a period of modernization is coming to an end in Japan followed by a stage of aging population and low birthrates. Although Japan has developed following a Western process, there has been a re-evaluation of Japan as a part of Asia, and so there is a need for artists to reconsider what their role is in this situation. The number of laborers from Asia will increase, not to mention the increase in inbound tourists of recent years. No doubt, a great number of people will visit Japan from Asia. Freeing ourselves from a comparison with the West in terms of politics, economics, and art, if we don’t rethink Asia's position in the world, and Japan’s role in Asia, I think we won’t be able to conform to the trends and needs of this era. 

What do you think it means to study art in “Kyoto”?

Kyoto is a special place even for Japanese people. Since Kyoto has been Japan’s capital for a long time, various functions are gathered in the city, with a condensation of tradition and culture. If you want to be active in the global art scene, you have to understand the background of where you as an artist were born. Of course, how well you can properly explain Japanese culture in the international language of English is an important point. In that way, Kyoto is an ideal place where you can experience and understand Japanese culture for yourself, with the many temples and shrines, food culture, and important festivals throughout the year. If you can practice and explain in your own words the history and culture you have studied during your student life in Kyoto, this will be valuable weapon when you leave school and enter the real world. 

What are some features of the newly established “Graduate School Global Seminar” at Kyoto University of Art and Design that students cannot find at other universities?

What I want to realize with the Global Seminar — one is for students to meet various top level artists and curators from different cultures with different histories, social environments and sense of values. I want students to know that there is not just one way to live as a creator, but in fact you can shape your future from a countless number of choices. I want students to see real life “examples” and learn from them. The main learning method at the Global Seminar is “concentrated learning from those with multiple viewpoints.” Saskia Bos, Michihiro Shimabuku, Shreyas Karle, Heman Chong, Miwako Tezuka, and Michael Joo — the guest lecturers we invited in 2018 all had differing ages, nationalities, and practices. Opportunities to see one-time guest lectures by internationally active figures has been normal up to now. But there you can’t really understand on a deep level how they have devoted themselves to their practice, and students can’t receive personal detailed advice. That is why we take in only five students per academic year, and invite guest teachers for a rather long period of two weeks in Kyoto whereby they communicate intimately with students. This is “a style of learning you can't find anywhere else.” 

Tell us your impressions of the three curators/artists that have been invited to this university (August, 2018 at the time fo writing). 

It’s a great selection if I say so myself (laughs). The lecture programs were all decided by the guests themselves, not supplied by us. Saskia Bos has taught for many years in Europe and New York, and she spoke about methods that are needed to receive recognition in the world from the viewpoint of a curator. Her assignment of creating a short-span exhibition in two days with students was very memorable. 

Shreyas Karle led discussions day after day on cinema and classical music appreciation. Along with students, they followed the paths in Kyoto walked by Yasunari Kawabata. Michihiro Shimabuku took the students to see many artists and curators. I think how they created exhibitions at Echigo Tsumari and Ikkyu-ji temple are opportunities you can only have at the Global Seminar. 

Tell us your vision of what kind of creator you want to nurture at the Global Seminar.

I want to nurture artists with comprehensive abilities and the power to leap out — in other words, having a comprehensive viewpoint with a bird’s eye view of the world and the ability to grasp global trends with a wide perspective. Also, accumulating unique research will lead you to have knowledge, which helps you take the leap later. I want to nurture students who can learn and make as many discoveries as possible while a student, so when they enter the real world, they have the ability to leap higher. 

Mami Kataoka

Global Seminar Director / Kyoto University of Art & Design Graduate School Master's Course

Mami Kataoka

1Mami Kataoka is Chief Curator at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo and Artistic Director for the 21st Biennale of Sydney (2016-2018). She is also on the Board of CIMAM (International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art) since 2014.