Cultre Power
artist Aida Makoto/会田誠

Copyright © Aomi Okabe and all the Participants
© Musashino Art University, Department of Arts Policy and Management
©岡部あおみ & インタヴュー参加者

Makoto Aida (artist, born 1965 in Niigata and works in Tokyo)

Aomi Okabe: In the film Near Equal Aida Makoto, your studio was used for the set, which looked like a traditional Japanese living room. Has your studio always been like that?

Makoto Aida  © Mizuma Art Gallery

Makoto Aida: No, that studio was only for temporary use right after I came back from the states. I borrowed that place for about one year. Usually, I don’t own a studio of my own because I tend to end up using it as storage.

Okabe: It seems that you have been producing gigantic art pieces like; A Picture of an Air Raid on New York City (War Picture Returns) and The Gaint Member Fuji versus King Gidora. Have you always liked to paint big?

A Picture of an Air Raid on New York City (War Picture Returns) 1996
© Mizuma Art Gallery

Aida: Yes. I have about 4 reasons why I like big paintings. First of all, I’m a natural-born idiot. I consider the stupidity as one of my talents. I’d like audiences to laugh at it when they see my work and to get that kind of effect they’ve got to be massive. I have my own theory that big pieces are meant for good laughs, and small pieces are for intellectual stuff. In addition, most of the collectors I’ve met, with the exception of Mr. Ryutaro Takahashi, are only capable of purchasing small pieces. I’d like to place my art pieces in museums rather than to furnish private living rooms. I don’t mean to say that museums are greater than private collections though. But with museums, although you need to pay the entrance, you can go there with your friends or for dates on Sundays. I think my work is more suited for such places.

Okabe: (laughter) I think your pieces are quite dramatic and shocking as well.

Aida: I’d say they are dramatic and shallow. I kind of think it is okay to be shallow. It’s good enough for me if one of my art works is recognized as a symbol and leaves an impression to audiences. They are like a funhouse or ghost house at a local fair, in the way that you don’t have to gaze at them forever with adoration. They cannot satisfy someone who visits museums to stare at paintings, like Mark Rothko’s, to receive some kind of religious excitement. My work has a different purpose

Giant Salamander 2003
© Mizuma Art Gallery

Student: I heard that when you were in university, you used to think you ought to paint in a Japanese style because you are Japanese. Do you think there’s a difference between Japanese and foreign perspectives on Japan’s culture?

Aida: They are utterly different. I personally think there are two distinct characteristics of what is considered Japanese. One is the traditional aspect of Japan. For example, ukiyo-e is now popular all over the world. As well as Manyoshu (the oldest collection of Japanese poetry) which is almost impossible to grasp its context, especially for foreigners. The other aspect is the dark side of modern Japanese reality, which is difficult to introduce abroad. For example, you can see this in the photographs of Takashi Honma. Looking at the everyday landscapes of Japan that he portrays, you don’t see poverty but a certain hollowness, a landscape arising after the Second World War, artificially peaceful and clean, but slightly rotten… I’m not good at these kinds of expressions, but that’s fine by me. There are people who are good at it. There was a time when Tsuguharu Fujita recognized internationally, whereas in Japan he was criticized of the frivolous dumping image of the country. I think that Takashi Murakami is in a similar situation as Fujita these days. The interesting thing is that now young artists in China and Korea are trying to gain visibility by making fun of own countries. They are mocking communism and China’s 4000 year history of Occultism. I consider that this is a very positive way of taking things. They pursue with vitality, anything that could enable them to become successful in the art business. It is totally okay that Murakami chose manga as his way of gaining his publicity to survive in this global society. However, I think it is also important for us, as Japanese, to feel some degree of shame in doing so.

Shinkansen Super-Express (from the series of "Minna to Issho") 2002
© Mizuma Art Gallery

Okabe: Looking at A Picture of as Air Raid on New York City (War Picture Returns) and Mutated Hanako made me wonder what would happen if an anti-America person actually goes to the States. How did you feel about that when you were staying in America?

Aida: Being anti-America didn’t help me in getting along with people. It was largely a language problem however. It’s not that I revealed anti-American sentiment by getting involved in a massive debate or anything, though. I’m idiotically emotional so that it is almost a reflex to react against anything associated with invasion. Probably the fact that my father was left-wing might have something to do with it. I even got angry when I randomly watched some educational or cultural program on the NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) channel about the 6th century of European history on aggression. It disgusts me to hear even an ancient story where a country invades into others without courtesy. Therefore, I revolt at the conquest of the American Continent and of course what happened in South America. I must admit though, I’m contradictable and a hypocrite for being a little self-defensive towards the Japanese army during the Pacific War.

Okabe: A Picture of as Air Raid on New York City (War Picture Returns)  can be observed as the dream the Japanese army supposedly had after the Pearl Harbor attack, right? Nothing like that happened in history, though.

Aida: Yes, indeed. This is why I call myself a hypocrite. I can understand the ecstasy in invasion, too.

Okabe: In contrast, Japanese war paintings back then only portrayed reality. They seem to have rejected any emotional desires or dreams. Am I right to say that you have depicted the dreams that the Japanese army supposedly had? Aida: You are probably right. The official salon artists in that era were a lot more grown up compared to us, contemporary artists. They believed that art should portray real human beings even in an emergency like during war. I think these culturally educated people for being so mature.

Shit by Jomon-type Monster 2003
© Mizuma Art Gallery

Okabe: What do you think about today’s Japanese museums as an artist? Most of your pieces are large-scale and it seems that you are conscious of placing them in public spaces like museums. Let us know how you think about this.

Aida: I’d like Japanese museums to have courage. If the lack of money is the problem, it is exactly when they should distribute young artists. Young artists are eager to satisfy their desire for self-expression and therefore would commit exhibitions even if there is little money involved. The most important thing is, Tsuyoshi Ozawa has said it too, to start an exhibition in Japan and take it abroad to introduce Japanese culture towards the world. That is what top museums in each country must do. Therefore, the most important museum of contemporary art in the country, like Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, needs to take on the role broadcasting Japanese art all over the world. I strongly believe that this museum should have such an ambition.

(At Mizuma Art Gallery, November 18th, 2003, translated by Mei Matsubara, revised by Emma Ota)


会田誠 (アーティスト、1965年新潟生まれ、東京で活動)

岡部あおみ:会田さんが登場なさっている映画『会田誠 〜無気力大陸〜』という映画の舞台に使われている和室のようなアトリエは昔からですか?

 (2003年11月18日 場所:ミヅマアートギャラリー)