Cultre Power
artist Yukio Fujimoto/藤本由紀夫

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

Yukio Fujimoto (artist, born 1950 in Nagoya)

Aomi Okabe: Seeing that your works, which include objects with music box mechanism that produce sounds, are mostly installations and are unlike the usual paintings found in exhibitions, how have you dealt with art museums when conducting exhibitions and such until now?

at Biennale di Venezia

[BROOM(KMMA)]1997, installation at Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art
© Yukio Fujimoto

Yukio Fujimoto: It’s hard to tell facilities and management costs apart from the cost of the actual art work itself because installations are made from scratch, so if for example, tables are needed, it is difficult to say if they count as venue fixtures, like panels, or not. At least walls are provided by the constructors so that isn’t a problem. While working on one piece, where I covered the ground with dry leaves, the museum staff gathered about 80 large sacks of leaves, dried and fumigated them for me.

Okabe: Because if insects get inside the museum, the rest of the collection would be affected. How did you manage to reduce that staggering budget?

Fujimoto: The dry leaves were the cleaner’s responsibility. The artwork and site were fumigated at the same time. I came to know that once it was done. That’s why whether the curators in charge can handle it or not is a question of their resourcefulness. But people who blithely say from the start “I can do whatever you want” are no good. Rather, it is the ones who are serious that get the job done. Besides curators, people from other departments also get involved, so sometimes people get angry and say “don’t do it”. As for me, by expressing that “I want to do it.” “I want to give it a go” instead of giving explanations, I get provided with ideas from others and we end up with lots of exciting turns. During the exhibition, I feel happy when these people bring along acquaintances and introduce the work to them.

Okabe: Looks like management skills are also being tested here. I visited the Kyoto Art Center today. It occupies the vacant site of Dai Ni Elementary School. What do you think of the activities being carried out there?

Fujimoto: I don’t know the internal structure of the art center, but I went to have a look and thought it was too clean to actually be used. Perhaps the locals had requested for their school not to be messed up, but this raises the question if an art centre that is difficult to use has any significant contribution to make.

Okabe: The centre offers the advantage of cheap rental studios and workspaces, especially good say when it comes to scene design, for example. But apparently, artists can’t keep on using the ateliers as their own.

Fujimoto: The fundamental problem here is the difference between negotiating for a place to use when needed and offering a fully-furnished atelier for anyone to use. Our group – (CAP) The Conference on Art and Art projects, is renting space from Kobe city. We got to know about the building and ended up liking it so much we asked the municipality to let us use it as an experiment. But they said it would cost 5 hundred million yen to renovate. So we said we could use it in its current state and surprised them when we said that we would do all the cleaning. And so they agreed to let us use the place for half a year. Our first event – “CAP HOUSE-190 days arts experiment” (3 NOV 1999 – 10 MAY 2000) was held where 120 – 130 people in white overalls, complete with official logos, cleaned the place up. We collected fees from the participants and provided box-lunches. It all started from there. Even though using the place was free of charge, we were shocked by the building’s high running costs. (Currently, CAP non-profit organization is under contract with Kobe city and actively undertakes management consignments.)

Okabe: CAP was also an interesting experience, I think.


© Yukio Fujimoto

Fujimoto: Yes. But it is limited to organizing. I personally have decided not to do volunteering. I have to find a place to do whatever I’m interested in not for society’s sake, but for mine. I pursue the things I want to do in the place where it is possible.

Okabe: To you, does volunteering mean making time for other people’s sake?

Fujimoto: Exactly. But I feel that volunteers have to be professionals. Just helping out doesn’t make you a volunteer. The point is I would be thankful if trade professionals came as volunteers to do the job for me. Whether they are doctors giving up their time for free during a quake disaster, or professional homemakers who do fantastic housekeeping, it doesn’t matter. I, myself, don’t actually have the chance to volunteer. There aren’t many opportunities to do so in art, I say.

Okabe: You are now involved in community development, right? What do you think about public art at a community-level and about how the artists involved ought to be supported?

Fujimoto: During the Ashiya Symposium, I said that art itself isn’t necessary. For example I don’t see the purpose in including art in the Minami Ashiyahama Earthquake Reconstruction Housing Program. Specifically, it’s called “Art and Community” but I don’t think there is a need for names like that. What is needed here are artists. The involvement of artists in a project is more important than artwork. It is not necessary for the artists to create something visible to the eye. It’s good if they can contribute to a project by sharing their ideas and opinions. The main thing is to be able to complete the project with the participation of these kinds of people. It is the same with everyday life, it is not necessary to have art in public spaces or to have art museums, instead I think that culture is born when artists are there to communicate and associate themselves with the public in their daily lives. Nevertheless, artists have to survive.

Okabe: That’s why it’s a matter of how to support it, right?

Fujimoto: In a time when others are suffering with the difficulties of restructuring etc. and cannot offer support, you have no choice but to do what you love, to live and search by yourself. But it isn’t always easy, so if only there was some kind of help available. I think more and more people are going ahead despite this. It’s not only about money. Pride is the most important thing. Also you are required to engage on the level of the general public. You should be able to respond to an outsider who goes “What exactly is this artwork about?” “Why are you wasting your time?” Instead of going “I don’t care if you don’t understand”, you should be able to explain to the person next to you “This is what I am doing”. Those who think artists are free and can do whatever they like are not relevant here. The most important thing is to be able to confidently say that you are proud to be an artist who lives life your own way. But aid should never be excessive. Don’t let the artists depend on it to live, but don’t let them die either. It will be an asset if one person, out of the masses, wants to go on creating art until he dies. Another thing I want to add is that artists will profit. However, unlike merchandise, which brings profit after one or two years, artists gain fifty or a hundred years later. If you continue for fifty years you’ll make profit every year.

Okabe: That is very convincing. It is only a matter of having a 50-100 year vision and being able to fulfill it.

Fujimoto: The sad thing is in reality, people on the administrative side have to think short term as in two, three years.

(at Kyoto Musuem of Modern Art cafe, January 30th, 2001, translated by Deborah Ten, revised by Emma Ota)


藤本由紀夫 アーティスト

藤本:根本的な問題は、場所が必要だったら交渉して使うのか、もともとアトリエ設備がありますから誰かどうぞ、という違いです。僕たちのCAP(The Conferenece on Art and Art projects)というグループは、神戸市から場所を借りてますが、そういう建物があることを知る機会があり、とても気に入り、神戸市に実験的に使わせてくれと言いました。ところが神戸市は使えるようにすると最低でも5億円かかると言う。我々はこのままでいい、自分たちで掃除するからと言ったら呆れて、訳が分からないけれど、とりあえず半年貸すことにしたようです。そこで最初のイベント(「CAP HOUSE-190日間の芸術的実験」1999.11.3〜2000.5.10)で120〜130人がロゴ入りの白いつなぎを着て大掃除をやった。お弁当持ちで参加費をとって。まずはそこから始まったんです。でもタダで借りられるといっても、建物のランニングコストが非常にかかり、びっくりしました。