culture power
artist Masato Nakamura/中村政人

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

Masato Nakamura. Artist. Born in 1963, in Akita Prefecture.

Okabe: There was an artist space in Tokyo called Studio Shokudo, but I would like to ask you about the artist run group which you first initiated, commandN.
Nakamura: If we briefly touch upon the situation in Japan before that that time, a particular feature was the system of rental gallery spaces. From the 60’s to the 70’s this system really developed in the Kanda area, and one could catch a real sense of the independent activity of artists, shaping the arts scene. To organize everything yourself, down to the actual sale of your work was a huge undertaking, and maybe it is a very Japanese work ethic, but at that time it was a system which Europe and America could not even think of. The reason being that even if you are a student, anybody could get their own exhibition together if they paid the rental fee, there were of course good artists amongst these, but in this change of structure the question of “What is art?” becomes lost.

Okabe: More recently galleries with a curated programme have increased in number and there has been a rise in negative criticism of rental spaces.
Nakamura: Yes that’s right. However you have to understand that there are some things you can only do in a rental space. In a commercial gallery the good thing is that they nurture the art market and create very good connections with artists, collectors and art museums. However in the commercial scene it is the buyer who has the initiative. In the 90’s major professional gallerists came to the fore and it was near the end of the century that commandN then emerged. What has been fundamental to this has been an avant garde mind-set, like for example that of High Red Center in the 1960’s, bringing art out onto the streets and the regaining of artists’ independence. It was very much part of commandN’s vision to encourage artists to say something from an independent position, to take the initiative and to join in or infiltrate the society around them. It is the basic way of thinking of commandN to create something new, the short-cut key on a mac computer command+N, creating a new page. And in this new undertaking we are trying to freshly point towards the local art practices of Tokyo and Japan’s provinces with a global perspective.

Okabe: When you first established commandN did you also come up with the idea for AkihabaraTV at the same time?
Nakamura: Actually the idea for AkihabaraTV came first, we set up an office next to Akihabara and brought artists and curators together. Although there were some examples of pioneering alternative art spaces in Tokyo like “Sagacho” run by Kazuko Koike, there were no artist run spaces. AkihabaraTV was a project which hi-jacked the television monitors on sale in the electronics stores of Akihabara and for a limited period of time presented artists’ video work.
nakamura masato
Masato Nakamura 「minimal selves」 2001
協力:am/pm Japan Co.,Ltd.  FamilyMart Co.,Ltd. LAWSON, INC. Three F Co., LTD.  Seven-Eleven Japan Co., Ltd. JR East Convenience Co.,Ltd. POPLAR. CO., LTD. Daily YAMAZAKI CO.,LTD.
© Anne Hardy


Okabe: Within your own work, in your approach towards art, when did you first begin to think about the importance of the involvement with society and contributing to its regeneration?
Nakamura: Particularly from the time when I was studying in Korea for three years, I began to question what I was trying to do and began to think about the impact of education, how to generate and build my own identity, it was a period to reexamine these things. Also in considering a society built on cram schools and exams I have been motivated to publish a book of interviews about art education.

Okabe: You started to make a name for yourself around the time that you went to study in Korea. I thought this was quite unusual. I thought at the time “ah, a new artist has arrived”. Usually all the artists just went to New York.
Nakamura: Well, I kind of shrunk from the commercial culture of America, and I thought well I can go to New York some other time. Korean art was different from Impressionist loving Japan, it was a place of real contemporary art. It really had a greater awareness of the contemporary, and amongst the general people there was a greater appreciation of art as something to be enjoyed. There were also a lot of wealthy people who were generous with their money, supporting the creation of work and also buying it.

Okabe: The modern period also coincided with the colonial period so the position of collections is often quite contested is it not? Recently there has been an attempt to excavate the modern from a new point of view. In the exhibition “Cold Burn”, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo you presented the convenience store work and the MacDonald’s work, which was also presented in your solo exhibition at SCAI THE BATHHOUSE. I should imagine if you make this kind of work using the signs of commercial establishments it is a very difficult task to negotiate with these companies.
Nakamura: Yes you’re right. That’s because I’m asking please let me use your signs, and please let me use them as art. Usually with trademarks you have one shot and you’re out. But with the work that I created if you experience it one time I think you can sense a difference between the usual Macdonald’s on the street and it is the sharing of this perspective which points towards the possibilities of art. In the case of the convenience store work, first of all 7eleven were the most difficult to talk with, but in the case of MacDonald’s it was much easier to negotiate with them.

Okabe: In that case, if you want a collector you can always sell these works right?
Nakamura: I select the collectors. If it is ok with me and the makers then of course we can sell them. But the usual art museums can’t buy this work. If you can buy art work then I think that during your life time you should try buying it (laughs).

Okabe: In the case of the convenience store and MacDonald’s works I think there are two ways of interpreting them. One is to consider them as a criticism of the consumer society of America, globalization, capitalism, and suggest the similarity of Japan’s own condition, offering a critique or satire as a Japanese artist undertaking such action. On the other hand it can also be viewed, as questioning the meaning of the symbols of the 20th Century, like art itself.

Nakamura: Well of course because they are art works if you look at them from this perspective it is fine. But things which derive from the word capitalism, probably carry a depth which can not be resolved within art. Economists, and financial movers and shakers on the scene have a certain power. Therefore even if I were to satirize the headstrong economics of the director of 7eleven simply as an art work, I can not be completely opposed to it, the essence is completely different. The thing I am interested in, as I said at the beginning, is to reconstruct the value of the encounter with art and the essential elements which go into the formation of art. What we need to consider is how can the social condition found amongst those local elements be invested with a global message which can contribute towards society?

nakamura masato
49th Venice Biennale Japanese Pavilion 2001 「QSC+mV/V.V」
© Masato Nakamura
Special Sponsor: McDonald's Company (Japan), Ltd.
Sponsor:kirin Brewery Company, Limited、Panasonic Electric Works Co., Ltd.
Special assistance: Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum/Benesse Corporation
assistance: Toa Resins co.,ltd、Mitsubishi Rayon Co., Ltd.
TAKINAMI co.,ltd、Art planning workshop、Shiraishi Contemporary Art, Inc.



Okabe: After AkihabaraTV, you went on to organize the Sukima (gap) project didn’t you.
Nakamura: The change taking place in Akihabara is really quite remarkable. It has become a place where people are highly critical of whether something is of value or not. If you put out low quality goods nobody will pay any attention to them. Now Akihabara has become a place for Otaku to gather, and anime and figurines from all over the country are on sale here. Therefore we can not help but ask “What is art?”
Also I have begun to consider recently about the differentiation between artist, curator and producer. Work in the arts field is a genre which still hasn’t fully developed, there are a lot of art museums, a lot of work collected, the foundations of education are widening, and there are many excellent people in the field, but there is no work. Most people can’t live off this activity. That’s because people don’t think of generating their own work for themselves or others. People who come to commandN ask things like “I want to become a curator but how can I do this?” and I tell them “You have to at least make your own exhibition first”. Now there are a lot of alternative art spaces both in Japan and world wide, so they are quickly building a network. That’s because the people involved in such projects share the same awareness. And it is with this meaning that commandN exists in this gap which brings so many connections together.
(SCAI THE BATHHOUSE、15th December 2000)

中村政人 アーティスト

岡部:近代が植民地時代に重なるので、コレクションの位置づけが困難だったからでしょうね。最近新たな視点での近代の発掘が行われています。東京都現代美術館の「低温火傷」展でコンビニの作品と、SYK THE BATHHOUSEの個展でマクドナルドの作品を見ましたが、こうした企業の商標を使う作品の場合、相手方の企業との交渉が大変でしょうね。

(SCAI THE BATHH岡部USE、2000年12月5日、参加者:浦野直子、笠原佐知子、國井万紗子、鈴木さやか、テープ起こし担当:國井万紗子)