culture power
artist Kyoichi Tsuzuki/都築響一

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

Kyoichi Tsuzuki  (journalist and artist, born 1956 in Tokyo)

Aomi Okabe: I saw your installation of Toba International Sex Museum (Roadside Japan) (1996) at Yokohama Triennale, which was quite graphic. I heard that you purchased the collection of the defunct Toba Sex Museum. Is that right?

Kyoichi Tsuzuki: I thought it was a pity that the museum had to close down, simply because people didn’t pay a visit. Nobody considers this museum as a subject of art. However, when it is viewed in a particular context, like Yokohama Triennale, audiences will be convinced that this is certainly what art is. When is was exhibited at some suburb area in Toba, it didn’t catch any attention and even worse, was labeled as an inappropriate subject. The museum ran over 20 years, but it wasn’t even introduced in a town guide. Society can be cruel towards this kind of culture. Therefore, it is really important that this exhibition is recognized as a form of art. To be honest, I strongly believe that some museums, like the National Museum of Ethnology or the Mie Prefectural Art Museum, should buy this exhibition instead of wastiong their money on some absurd impressionist paintings. I had to spend my own money for this exhibition, so it is hard work to rent storage and stuff. I had hoped that some art university would support me.


Kyoichi Tsuzuki
photo Aomi Okabe

Okabe: Well, how much would it be if I were to buy?

Tsuzuki: It is incredibly cheap. I’d say, as cheap as a Mercedes Benz car. Nonetheless, people would agree that 30 million yen for a car is reasonable, or even a house for 100 million yen, but it is a different matter when it comes to buying a sex museum. I mean, not many people are prepared to spend their money on art. I think, if you had 100 million yen, you could buy all the sex museums in Japan.

Okabe: Your exhibition was one of the major pieces in the Yokohama Triennale, right?

Tsuzuki: Yeah, but as soon as the show ended I was told to bet out of the site without a word of thanks. Vast amount of people paid a visit to the Triennale, but the artists didn’t receive any payment in the end, not even a penny. Art seems really fashionable, but when it comes to money, it’s a very sensitive and complicated issue. I think this is the most outdated and sordid part of the Japanese contemporary art scene. There are a lot of cool museums, but they still carry on with this pre-modern system. I can easily spot the error in today’s art system, because I’m an outsider in a way.

Okabe: In Japan, it is common that many public art museums are restricted from paying artists. In contrast, art museums abroad are known to pay the artists even if it is only a small gesture.

Tsuzuki: Exactly. I think the Japanese art system is unrealistic. It is unfair that artists don’t get paid back for their art.You must rent storage, because you get kicked out of the museum immediately after the show. It means that the more you create, the more you suffer. It’s crazy! And it’s very rude to the artists, don’t you think? In the past, the artists used to gain their prestige by exhibiting in museums, as a result, the price of their art pieces increased. This then encouraged an attitude amongst museums of supporting the artist. However, this method is no longer true these days. Before you enter the art business, you must understand that today’s Japanese art runs on a hidden system which forces the artists to work voluntarily without any financial aid, otherwise you will be disappointed for sure.

Okabe: Let’s talk about eroticism. Eroticism was used as a symbol in celebration of the harvest in the past, but it exists today as a way of popular visual expression, which appears to be very unique to Japan. For example, in many other countries eroticism is a taboo subject for religious reasons.

Tsuzuki: If you look at eroticism, Japan must have the most creative approach. I think each nation has its own talent. For example, Chinese people are the best at cooking, Italian’s, world’s best car design, or Japanese, eroticism. I had an exhibition called “Satellite of Love” in London which included the interior design of a Japanese brothel which shocked audiences. It was already a form of conceptual art. Nevertheless, it looks cool when it is presented in a form of exhibition. In Paris I also presented an exhibition on love hotels. Despite its controversy, a lot of people came to see it. In fact, for most of the foreign architects who visit Japan, the love hotel is their most desired sight-seeing spot.

Okabe: Eroticism in Japan has been embedded in art, tradition and history. However, since western culture and modernism were introduced, it has come to be regulated and somewhat suppressed. People tend to limit themselves with morality. But from the perspective of some foreigners, Japan appears to be such a different world that they can critique it without risk.

Tsuzuki: But in the end it seems to me that Japanese people are pleased because foreigners are assessing them. This mentality hasn’t improved since the ukiyo-e era. To me, the most fascinating thing is to discover something new by taking risk. There is no point in praising what has already been praised before. I think there are only 2 types of artist; boring but receives lots of money and do whatever you want in your free time, or interesting but can’t make any money out of it. Life is a lot easier if you let yourself believe the latter option is impossible.

Okabe: What was the reason which made you decide to introduce the unknown places and people of Japan in your work?

Tsuzuki: It’s only been in the past 10 years that I have started to get to know Japan. I used to work abroad for a long time, so that I couldn’t realize how great a country Japan really is. In fact, Roadside Japan was originally intended only as a short series. I was having some drinks with the director of “SPA!” magazine, saying that there are eccentric people existing in the countryside. We said, let’s write a column about them! That was the beginning and I got fascinated with it. The series lasted for about 5 or 6 years and I still travel around even though the series has ended. Don’t you at least want to go around every bit of your own country? If you live in Tokyo, you could start at least by travelling over the 23 wards. During the trid, for example, I met an old man who runs an anti-gravity laboratory. He’s been saying that he is only one step away to completing his UFO for over 40 years. Everybody laughs at him, but he can’t be more serious. It is very important for me to meet these kinds of people. It doesn’t mean that I need to imitate them, though. At times when I seem about to fall, thinking about them gives me courage. This is why I am writing books about them to introduce these kinds of people to the world.

Okabe: In your view, the country of Japan can be described as an `adorable girl without any make-up, not too beautiful but pretty enough.’

Tsuzuki: Don’t you agree? I know it doesn’t sound very cool. Take a look at Japanese architecture, for example. I’m sure that there are more people who go to love hotels that people who own a house designed by Tadao Ando. However, there has not been a single architect or design magazine issued on love hotels so far. This culture is neglected by media even though it is one of the most recognizable features around us. I could easily publish a book like TOKYO STYLE, but it would be called TOKYO EXCEPTIONS  since the number of cool buildings in Tokyo is rather limited. I think it is important to find this sense of reality.

Okabe: Lastly, would you like to make a comment on today’s art scene in Japan and the lack of art spaces?

Tsuzuki: I consider the art museum as a place for collecting, exchanging, and exhibiting art works. If you don’t have any pieces to exchange, then, you can borrow something by paying ridiculous amounts of money. But for an artist, these is no compliment worth more than someone buying even one small piece of your work. In my opinion, the only way for museums to survive is to support young artists. Say Mori Art Museums spent 600 million yen for the exhibition called “HAPPINESS”. If you had that amount of money, you could buy approximately 100 to 200 Japanese contemporary artists’ works. I really don’t understand why despite there being so many museums in Japan, there is not a single art museum you can name where you can be guaranteed of seeing real contemporary art. It is absurd that even though Japan does not have this provision, a huge amount of money is still being consumed in vain. I think artists suffer to create their work; therefore, those who are not artists must undertake the burden of providing good galleries and art museums for them. If you are willing to work with artists, it is only fair that you take the same risks as well.

(At Kyoichi Tsuzuki office, November 26th, 2003, translated by Mei Matsubara, revised by Emma Ota)


都築響一 アーティスト

都築:そういう国だと思いませんか?かっこ悪いけど。建築にしたってラブホテルに行ってる人の方が、安藤忠雄さんの家に住んでる人より数では圧倒的に負けない。でも建築・インテリア雑誌では絶対取り上げてくれないし完全無視。はるかに僕達の生活に身近なものでしょ。例えば『TOKYO STYLE』みたいな本は沢山作れますけど、ものすごくかっこいい東京の住まいは少ないので「例外東京」。自分にとってのリアリティがどこにあるのかということですよね。

(麹町の都築響一オフィス、2003年11月26日 参加者:芦立さやか、足立圭、池内麗佳、小黒加奈子、高木嘉代、高橋僚佑、中村美久、直塚郁、テープ起こし:直塚郁 + 中村美久)