Expressions of the fandom subculture”
In preparation of the Sapporo Biennale, the “Fanon revealed: Expressions of the fandom subculture” show launched a clear move towards exhibiting not only object-oriented works, but also the immersive environment and qualities of fan-cultures, such as otaku, car customization, or maid-cafes. Museums in Sapporo have been interested in bridging the gap between high and low culture, betting on the cumulative effects of cultural- social- and cool- capital. Its aim was to open a window into the inner workings and knowledge ecosystems developed by glocal (global+local) subcultures.
As we mentioned in our previous stories, the preparations for the Sapporo Biennale, which is to be held in 2014, are well underway.
One year ago, another similar event was held at the initiative of the Committee planning the Sapporo Biennale. This event took place at the Sapporo Art Museum between October 29 (Sat). and November 23 (Wed.) and was titled “Fanon revealed: Expressions of the fandom subculture”. This reporter had never heard the word ‘fanon’ before. Apparently, ‘fanon’ can be defined as ‘created by fans and users, as well as the creative endeavor itself’ and comes from mashing up the words ‘fan’ and ‘canon’. Doujinshi and cosplay are two of its prime examples.
Setting aside pompous words like ‘museum’ and ‘exhibition’, each of the works, items and materials showcased was an impressive display in its own right. There were custom bikes (regular bikes with the engine and appearance modified to suit the owner’s tastes), as well as cars decorated with pictures of characters from manga, anime and games (ita-sha and moe-kuruma). Videos from YouTube and Nico Nico were playing everywhere and there were displays of emoticons (kao-moji) and concept artwork of the virtual superstar Hatsune Miku (incidentally, Miku’s parent company, Crypton Future Media, is located in Sapporo). There was even a maid cafe where pretty girls greeted their customers with “Welcome home, master!”
The production company Kutsushita Planning, responsible for 1980-era TV dramas featuring fictional idols and girlfriends, revealed plenty of details about their works. One booth over, media production artist Makoto Murata and modern artist Kiyoshi Takahashi proudly displayed their works. A tribute/parody to the American artist Jenny Holzer by Takahashi – a conveyor belt usually seen on construction sites, with the words “THIS IS MEDIA ART” handwritten on it – was particularly eye-catching, if a little silly.
This isn’t the first time that subculture products take central stage at an exhibition. In fact, several examples come to mind, featuring manga (the MANGA Age, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, 1998), TV games (BIT GENERATION 2000, Art Tower Mito, Contemporary Art Gallery, 2000) and graffiti (X-COLOR, Art Tower Mito, Contemporary Art Gallery, 2005).
On the other hand, the Sapporo exhibition was radically different. Each of the events mentioned took products of a subculture and displayed them in a context better suited for museum exhibits and works of fine art Every item had its own display and extensive description. Only the best, the brightest and the ‘masterpieces’ of each subculture were chosen, as is typical for such endeavors.
In clear opposition to this, “Fanon revealed” aimed for anything but to put subculture on the same tier as ‘higher’ art. For instance, cars decorated with stickers and images were still presented as cars rather than pretentious artsy displays.
That said, however, this exhibition didn’t feel like a celebration of subculture (such as Comiket or other trade fairs) either. Seeing that the subculture is such a wide area and offers so many different aspects to choose from, each item on display went through a rigorous selection, which made the process far more akin to modern art exhibitions.
Rather than introducing each ‘work of art’ to the viewer, the event aimed to allow a glimpse into the mindset of creating derivative ‘fanworks’. An established work inspires a number of fans, who then use it as a building block in their own creative process, and thus fanworks are born. This is one of the many facets of modern creativity. Works created by anonymous otaku were exhibited alongside works of renowned artists. This is a very important aspect in order to understand what the organizers intended with this exhibition.
The “Fanon revealed” exhibition was also presented as a second event leading up to the Sapporo Biennale. The first such event, titled “9 Days the Museum Disappears”, was held six months prior (in April 2011) at the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art in Sapporo. This expo focused on sound art and performing arts and featured shows and events held by the participating artists, aiming to familiarize the public with the incredible variety of modern performing arts. Going even further back, November 2006 saw another event at the same Museum, titled “FIX! MIX! MAX! Contemporary Art Exhibition”. This event mainly featured modern artists living in Hokkaido and was largely seen as a counterpart to the Sapporo Festival of International Culture.
The underlying concept of the Sapporo Biennale will be “spreading the love for art all around”. With that in mind, the acts of supporting young local artists, hosting events and bridging the gap between subcultures all point towards trying out different methods to accomplish that goal.
Preparations for the Biennale, including administrative works, have begun in earnest as of April this year. It wouldn’t come as a surprise for these preparations to involve everyone, from politicians and economic entities to prominent members of each subculture, at some point. After all, it isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine a connection between local and foreign artists, politics and economics. The Sapporo Festival of International Culture, for instance, has been an integral part of the administrative and economic plan of the region up until now. Among other cultural movements aiming to promote international culture in Japan, the “Yokohama Triennale 2001” was inspired by the cultural activities in the local city of Minatomirai. In a place where cultures meet, such as Sapporo, it makes sense that every effort will be made to surpass all precedents.
That said, it’s probably premature to assume that the unconventional “Fanon revealed” exhibition is an actual preview of the tone and scope of the Sapporo Biennale. As I said before, this event aimed to explore the mindset of fanwork creation rather than simply present the resulting works themselves. It would be safer to say that one way the love for art can be “spread all around” is by tapping into the vast potential of subculture.
It will be interesting to see how these preliminary events, as well as all the others to be organized in the coming months, will contribute to shape up the Sapporo Biennale.
Source: artscape (posted on February 15th, 2012)
Article by Takashi KAMATA (鎌田享) published in Otaku: Sapporo (2012)
Photo credit: Yoskisato Komaki
translation from Japanese by Oana-Cristina Butta