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wah: "Amusing Projects on the Sumida River"
Written by Takeshi HIRATA   
Published: July 23 2009

    We often have a wild idea, which may also be known as an “inspiration”. Indeed, I am not sure how many “ideas” are being generated at this very moment on earth, but I suppose almost all of them will end up in smoke.

    Here, let me introduce an “art” exhibition whose central concept is to realize others’ ideas. Its title is the “wah: Amusing Projects on the Sumida River”. In this exhibition, the artist’s group, the wah, invited the public who live on both sides of the Sumida River in Tokyo, Asakusa and Ryōgoku, to offer their ideas about what they wanted to be realized on the Sumida River, and then actualized some of these proposals. For example, there was a project named “Golf Course on a Ship” which was based on an idea of playing golf on a course which was built on a ship floating on the Sumida River. This exhibition also included many other projects to realize the various eccentric ideas, such as “Using the Sumida River as a Pool” and “Creating a Bathtub”.

“Golf Course on a Ship” performed June 7, 2009, courtesy of Association for Corporate Support of the Arts, Japan

“Golf Course on a Ship” performed June 7, 2009, courtesy of Association for Corporate Support of the Arts, Japan

"Pool" performed May 23, 2009, photo by Kotaro TANAKA, courtesy of Association for Corporate Support of the Arts, Japan

    So, what kind of artist’s group is the wah? The wah is a participatory creative activity group which has been in operation since 2002, run by its core members, Kenji Minamikawa, Hirofumi Masui and akeshi Yoshida. What is still fresh in my mind is that the wah won the Grand Prix in Art Award Tokyo Marunouchi 2009*1 which was held recently. The wah is different to the other kinds of citizen participation art work projects or workshops which are organized under the concept of creating specific works or showing their clear intent. It aims to actualize ideas which have been generated through conversations or reactions provided by participants, including citizens and children, who have been recruited publicly. In bringing their ideas to life, the wah relies on A4-sized idea forms completed by participants. Participants express their extraordinary ideas in the form of pictures or words. The following are examples of wah’s earlier projects which realized other people’s outrageous ideas: the “Flying Lighting Fixtures” (2008), in which Japanese-style room lights suspended by helicopters are flying above a field; the “Thousand Arms” (2007), in which several people with their arms extended are standing in tandem behind others who are waiting at a stoplight, which resembles the image of the Thousand Armed Avalokiteshwara; the “House in the Ground” (2008), in which a house was buried in the ground - a project which took four months and was based on an elementary school student’s idea.

    There is a difference between existing art projects and those of wah. Previously, art projects were considered to be so-called “projects” in which events, such as workshops, were held on the initiative of artists in the course of creating works, and citizens, students and children participated in them as volunteers. Some “projects” were required to be “useful”, namely, to return profits generated through “art” to society, by making companies or public administrations participate in the projects under the theme of social issues or communication. Needless to say, there was no need for wild guesses or eccentric ideas.

    Under such circumstances, the wah renovated this traditional system of “projects” completely. Indeed, the wah has the right to select ideas to be used for making its works which are to be presented as its own creations, but the ideas themselves have been created by others. In other words, the wah’s projects can be said to be realized in the absence of specific creators, which is exactly the main characteristic of wah’s creating process - that a part of it is entrusted to others. In addition, it has a policy of actualizing “useless” and “interesting” ideas. Therefore, it can be said that the wah presents us with the following essential questions about art works through its creations. Who is considered as the creator of an art work; the one who generates the idea used for creating the work or the one who realizes the idea? Is “art” necessary or unnecessary? The wah continues to put the above issues to us through its attempts to embody artistic ideas.

    Indeed, it may be true that the range of ideas used for this exhibition seem a little narrow because of the specific keyword, the “Sumida River”, but, fortunately or unfortunately, the projects which had been completed for this exhibition could hardly make us presume that the concept of this exhibition was introduced to show wah’s compassion for the organizer. There would probably be no need to justify the development of these “amazing project”. Nonetheless, it is a matter of regret that the project entitled “Showing a Rainbow on Both Sides of the Sumida River”, which seemed to be the most visually appealing and grandest project in this exhibition, failed to be realized. However, ideas are rather like rainbows. The wah plans to participate in some exhibitions which will be held in the near future, such as the “Art Festival on Earth 2009 - Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial 2009”, which is to be held in Echigo-Tsumari region, Niigata Prefecture, and the “Aqua Metropolis Osaka 2009”, which will be held in Osaka Prefecture. What kinds of ideas - rainbows - will wah show us in these exhibitions? This will depend on each participant’s idea.
(Translated by Nozomi Nakayama)

Art Award Tokyo Marunouchi 2009: Gyoko-dori Underground Gallery, 29/Apr/2009-31/May/2009
Related Exhibition

wah: “Amusing Projects on the Sumida River”
20/Jun/2009 - 20/Jul/2009
Venue: the Sumida River, Asakusa and Ryōgoku, Tokyo

Last Updated on July 05 2010

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