VOL.051st SCHOOL OF THE FUTURE FESTIVAL
"On the Edge Exhibition"
- TOKYO MIDTOWN
- Collaboration Partner
- ARS ELECTRONICA
TOKYO MIDTOWN and ARS ELECTRONICA held "SCHOOL OF THE FUTURE FESTIVAL," an event for thinking together with visitors about future society.
More than just an exhibition, "SCHOOL OF THE FUTURE FESTIVAL" also gives people opportunities to experience things for themselves through a diverse program of performances, workshops, talk events, and more. The concept is "a new place to think about the future that is not taught in schools through art and design."
It has also been selected for a grant under the Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL program the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Arts Council Tokyo are running to give Tokyo a cultural boost when the Olympic and Paralympic Games are held there in 2020.
The theme of this "SCHOOL OF THE FUTURE FESTIVAL" is its name: "On the Edge." Here, we present a report on the exhibition that brought together a large collection of "On the Edge" works that invited us to the edge of the boundaries we face in society.
From "Error" to "On the Edge"
"On the Edge" may conjure up images of a danger, but it is an important energy that constantly brings us change. In fact, the theme of last year's 2018 ARS ELECTRONICA Festival in Linz, Austria, was "Error." In a modern society where people are forced to live efficiently, safely and correctly, "mistakes" and "failure" tend to be viewed very negatively.
However, without a lot of trial and error and risky challenges, today's society would not have been born, and we will not be able to create the future. We need to have the spirit to take on challenges even though we will not necessarily succeed, and the tolerance to accept when things do not turn out how we had expected.
This year's theme of "On the Edge" localizes this idea into an appropriate expression for Japan. (The Japanese version of the theme is "GiriGiri/On the Edge.") At the "SCHOOL OF THE FUTURE FESTIVAL," you can witness "On the Edge" works created to reflect various problems and boundaries that arise in our daily lives in society.
"On the Edge" Artworks
The GiriGiri Room presented a collection of works that focused on the phenomenon where something trivial changes the ordinary into the extraordinary. Jacob Tonski's work "Balance From Within" is an old sofa that is standing up but balancing dangerously on the edge of falling over. Just barely maintained by computer control, the balance between the sofa and gravity alludes to how our society is also maintained through a balance that is not quiet and stable, but could fail at any time.
Let's take a look at Verena Friedrich's work, too. What she is trying to do is keep a bubble from popping. The bubble looks like it is about to pop and disappear, but keeps its shape inside the device forever. As an expression of being "On the Edge" between endless tension and balance, the bubble has been turned into a sculpture.
Another very attractive work is Ryo Kishi's "ObOrO," in which balls float forever in the air, looking all the while like they are about to fall. Just barely controlled by an invisible "flow of air," the balls shine just like flickering flames.
The GiriGiri Square brought together works that go right up to the edge between living beings and artificial creations—a boundary that is being blurred by the development of AI, robots and biotechnology. Cod.Act's "πTon" looks like a giant rubber tube that has been left on the floor, but periodically moves around like some kind of primitive creature.
Then there is "I Wanna Deliver a Dolphin..." by Ai Hasegawa, which revisits the question of the complex overlapping of living things that is "surrogate birth."
Takayuki Todo's "SEER: Simulative Emotional Expression Robot" is a small humanoid robot. This robot cannot talk, but seems very human nevertheless. The reason for this is non-verbal reactions, such as "gaze" and "facial expressions." It can behave as if it really has a will of its own, reacting to and mirroring the movements of the person it is facing. When it does, it creates moments when the boundary between human and non-human beings blurs.
The GiriGiri Laboratory provided opportunities to learn about prototypes created through pioneering research and companies' on the edge entries into challenging new fields. ANA HOLDINGS INC. is developing a new means of transportation called "ANA AVATAR," inspired by the question of whether "instantaneous movement" can be achieved. Another product that is "On the Edge" of tradition and innovation is Heteroweave, which aims to update the Japanese fabric Nishijin brocade through digital fabrication and various other technologies.
Giulia Tomasello has created a prototype bacteria culture kit that can even be used at home. The bold idea of wearing bacteria to protect the female reproductive organs from infection can be said to be fashion in the sense of putting on clothing and accessories, and also to be right on the edge of and actually cross over into medical practice. Even though it is usually a difficult topic to bring up, this work "Future Flora" has a very important meaning in terms of body self-care and raising awareness about it.
Let's also take a look at SENSOR ERROR by Hakuten Corporation. This device can also be described as "experience-based Chinese whispers." First, you watch "someone" on the screen, and try to do the same things as him/her at the same time. Even if you can copy him/her at first, within the next few times around, gaps will start to appear between the "someone" on the other side of the screen and the real player—that is, "you."
There was also GiriGiri Product, an exhibition that introduced master craftsmanship that pushes the limits of various techniques. The reproduction of Sori Yanagi's masterpiece "Yanagi Chair" is packed with the on the edge traditional technique called "bent wood," in which wood is bent into curved shapes.
Then there is the stole of organic cotton dyed by boiling so-called "bog-wood" from yakusugi trees—cedars from the island of Yakushima, a World Heritage Site. This creation takes full advantage of the trees' lifeforce, harnessing it right up to the edge.
There were also a large number of on the edge performances and workshops. Ei Wada's performances are projects aimed at turning used electrical appliances into musical instruments and exploring new musical possibilities contained in urban refuse—something that is normally considered worthless.
This time, the performance is done in collaboration with the spatial structure of the Atrium and the people who gather there. The people link up to form an electric circuit, and perform an "electric ritual" in sound.
In TOKYO MIDTOWN this year, uranium (Akira Wakita + Ko Ishihara) + Ryuji Fujimura/RFA's offering is "Speculative Fake College 2019 Entrance Examination by Roppongi Future Conference." The idea of a society where individuals are identified and their various behaviors are scored and managed had been science fiction until recently, but the ever-increasing sophistication of IT has now reached a level where it has already been implemented in real life.
Speculative Fake College (SFC) was created to raise the question, "does this entrance exam really measure intelligence correctly?"
"2050 Future School Lunch: Insect Edition—What Will We Eat?" is a workshop that considers eating insects in preparation for the food shortages that will definitely be upon us in the not-so-distant future. With examples including cultured meat, meal replacements, and 3D-printed foods, there are too many new "foods" to count, but the theme WIRED.JP brought to the table this time was "eating insects." While still largely unheard of and unfamiliar, the innovative idea of eating insects is now drawing attention as something that may one day even save the human race.
What will meals mean for us in the future, and how will they change? Workshop participants think about what might be served in a "Future School Lunch" while eating potato chips made from insects, which might be the norm in 2050.
What Future Do We See from "On the Edge"?
In the talk event "GiriGiri - On the Edge in Tokyo," the future seen from "On the Edge" was discussed from the perspective of "public" by guests ARS ELECTRONICA Artistic Director Gerfried Stocker, ARS ELECTRONICA Festival Director Martin Honzik, and Emiko Ogawa, Head of Prix Ars Electronica.
We are now living in an age of crossing the over the edges between the digital virtual world and real physical world. How can we connect what lies on both sides of these edges, and not just confine ourselves to one or the other? And how can we create a new "reality" while remaining right on the edge of those boundaries? Stocker says that when it comes to attempting these things, art can stand on both the real and the virtual sides.
Honzik also argues that the important thing is for people to have a sense that they are personally involved in society, and that the accumulated effects of this will help nurture publicness. In addressing the question "How can better forms of publicness be created?," first of all, it is essential that each individual be suitably aware of what "public" is about.
Then, it is important to look at how we can create the future together with our existing systems. This will be about more than just criticizing the systems: it will also require questioning how they should be criticized.
Faced with ever more problems every day, it is fair to say we are living in an "On the Edge" world. Nevertheless, the "On the Edge" nature of that world holds clues to help us create the future without ever stopping the flow of thought, or fearing failure.