The warmth of interacting with others abruptly ceased and the fear of the coronavirus instantly crossed national borders. Everyday life changed completely, bringing the movement of people, both inside and outside a country, to a standstill, and leaving every nation under this same “sky” riven and divided. Holding in our unfulfilled desires to go to the places we want to go, to hold the hand we want to touch, to touch the actual person up-close we want to touch, we continue to scrutinize this sky. Unfocused anger at a virus amplifies social unease and all too easily deprives us of our abilities to think of others.
And yet even in the midst of this brutal and tragic situation, art forms a spiritual anchor as a beacon of hope for the human race. When opera was sung in the city even while maintaining social distancing, it is surely hard to describe how uplifting that must have been. Works of art are made available online and new forms of presenting art are gradually appearing. Though pandemics plunge humankind into crises, they have also, conversely, created some of the remarkable masterpieces of art history. One of the underlying causes of the Renaissance was the plague, while the Spanish flu influenced surrealism and Dadaism. In adversity, human beings have depicted the sky, even when confined to a room in isolation, and produced creative art. The human race has overcome these intermittent challenges and marked the passage of a rich and beautiful time as if nothing happened.
It is perhaps still too early to detect the quickening of new art movements. But in “World Art Tokyo Beyond That Blue,” a few glimpses of this will be sensed in the exhibited artworks and the curation. Though international travel remains restricted, the perspectives of Japan-loving artists from overseas yield insights into the invaluable things that people in Japan took for granted. They also provide an opportunity to grasp in various ways our uniqueness and the problems of the global society exposed by this new pestilence.
Temporarily moving away from the inflammatory, communicative “remote art” that is now unfolding online, how about rather experiencing a one-on-one with an artwork minus all the noise of other people? Face to face intimately with the souls of foreign artists who love Japan, we want to ruminate on the dignity and sensibility of the people living through the same times, under the same sky.
While taking precautions against this pestilence that may well return, we wish to prize the finite moment.
Reflecting on the excitement that is unique to this, we will affirm a paean to the unlimited creativity that art offers, here under the sky of Tokyo. Coming together across the sky, on this day.
With society slowly starting to return to normal after the upheaval of the coronavirus, it has become possible to hold this exhibition while nonetheless remaining cautious about a second wave of infections. The curation explores the theme of the sky.
When it was decided to cancel “World Art Tokyo” and its satellite exhibition during the final stages of the preparations in March, I went around to each of the venues in a semi-conscious state. In those places, deserted like ghost towns, I would gaze at the sky. When I looked up at the ceiling of the main venue that was Tokyo International Forum, with its vast numbers of beams forming a shape that had inspired the original exhibition’s theme, I realized that beyond it lay the sky.
Under this sky, everything is connected.
I remember how at that chaotic time when it seemed like the world was ending, I felt a sense of both mystery and stability. Recalling the faces of each of the artists scattered across different locations, a warm feeling of solidarity welled up from deep inside my body. During the state of emergency, I refined my ideas for curating an exhibition on the theme of the sky in case I had the opportunity to hold one again, all while immersed in a prayer-like sense of gratitude.
It is my hope that this exhibition might offer some solace for the people who strive so hard in various walks of life, and provide the vitality for living our lives in the future.
With respect to the medical professionals still on the frontline of this pandemic.