School of the Future Festival: GiriGiri

The first ever School of the Future Festival by Ars Electronica will take place at Tokyo Midtown February 21 to 24, 2019. The theme is GiriGiri – find out what this means and which exhibitions, performances, and talk sessions to look forward to in this interview.

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A person who catches the bus at the very last moment. A mountaineer who is sitting on top of Matterhorn and lets her feet dangle down from the edge. A tourist who made it to the highest point of the Eiffel Tower and is brave enough to lean a little bit over the railing to peek down. These situations are all connected to GiriGiri – but what does it mean?

This – and why GiriGiri is the theme of our new School of the Future Festival at Tokyo Midtown (February 21 – 24, 2019) – is exactly what Kyoko Kunoh and Hideaki Ogawa, researcher/artists at the Ars Electronica Futurelab and the organizers behind this new festival in Tokyo, talked to us in this interview.

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Tell me about the School of the Future Festival in Tokyo!

Kyoko Kunoh: Do you remember the School of the Future program that we set up regularly at Tokyo Midtown? Usually we invite two or three artists to present at Tokyo Midtown, but this time, we are preparing for a bigger exhibition, talks, workshops, and even a performance. It’s a full-blown festival! We invited over 15 artists and prepared seven talk sessions for the School of the Future Festival 2019.

The theme is GiriGiri – what does this mean?

Kyoko Kunoh: GiriGiri is a Japanese word and it means standing or being on an edge. In this way, it’s a condition of a situation. It can also be applied in situations where you catch a train or a bus very last minute, for example – that’s GiriGiri, too. It can be a place, but we can also use it for time. Whichever way we use it, we are talking about a situation “on the edge”.

So if I’m standing on the top of a mountain, I’m GiriGiri?

Kyoko Kunoh: If you are standing on top of a mountain, you are standing on the GiriGiri. You can stand there, but you can also balance there, so there’s this overlap between the border of the top and the edge.

Hideaki Ogawa: The idea came to us when we were considering the theme of last year’s Ars Electronica Festival, “Error – the Art of Imperfection”. GiriGiri was inspired from the Error, from this Art of Imperfection, but it doesn’t have the same meaning – GiriGiri challenges the status of something, when at the same time, it is about keeping the balance. Based on the discussion at the Ars Electronica Festival about Error, we wanted to bring this discussion to Japan, but in a different way. We are confronted with this challenge of being cool and extreme, but not falling down, if you know what I mean? It’s about the balance. When we talked about errors back at the Ars Electronica Festival, the idea of tolerance came up a lot – how can we appreciate, how can we accept this challenge that errors bring? How can we use them to aim at really sophisticated ideas or techniques? We want to address that the error is important, and so is GiriGiri. This is very connected to the daily practices of artists and innovators who are trying to make things better. We are living in an age of perfection, many societies don’t even seem to accept errors or GiriGiri any more. In this way, GiriGiri seems to be quite dangerous! We need to have this flexible way, this is the way to be able to appreciate GiriGiri.

ObOrO / Ryo Kishi. Credit: vog.photo

The ideas of standing on the edge and doing something edgy seem to merge here. How does this concept evolve into the exhibition at Tokyo Midtown?

Kyoko Kunoh: We are setting up three exhibition areas. One is the GiriGiri Room, where we focus on the edge between the ordinary and the extraordinary. The projects that are exhibited here are phenomena of our daily life that sometimes very quickly change to the extraordinary. We invited Jacob Tonski to show his work “Balance from Within”, with which he won an Award of Distinction at the Prix Ars Electronica a few years ago. We also show “The Long Now” by Verena Friedrich. This artist creates bubbles, artificial bubbles, which are kept in suspension in the air. They are floating, but not moving – until suddenly, they burst. This is a very GiriGiri moment. Ryo Kishi will also be exhibiting his work, “ObOrO”, which many will remember from last year’s Ars Electronica Festival.

πTon / Cod.Act. Credit: Tom Mesic

The second part is the GiriGiri Square, centered on the edge between creatures and artificial things. Here, we have invited Cod.Act to show “πTon”. We are also presenting Takayuki Todo’s “Seer”. It shows the edge between the human and the humanoid. Ai Hasegawa, a Japanese artist, is exhibiting “I Wanna Deliver A Dolphin…”, a very speculative work. She is asking herself: What if people could be pregnant with other species? With animals? The global dolphin population is steadily decreasing, so she imagines a world where humans could give birth to dolphins.

Lastly, we have the GiriGiri laboratory. In this area, we focus on the challenge for the edge. We have invited artists, but also companies to show prototypes. One example is Giulia Tomasello, who won last year’s STARTS Prize with her project “Future Flora”. Another work is “Heteroweave” by Yasuaki Kakehi Laboratory, HOSOO and YCAM. It shows interesting visions for textile fabrication in collaboration with traditional Japanese textile companies – there are three different types of textiles presented, one of them changes color with temperature, another one is a sort of interface, and the third one shows different forms that textiles can take on. On the other hand, we also invited several companies to present their GiriGiri projects, like Ana Avatar, a Japanese airline company, for example. They are venturing out and trying to work with space travel, so they will show the challenges and prototypical ideas.

Hideaki Ogawa: In addition, there will be a few more site-specific projects presented at Tokyo Midtown. At GiriGiri Product, shops and stores from Tokyo Midtown will present their very own GiriGiri products. Our initiative is not just about bringing content to Tokyo Midtown, but rather to create something together with the shops already there. So this time, we launched a small open call for the stores there – seven of them will participate in the exhibition. There are many innovative and also GiriGiri approaches to make better products, this is what we want to showcase.

We also want to make use of the space at Tokyo Midtown, so there will be a performance by artist Ei Wada. He, with his repurposed electronical devices, is able to create a really GiriGiri moment in public space. The second performance will be by Akira Wakita, it’s called “Entrance Exam 2019 for Speculative Fake Campus”. It addresses new types of school examinations, which is very fitting, since School of the Future, especially in Japan, is a very hot topic right now. The performance is pretending that our School of the Future has an examination test during the exhibition.

Ei Wada. Credit: vog.photo

There will also be several workshops. In the first one, we are collaborating with WIRED Japan, the second one comes out of our Ars Electronica Futurelab. We want to reach this GiriGiri idea by using the unique background of the Tokyo Midtown facilities.

Kyoko Kunoh: As for the workshop, we have created a GiriGiri Kit. It is a toolkit to create a discussion around what is GiriGiri with the audience. It consists of small wooden blocks that are covered in chalkboard paint, so people can come and write questions on them. What is the meaning of GiriGiri to you? Then we put the question blocks on the table and build towers from there, according to whether others agree or not. The way how you can put blocks one on top of the other is very GiriGiri in itself already!

Tell me a little bit more about the talk sessions.

Kyoko Kunoh: We have set up seven talk sessions, three of them are composed of speakers from the different parts of our exhibition. There is one where the artists from the GiriGiri Laboratory speak, one that showcases the artists of our GiriGiri Square, and one that has speakers from the GiriGiri room. In addition to that, there are four more talk sessions. In one of them, we talk about GiriGiri within the Ars Electronica scene, so Ars Electronica Festival director Martin Honzik will be speaking, as will Japanese participants and artists at last year’s festival or the Prix Ars Electronica jury. Another session will be about how media art changes the city of Tokyo. Actually, February is kind of a media art festival season for this city, with some other media art festivals taking place around the same time. So we have invited two of the other festivals in Tokyo to talk about this, as well as representatives from Tokyo’s city council. The Artistic Director of Ars Electronica, Gerfried Stocker, will also join this panel.

Hideaki Ogawa: That leaves us with two more talks to discuss. One is with artists who work in companies. This is quite unusual for us, since we normally focus on artists who are not employed within a company innovation context. At this panel, however, we’ve invited people like Shiho Fukuhara, who is a well-known bio-artist who also works at Google. Akinori Goto, who has exhibited at the Ars Electronica Festival as well as the Ars Electronica Center, will also be speaking here. All the artists who are participating in this discussion have two faces, as single artists, but also as artists within companies. We are going to be talking about the form and role of artists for society here – they are not just acting as individual artists, but they are stimulating innovation in companies. We are interested in how they work, first of all, but also what they consider the future of artists in companies or governments. Artists are not just inside their workshops any more, or not just in typical art settings. Rather, they might be acting socially to create interesting social discourses.

The last session is a bit extra, we have a special ticket reservation system for it. There are two very interesting speakers participating, one is Takkyu Ishino, who is a very well-known techno sound artist. The other one is Naohiro Ukawa, the host of DOMMUNE. They are sort of cultural ambassadors to convey the GiriGiri concept to society, so it is sure to be very interesting.

Which discussions and reactions do you hope to launch with the School of the Future Festival?

Kyoko Kunoh: I expect that the audience will think about their very own GiriGiri moment, GiriGiri situations, and also their GiriGiri challenges.

Hideaki Ogawa: Well, I have two expectations. We are living in a time where society strives to be perfect. Almost too much so! We want to think that everything is neat, under control, not GiriGiri. But the reality is different. How can we have our own kind of measurement? Which measurement should we use to judge whether something is right or wrong? We need to understand what GiriGiri is, and how it changes based on individual perception. What is interesting to me about the exhibition is to find out what this criteria could be, and that we are creating an environment where we can discuss exactly this creativity on the edge.

Secondly, as Kyoko mentioned earlier, there are a lot of media art festivals in Tokyo at the same time. I hope that our initiative School of the Future could be creating new synergies for the media art scene in Tokyo. I really recommend all visitors, foreign or Japanese, to visit the other festivals as well.

Kyoko Kunoh is an artist and a researcher of Ars Electronica Futurelab. She has created extensively on art works in the interactive art field, and has been active in a wide range of fields such as directing in the public and commercial space, design of exhibit products, and joint project with companies and universities. Her projects have been featured in many different locations both domestically and internationally including Ars Electronica (Austria), SIGGRAPH (USA), Centre Pompidou (France) and Japan Media Arts Festival (Japan).

 

Hideaki Ogawa, Creative Catalyst, Artist, Curator and Key Researcher at Ars Electronica Futurelab. He has realized many projects for innovation with industries such as Honda R&D, Toshiba, Toyota and Hakuhodo etc. Specially, his focus is about Art Thinking to catalyze innovation. His leading project, Future Catalysts, is a creative and innovation base jointly-developed by Hakuhodo and Ars Electronica. Through “synergy” with distinctive worldwide innovators in the fields of art, science, and technology, the project produces new concepts, ideas, and strategies that serve as answers to various “creative questions”. In addition to the artistic innovation research, Hideaki Ogawa has realized international projects for festivals, export programs like Ars Electronica in the Knowledge Capital and the Ars Electronica Center. His special theme is about “Creative Catalyst” and “Robotinitiy – what is the nature of being a robot”. Hideaki Ogawa is also a representative and artistic director of the media artist group “h.o.”. He searches for witty new ideas depending on current social contexts, and is realizing artistic expressions with the speed of technological progress.

The School of the Future Festival will take place February 21 – 24, 2019, at Tokyo Midtown. Find out more here.

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