Fukuoka Art Event Causes Stir on the Internet for Hiding the Title of an Artwork
A 3-dimensional piece by the artist Mitsuhiro Okamoto was displayed with its title concealed at an art event held at Fukuoka City's castle remains this spring. The hidden title was "Dozaemon." The Special Mission News Crew received a message from a reader that it is probably unheard of for the title of an artwork to be inked out. We began to wonder: what had happened behind the scenes?
Mitsuhiro Okamoto's work, “Dozaemon”(ドザえもん)
The piece in question, "Dozaemon," is one of Mr. Okamoto's representative works. This blue doll, lying flat on its face, resembles a popular Japanese anime character. The name is derived from a word with the same pronunciation, which refers to the body of a drowned person. Mr. Okamoto says that the major theme of his works of art is play-on-words; he uses puns and humor to exhibit this in a manner that at times makes others worry about copyright infringement.
■The incident was triggered by an anonymous caller concerned for the continued disasters occurring across Kyushu
The art event was organized to coincide with the hanami (cherry blossom-viewing) season and was held from March 30 to April 8 as part of Art in Fukuoka Castle, which exhibited the works of 6 artists from Japan as well as other countries. “Dozaemon” was placed inside a turret that had been built in the Edo period (17th to mid-19th centuries), and the name was printed on the flyers that were distributed beforehand.
According to Fukuoka City's Cultural Promotion Section, the event's organization committee, its decision to conceal the artwork name was made due to an anonymous caller who commented that "the word ‘Dozaemon' could be inappropriate." This was on March 13, in the midst of event preparations.
The origin of the word Dozaemon goes back to the Edo era, when drowned bodies were likened to huge sumo wrestlers. The committee contacted all the facilities across Japan that had exhibited “Dozaemon” in the past but did not confirm any similar complaints. Still, in light of the slew of natural disasters that had befallen Kyushu, the committee requested Mr. Okamoto to change the name of his piece.
However, changing the title was problematic for Mr. Okamoto, as it was essential to his work. In the end, Mr. Okamoto considered that "The work should remain in place for the children who saw the flyers," and he had no choice but to hide the title. After consulting the Fukuoka City Museum curator who had invited him to exhibit his art, they decided to cover the lighted box that displayed the title with a piece of cloth. The title printed on the exhibit label, on the other hand, was blackened out to ‘purposefully demonstrate the fact that it was being concealed,'" says Mr. Okamoto.
The title “Dozaemon” on the exhibit label of the work was blacked out (March 31, at the Fukuoka Castle remains in Chuo Ward, Fukuoka City)
■Stifling times: "It is not a good thing to suppress expression"
No explanation was given at the venue regarding the cloth and hidden title. It became a hot topic on the Internet after some media outlets reported on this. Afterwards, the organizing committee received a phone call and an e-mail of complaint that "the work is inappropriate."
In the past, Mr. Okamoto exhibited Rakubei no Osore Ari, which literally translates as Danger of Falling America, for an art event in Okinawa. As the motif of this drawing was a U.S. military plane crash, the local government complained that this work is not compatible with the event's objective of regional revitalization. As a result, it was closed to the public for most of the duration. Mr. Okamoto says that "We shouldn’t suppress expression based on a one-sided perspective. What people need to realize is that art can shake up society because of the very fact that we are living in stifling times."
The representative of the Fukuoka City Museum reflected, "We accepted the citizen's point seriously. We considered ways to exhibit the work of art without using words that require consideration. I am confident that the artist and curator were able to communicate on site and handle the situation."
Torrential rains and other natural disasters have continued in Kyushu, leaving many scars all over the island. However, there is no denying that art conveys strong messages because of its free perspectives. For this occasion, perhaps, we barely reached a middle ground.
The piece “Dozaemon,” whose title had been concealed, ended up becoming a quiz-like exhibition, which must have entertained some visitors. That, too, may be the interesting aspect of art.
「ドザえもん」不適切？ 福岡市のアートイベント 市民の指摘で作品名を黒塗り ネットで話題に