Collaboration and Community-Building in Contemporary Art in Japan and Denmark

After the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear incidents in the North-Eastern Japan in 2011, many contemporary artists and scholars have focused on the role of art in connection to the recovery and rebuilding of local communities. Other elements of precarious societies, such as depopulation in rural areas and decline of the Japanese population, have triggered the emergence of chiiki aato (regional art) and various types of socially-engaged art projects in Japan. Artists are seeking new ways of creating art that are based on collaboration with non-artist local population or communities, as well as new forms of art-based education for both children and adults. Although not political in a direct manner, many of such new art projects pay attention to social interaction and provide means to formulate alternative lifestyles and values. Thus, socially-engaged art projects in Japan offer ways to imagine a transformation toward other societal models, which are less inclined towards neo-liberal globalization and commercialism, and focus instead on sharing and altruism.

The “social turn” in contemporary art is not limited to Japan, but has been a significant trend on the international art scene since the 1990s. In Denmark too, many artists engage in collective and community-based art projects, and scholars and critics discuss the theoretical and methodological implications of new socially-engaged art forms. Many artists in Japan, Denmark and other places in the world find meaningful output for their artistic practice by creating art projects that engage with local communities and cross societal boundaries as a means to provide visions for future societies.