Says Japanese curator Yuko Hasegawa. She talks about her experiences while on a recent visit to Kochi
By Shevlin Sebastian
Photo of Yuko Hasegawa by Ratheesh Sundaram; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo
Yuko Hasegawa has spent a lot of time travelling all over the world seeing art. So, she is well placed to distinguish between Western and Eastern art. “In the West, the human being is regarded as omnipotent,” says Yuko. “In the East, the individual has an organic relationship with the world around him. In Asia, when we look at a tree, we also see its spirit. We have that same attitude towards a brick, also. We think it is alive. The East believes in co-existence with nature. This wisdom is much-needed in the 21st century.”
On a recent trip to Kochi, Yuko laughed when asked to describe the character of artistes. “Some are well-organised and excellent businessmen,” she says. “Some are thinkers, while others are good craftsmen. Many are good communicators. Sometimes, they are like wild animals. They might grab your throat when they are angry. At other times, they are like children. But all of them are interesting, because they are creative and tread a new path every day. They are explorers. And I try to shepherd their work and bring it to the public eye.”
Yuko is the Chief Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo. She provides the artistic direction by fixing the programme for the year regarding exhibitions and educational programmes. “To make the museum more interesting to patrons, apart from art, we also showcase architecture, design and animation,” says Yuko. This has worked out well in terms of footfalls. Last year, the museum got more than 5 lakh visitors.
Despite her busy schedule, Yuko also travels a lot to buy art because the museum has an annual acquisition budget of $600,000.
So far, she has had a stellar career. Yuko has been curator of the 2001 Istanbul Biennial, the co-curator of the 2002 Shanghai Biennale, the Mediacity Seoul in 2006 and the 2010 São Paulo Biennale. She was also artistic adviser to the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale.
Yuko also serves as a board member of the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art, as well as a member of the jury for the Hugo Boss Prize, 2002, and a commissioner of Japanese Pavilion of the 50th Venice Biennale, 2003.
In 2013, she was the guest curator for the Sharjah Biennale. “I travelled a lot in Latin America, Asia, South Africa and the Middle East in search of interesting art,” says Yuko. “To get good works, you should have endless curiosity.”
However, the Biennale authorities placed two restrictions on Yuko while selecting the works. There should be no nudity or representations of the Prophet Muhammed. “It is important that we give respect to local cultures,” says Yuko.
And she was happy to see the second edition of the Kochi Muziris Biennale. “What was amazing was that a group of artistes [Bose Krishnamachari, Riyas Komu, Jitish Kallat and others] organised this Biennale and not the government,” says Yuko. “So the motivations are completely different. It is creative, flexible and fresh. I liked most of the works.” Her favourite artistes included Sahej Rahal, Susanta Mondal, Parvathy Nayar, and Gigi Scaria.
And Yuko is sure that the Biennale will have a long-term impact. “I have already seen the local people talking about the art works,” she says. “The Biennale brings new awareness and curiosity. The people will start thinking about art.”
Asked whether the Kochi Biennale has been established in the international art community, Yuko says, “It is a new biennale. So, it will take time to get attention. And there has to be more editions. The Istanbul Biennale is in its seventh edition. And it is established now. It will take a few more years before the Kochi Biennale is established.”
Finally, when asked about new trends, Yuko says, “Many artists are making images using 3D printing. They also use inkjet prints that make images look like a new painting.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)