For the last two years, Yokohama native Tsutomu Mizusawa has been juggling two jobs — chief curator of the Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura and Hayama, and artistic director of Japan’s biggest exhibition of contemporary art, the Yokohama Triennale. The Japan Times caught up with him on the first day of the triennale as he walked through Sankeien, a historical garden somewhat transformed by the subtle additions made by several of the triennale’s artists.
Today is the first day of the Yokohama Triennale 2008. How do you feel?
With more than 60 artists, so many venues, and so many performances, it was a very complex and difficult exhibition to make. My feeling now is that we have done pretty well.
What was your first reaction when you were chosen to direct the triennale?
A number of curators had put forward proposals. To be honest, I was surprised mine was accepted. The theme I had developed — “Time Crevasse,” a gap in time — has both positive and negative connotations, life and death. I actually wasn’t confident that it was appropriate for a big public exhibition such as this, which would be seen by so many people.
Why do you think it was chosen?
Well, the triennale has been held twice before. The first time, in 2001, was a big presentation, with more than 100 artists in venues totaling 15,000 sq. meters. In terms of looking at the totality of contemporary art, it was very interesting. But the theme, “Mega Wave,” was so general that it was akin to having no theme at all. That was a little unfortunate, I thought. When you have a clear theme for a triennale then understanding of the works on display moves to a different level.
One of the defining characteristics of your triennale is that it has so much performance art. When you developed the “Time Crevasse” theme, did you plan for it to involve so much performance?
No. I knew performance would be involved in some way, but I was thinking larger than that, that the appreciation of all art could fit into this idea. As I talked to the other curators, though, we decided we needed to limit it a bit more.
Well, when you have this many contemporary art biennales and triennales taking place around the world (one count puts it at about 120), there is a danger of them becoming homogenized. But, if you make performance the underlying theme, then the experience is of that place and that time. It naturally becomes differentiated from other events. Like the mist here that Fujiko Nakaya is making in the garden — it occurs in this way only here and now, like a natural phenomenon. It exists in time.