Text by Shinzo Okuoka
I am the sort of person who believes that, just as artists are expressers, so are galleries. While I will go into the implications of this belief later on, I think that a retrospective look at the achievements of biscuit gallery with the approach of the first anniversary of its opening will afford a view of another kind of expression, creation, or output of conviction.
Artists show their own identity mainly through their works. This raises the questions of where the individuality of galleries lies, what distinguishes, differentiates, and characterizes them relative to others, and how this is expressed. Although the answers naturally vary with the person, I would suggest, for example, that the key elements are the esthetic sense of the gallery owner or director, the presence or absence of regulation at work in the selection of artists, and the creation of a venue for exhibitions.
This brings up another question: just what is the ID that sets biscuit gallery apart from the many other young galleries? To put it in a slightly indirect way, I would say it is a lust for the times. Japan’s art scene is in an ongoing process of formation and development, and lust is at the very roots of efforts to grasp, analyze, and map it, and moreover all on a large scale and at a high speed. As I see it, the source of biscuit gallery’s appeal and power is precisely this lust. Proceeding from the pure and innocent question about the kinds of artists out there today in this age, biscuit gallery engages in style-making while staying attuned to the times. This is exactly why, at first glance, the scope of its coverage seems too vast to be handled by a single gallery. However, this is not the result of random action, and I believe that things will look different if viewed from a perspective on a little higher plane.
Consider, for example, the case of Vitamin Creative Space, an art scene player born in China in the early 2000s. This space studied the relationship of traditional Chinese philosophy, thought, and culture with contemporary art, and developed activities that mashed these elements up together. At present, both the space itself and artists whose careers started there are appearing on the international stage. The aforementioned “perspective on a little higher plane” is nothing less than the kind of vision this player has. In other words, it is a vantage for an overview of the relationship between a globalized world and our own local position.
In our view, the contemporary world is, on the surface at least, becoming exceedingly seamless and borderless. It is being redefined as a single mass society on a global level. Beginning in the 1980s, the ideas of Edward Said and others stimulated discussion of diversity. The network culture and metaverse concept hint at a shift from a world of physical separation to a new integrated topos. Meanwhile, the emergence of issues on a global scale and other factors engendered linkages with worlds “over there” which (we thought) had had no connection with us. As I see it, due to the aggregate effect of these and other developments, we have acquired a new sort of grammatical person, i.e., the “we who live in a globalized world.”
For this very reason, global standards and rules are now liable to be required in anything we do. The need for awareness of this “larger world” definitely applies to art as well. Contemporary art is undoubtedly a genre whose birth, spread, and maintenance are based in Western Europe, but the door is, of course, also open to other regions. Today, the distance between “global” (= Western Europe) and “local” (= non-Western-European regions) has greatly narrowed as compared to the past. What attitude must we adopt when we stand on this bigger stage and become involved in art from the standpoint of Japanese nationals? In my opinion, an excessive focus on learning from Western European players may not necessarily yield only benefits. If we take a step or two into the world, we find countless players already there. They have their feet firmly planted on the foundation laid by the dense history of their (i.e., Western European) art, which has been edited over such a long period of time. In addition, we presumably also notice that all of their discussion unfolds along the lines of this history. In short, I am afraid that, the more we learn from these Western European players or put this learning into practice, the higher the risk of being perceived as merely imitating the artists “over there,” regardless of our intentions.
I have digressed quite a bit from my main subjects here, which are the expressiveness of biscuit gallery and the wide range of its selection of artists. Based on the foregoing remarks, it is clear that one of the requirements for an art player is recognition of the “larger world view.” This must be accompanied by confirmation of one’s own positioning. In our case, I would define this as the awareness of being in the locale of Japan, and that this locale is but one part of the larger world. Next, we must ask ourselves which of our many assets we can put to effective use in competition in the larger world. Instead of further beating around the bush, let me simply state that I think, in its activities over this last year, biscuit gallery has been a kind of explorer.
To compete in the larger world and to make preparations for doing so demand knowledge of the world around us, as related above. Much of the work of a “gallerist” is performed together with artists. Over the last year, I believe biscuit gallery has practiced PoC-type action on the proposition that knowledge of the art and artists in your own country in the current age is a prerequisite for venturing out into the international art scene. The lust for the times I mentioned above is nothing less than the energy and drive needed for in-depth examination of the times we live in and the artists active in them. To return to the topic presented at the start of this text, what biscuit gallery is portraying is, needless to say, the contemporary art of this country and these times – something based on an eminently standard theme. That’s how it looks to me, anyway.
Translate by James Koetting