History Lesson in Kyoto
Koki Tanaka at the Parasophia

The first edition of the Parasophia is being held in Kyoto, Japan, from March 7 to May 10. With more than 40 international participants, the festival has transformed the old imperial city into a stage for contemporary art. Most of the projects are on view at the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, but many works are being presented in public spaces. Shinji Kohmoto, the artistic director, has been involved in the documenta and the Venice Biennale. One of the artists he invited was Koki Tanaka, the “Artist of the Year” 2015. Many of Tanaka’s actions and performances allude to the history of the place where they take place. For example, his Deutsche Bank-sponsored contribution to the Parasophia, titled  Provisional Studies: Workshop #1 ‚"1946–52 Occupation Era and 1970 Between Man and Matter”, investigates the checkered history of the Municipal Museum of Art. Other artists from the Deutsche Bank Collection are also on exhibit in Kyoto, including William Kentridge, Cai Guo-Qiang, Pipilotti Rist, Rosemarie Trockel, and Miwa Yanagi.

The first time he went to the Municipal Museum of Art, Koki Tanaka learned that the museum building was used as a barracks for American occupying forces between 1945 and 1952. They converted the largest exhibition room into a basketball hall. Later the battalion was transferred from Kyoto to Okinawa, where there are still American military bases today, a controversial issue. Tanaka came across archive material that shows how important the museum once was for Japan’s contemporary art scene. In June 1970, the exhibition Between Man and Matter opened here. The list of artists in the show reads like a who’s who of the avant-garde at the time. In addition to Carl Andre, Sol LeWitt, Hans Haacke, and Richard Serra, Mono-ha artists, including Katsuhiko Narita and Koji Enokura, as well as On Kawara, were represented. In the large exhibition space, Christo and Jean-Claude realized their work Wrapped Floor, for which they covered the whole floor with cotton tarpaulins.

In his video, which is also being shown in Tanaka’s “Artist of the Year” exhibition at the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle, he reenacts this historic action with pupils from Kyoto. Within the framework of the Parasophia, he is also organizing discussion groups on Christo’s work, on the subject of war, and on the problematic American army bases in Japan. A very contemporary matter is involved. “I wonder,” says the artist, “what kind of future will the current government’s policy shift approving the right to collective self-defense bring about for Japan? Perhaps, in the near future, Japan will again find itself engaged in a war, in spite of the explicit rejection of war in Article 9 of the Japanese constitution.”

73/7/2015 – 5/10/2015
Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art