Home > Past greetings from the director
Past greetings from the director
Coming in to Moor
Recently I've started to feel affectionately and somewhat nostalgically towards the Japanese word moyau, which means to moor or tether a boat. Generally this is probably most commonly used in the context of the moyai-musubi or bowline knot, often used on ships.
A variety of artists have captured the spectacle of mooring posts lined up in rows by the waterfront, a common sight in cities on the water such as Venice and Edo, the pre-twentieth century name for Tokyo. A city given life and vitality by the sea stretching out before it, Edo was one of the most well prefected cities to have existed. Yet the Meiji Restration of 1868 saw the city into what is functionally speaking an inland city, and its name changed to Tokyo.
Thus the lagoon-like charm vanished, the dock area was built up on, and land transportation became the priority. Visiting Lagos in Nigeria and Dhaka in Bangladesh, we understand for the first time what a true waterfront city should look like.
The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura & Hayama came into existence in 1951 with the Kamakura building beside one of the ponds in the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, and from 2003, its main building had been the Hayama museum, which faces out across the Sagami Bay. In many ways, we rather resemble a boat moored to the shore.
One of the key things about bowline knots is that, as well as holding firm, they can also be undone easily when the time comes. The sea of art is limitlessly wide, and not tied to any one of particular place.
In our exhibitions this year, as well as linking ourselves with Japanese artists who are exploring art in its contemporary incarnations, we also hope, together with artists from Poland and Finland who have weathered trying histories, to untie existing knots in order to form new ones.
"MULPA: Museum UnLearning Program for All", our collaborative project with the Kanagawa International Foundation and other institutions, enters its third year. As well as aiming to strengthen bonds between the museums and regional societies, the project is also an experiment into untying, and tying afresh.
What kind of connections will this knotting and unknotting lead to? We hope you will join us in finding out.
MIZUSAWA Tsutomu, Director
A Mirror called "Modern"
The graceful sound of the wording "haru ichiban [the first spring gale]" seems to have been replaced, without our noticing it, by the alarming term "bakudan teikiatsu [bomb cyclone]." This shows that the recent freakish weather has even affected our everyday language.
The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura & Hayama currently runs two museums in Kamakura and Hayama. The Annex in Kamakura is about to undergo full-scale improvement work from this fiscal year. The "bomb cyclone" came just at that timing.
We cannot but be made to vividly feel the difference in climate between Kamakura and Hayama.
Having lived in Hayama (and that near Kazahayabashi [which literally translates as Rapid Wind Bridge]) since 2000, I often feel the enormity of the strong winds at the beginning of spring in person. The wind that has come across Sagami Bay approaches from the distance in a rumbling moan. The prodigiousness of such winds was unknown to me while I was living in the suburbs of Yokohama and working at the museum in Kamakura surrounded by low hills in the precincts of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu (except during the typhoon season).
The beginning of Kusameikyu [The Grass Labyrinth], the fine novel by IZUMI Kyoka, is so exuberantly classic in style that it tends to be interpreted as if it were a picture scroll. The sight of raging waves rushing over the great wide ocean from Chojagasaki to Akiya Beach is described with a deep sense of awe. "What shatters the drops of the tide that rolls into the roots appears to be a sharp hook that is yellow gold in the sun, silvery white in the moon, or angry, or deadly."
Hayama is admired for its scenic beauty and, in the Meiji period, Dr. Erwin Bälz certified it as a resort conducive to health. Harsh, raw nature, which might be described peninsular, is alive there. On the other hand, there is Kamakura, which, with its innumerable old temples and historic shrines, brings an unstintingly inlaid object of exhaustive craftwork to mind.
With a mirror called "modern," our Museum sheds light on these two locations each housing their own magic of time and space and by doing so, we aim for a new cultural blending.
Our activities in fiscal 2018 will be carried out mainly in Hayama, but without forgetting Kamakura, we shall continue polishing the two distinctive spaces, which are tied in.
MIZUSAWA Tsutomu, Director
At the Beginning of Fiscal 2017
The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura & Hayama currently carries out its activities as a museum in two buildings, one in Hayama and the other, the Kamakura Annex. The Kamakura Building, which was cherished by many people for many years, was closed at the end of March 2016 and the management of the building was transferred from Kanagawa Prefecture to its new owner, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu. Fortunately, the building which has existed from the opening of the Museum in 1951 remains within the precincts of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu more or less as it was sixty-six years ago and it was designated by Kanagawa Prefecture as a cultural asset in November 2016.
A year has gone by since we restarted under the current two-building system. Over the past year, we have moved the open-air sculptures formerly located in Kamakura to Hayama and improved the promenade in Hayama so that it will be easier to use wheelchairs. Not only has NOGUCHI Isamui's Kokeshis been transferred from Kamakura to the courtyard at Hayama, but eight other sculptures have also been moved to the outdoor space in Hayama. The Life of a Woman by TANAKA Takashi, which ornamented the wall of the tearoom in the Kamakura Building, has been transferred to the foyer in front of the auditorium in the Hayama Building. The Hayama Building is indeed undergoing significant renovation as it succeeds the legacies of the Kamakura Building. Do enjoy the numerous new artworks such as the sculptures in the garden and the mural.
In Kamakura, we shall focus on "history," of which the progress the Museum has made as a modern art museum for over half a century composes a part, and in Hayama, on the rich "nature" enwrapping our Museum. While maintaining close ties with the local community in each location, we hope to undertake all the more substantial activities to be shared all over the world.
Restoration work will also begin in the Kamakura Annex during this fiscal year. It is due to restart in renewed form two years later, in 2019. Please look forward to the renewal of the Kamakura Annex.
The Museum will be celebrating its 66th anniversary this autumn, in November. We are in the second year of running in two locations. While committing the starting point as a "modern art museum" to our minds, we shall secure a solid foothold, look back at our history to restudy and reanalyze the fruit of our activities, and proceed towards the future.
MIZUSAWA Tsutomu, Director
To mark the beginning of fiscal 2016, I would like to mention a few words about the activities undertaken at our Museum.
Our activities at the Kamakura Building of The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura & Hayama ended on March 31, 2016, and we are now doing the final clearing up and move. We are very sorry that the Kamakura Building, which, ever since its opening on November 11, 1951, bore part of the cultural activities as the representative of "Kamakura," will no longer be the base of our activities.
We confirmed the "starting point" of our activities in the Kamakura Building by holding a year-long exhibition entitled All Begun in Kamakura 1951-2016, which took place at the Kamakura Building in three sessions throughout fiscal 2015. We had the pleasure of being visited by more than 130,000 people. These visitors came not only to recollect the past. The next generation showed a great deal of interest and there were young people who visited the Kamakura Building scores of times, which is a sign of hope. Without such ardent support, no doubt we would not have been able to get the preservation of the Kamakura Building, though partly (the old wing completed in 1951), going.
We hope to move forward while recalling the memories at the Kamakura Building, inscribing them on our hearts, and feeling them vividly from day to day. NOGUCHI Isamu's Kokeshis and other open-air sculptures that were long cherished by everyone in the Kamakura Building will be transferred mainly to the Hayama Building. Following their relocation, we shall concentrate on educational and promotional events aiming to blend more closely together with the spirit of the Kamakura Building.
Of course, we will put all our efforts into full-scale retrospectives verifying modern Japanese art such as the HARADA Naojiro Exhibition, but we will also make more efforts to promote the display of our own collection, which has hitherto been presented mainly in Kamakura. In the summer, the entire building in Hayama will be used for the first individual exhibition in Japan of the Quay Brothers, master puppet animators who have become a contemporary legend. The twin artists themselves are scheduled to come to Hayama. In Praise of Sunlight, an exhibition featuring the two artists, TANIKAWA Koichi and MIYASAKO Chizuru, will be held in the autumn, a season when Hayama is blessed with light. This should be an exhibition befitting to the environment in Hayama, which is quite different from the deep shades in Kamakura. We also plan to look back on the period when the Kamakura Building began as a museum by shedding light on the 1950s.
Please look forward to the activities we will be undertaking in fiscal 2016.
MIZUSAWA Tsutomu, Director
A View of a View
Whenever I travel somewhere and visit a museum or art gallery there, I come across unexpected discoveries and, at times, I am given joy or consolation.
After the Great East Japan Earthquake of 11 March 2011, I visited the city of Rikuzentakata in Iwate Prefecture twice. Not only things and people but the scenes produced as a result of the accumulation of history and woven by those things and people were destroyed in a tsunami of an unprecedented scale. I had been there just once before this city was hit by the tsunami, but the destruction was so lurid that my memory of the view then was dissolved and utterly faded.
Restoration is probably not a return to the former state but the development of another scene in that location. The question is to what extent the people living there can share the vision of the "scene" including the "restored view." The "restored view" forms a set with the memories of the people who have been living there and unless it is linked to the people living the present and further on to the future lives, it cannot become a view of that location nor emerge amidst torment.
As I write this, it is brought home to me anew how powerless I am.
On my way back from my second visit to Rikuzentakata, in October 2011, I stopped by at the Yorozu Tetsugoro Memorial Museum of Art in Tsuchizawa. The Yorozu family's storehouse, which had been relocated close to the museum, had been hit by the earthquake and part of the wall had come off. Undaunted by this catastrophe, the people of Tsuchizawa had vigorously organized "Machikado Bijutsukan 2011 - Art@Tsuchizawa," in which art was shown on street corners here and there in the town. One of the venues was an old pharmacy. It was no longer in business, but a little oil landscape painted by HATAKEYAMA Saburo (1903-1933), an artist from Rikuzentakata, in the early Showa period was hanging on the wall. It was just the picture of where I had been standing just before coming there, though everything had gone except for part of the platform. The town center where Rikuzentakata Station stood was portrayed freshly as a scene viewed from a hill on the mountain side in brushwork beating a comfortable rhythm. It was through that painting that I learnt for the first time that paddy fields spread out there eighty or so years ago at the beginning of the Showa period.
Last year, at Iwate Museum of Art, I saw Woman atop a Rock (1978), a statue by YANAGIHARA Yoshitatsu (1910-2004), which used to stand in front of the Civic Sports and Culture Center just behind the neighboring Rikuzentakata City Museum. The statue was swept away together with its huge rock pedestal by the tsunami. Having been severed at the ankles and split in several parts, this bronze statue was restored, connected to two bolt "legs," and standing again.
Will these works be shown in Rikuzentakata again one day?
At the moment, no one can say when that day will come. However, when I imagine the view of those works on display, it seems as if tiny lights are being lit up amidst an expanse of vast ruins.
We now seem to be losing substantial relations with nature and culture. The word "museum" derives from the Greek word "Mousa." Muse is the goddess of art and literature. According to the ancient Greek poet Hesiodos, there are considered to have been nine Muses born to Zeus and Mnemosyne. They are often referred to in the plural form "Mousai" in Greek.
It appears very symbolic that the mother's name seems to "linger" as if echoing in the sound "Mousa." "Mnemosyne" is the goddess in which "memory" is deified. The "memory" of a "memory." They resound to each other. Without such succession, the museum may never have come into being.
It is impossible to recover everything that has been lost. However, we can at least keep memory of the fact of the "loss." A new "view" that retains the lost "view." A "view" of a "view." Such views ripple and spread in numerous circles. Isn’t the “museum” indeed fit to be the starting point or the first stone in those ripples?
As I recall that in 1951, at a time when Japan was trying to recover from the devastation following the defeat in World War II, our museum appeared in the precincts of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu in Kamakura as the first public modern art museum in Japan, I cannot help thinking of the potential of linking nature and culture profoundly once more and that starting point.
MIZUSAWA Tsutomu, Director
On the Tenth Anniversary of the Opening of The Museum of Modern Art, Hayama
It was on October 11, 2003 that the third building of our museum opened in Hayama, a scenic location facing Isshiki Beach. The opening day was blessed with beautiful crisp autumn weather and many well-wishers. I recall it vividly as if it were only yesterday. Yet, this year, in 2013, we are already celebrating its tenth anniversary.
There has probably never been a completely peaceful period in any age.
Looking extensively around the world, some region or other has always been in the midst of the maelstrom of war. Among the human beings, be it on the level of friends or nations, confrontations of all degrees have continued to arise. Ivan Illich (1926-2002), a great thinker who continuously criticized the limits of contemporary civilization, once pointed out that peace and war are not concepts of time but of space. The meaning of what Illich indicated has never been sensed so poignantly as during the past decade. One has to say, not “There were peaceful times,” but “There were peaceful places.”
Bearing the ravages of war in mind, however peaceful areas other than that may have been, to those involved in the turmoil of war, it would have been no other than a turbulent era. It has always been the viewpoint of the authority’s side that has argued vehemently that peace prevails. The clearly sycophantic Latin expressions “Pax Romana” and “Pax Americana” demonstrate this precisely. Peace has always been longed for by people in weak positions in an obscure corner of the earth.
The past decade was also a period of turbulence.
Following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, via the dissolution of the Soviet Union, for just a little while, the annulment of ideological confrontation made us imagine a fresh possibility of peaceful coexistence. However, the September 11 terror attacks in the U.S. in 2001 brought to light the fact that highly advanced capitalism and an information-oriented society were accelerating the social gap increasingly on a global scale. Stefan Zweig (1881-1942), a fin-de-siècle Viennese writer, was banished by the Nazis and driven to despair, committed suicide in Rio de Janeiro together with his young wife. The World of Yesterday, a masterpiece of reminiscent literature he finished writing in 1940, exquisitely conveys the splendor and fall of the Habsburg Empire. In it, he recalls fondly but with pain of the loss how, just before the First World War, for example, the citizens of Salzburg and Munich could come and go across the border freely to enjoy cheaper and tastier beer or wine without anyone being aware of the border.
Thanks to the dramatic advance of communication technology, we can correspond instantaneously, for example, with someone in Lagos, Nigeria sitting in Japan in the Far East. Yet, in the meantime, division and disparity are accelerating all the more. The demolition of cultural assets in the Republic of Mali amidst the confusion of a military coup is fresh in our memory. It was the most heartbreaking cultural vandalism in the past few years. Being forced to stop for inspection over and over again as one goes up north towards the Sahara shows how awkward the world is today.
Why is an art museum necessary in such times?
The answer may be surprisingly easy. It is a place where one can encounter fine examples of the plastic arts freely without having to go through (or having slipped through) inspection and connect them to the area or generation. It has the potential of infinitely transcending restrictions of time and space. Sustainability is an indispensable condition for that. We must not lose to the despair of loss.
We are aware that the situation of our museum, which has hitherto been managed as three museums, Kamakura, Kamakura Annex, and Hayama, is obscure and difficult. Keeping that in mind, we are prepared to proceed with our eyes on the future. We would be most grateful for your kind understanding and support to enable our modest activities to be continued uninterruptedly in the next decade and the decades to follow.
MIZUSAWA Tsutomu, Director