2018 Bunjin-ga as a conceptual art practice

ArtCamp 2018, Faculty of Design and Art at the University of West Bohemia (Pilzen, the Czech Republic)

the final exhibition by participants at the studio, Faculty of Design and Art at the University of West Bohemia (27th July 2018)

I participated in the Summer Camp of the University of West Bohemian as a lecturer for the first time this year. It was also the first time for me to visit Pilzen or the Czech Republic, and it was also my first experience being a summer camp instructor. I thought that it would be a new challenge both as an educator and as an artist, so I worked on creating the curriculum.

The University especially requested to implement courses related to Japanese culture this time. Choosing “Bunjin-ga” and “conceptual art” as the theme was also my first challenge. “Bunjin,” a cultured person who was able to devote himself to writing and poetry, is primarily an amateur painter, and the purpose of drawing for them is to show their thoughts and ideas visually. Meanwhile, conceptual art also emphasises processes and concepts rather than works as final results. Although Bunjin-ga and conceptual art are from entirely different eras and cultural backgrounds, I thought that by treating them as subjects, I could show the necessary attitudes for artists and new ideas. As for the curriculum design, at the stage of writing the proposal, many uncertainties also emerged. It took much time to elaborate until the implementation.

During the five days of the course, I decided to provide various experiences through the workshop to participants for the first three days, then work on their projects for the last two days. Each workshop was based on lectures and practical training at Hosei University and my art projects. Besides, I decided to use India ink sticks as a core drawing material for new experiences on materials. There were eight participants, including Czech students, working members of society, and international students from Russia, Japan, and Taiwan.

Indian ink drawing session (23rd July 2018) photo by ArtCamp
Indian ink drawing session (23rd July 2018) photo by ArtCamp

First of all, I explained the whole sequence, and then I asked the participants to make big nameplates (we called them captions). Then they interviewed each other and introduced the partner who was paired. In the afternoon of the first day, we started using Indian ink and drew “separating circle and ball” and “portrait” for practices. On the second day, I mentioned the relationship between the artwork and the caption at the museum or gallery, and then we attached captions to various things in the studio. In the afternoon, we made a collaboration picture book that got inspiration for “Exquisite corpse” of surrealism. In the morning of the third day, we practised performance art. We performed “To put our own body in place different from usual” and “Performance with a verb as a title” for practices. In the afternoon we discussed artworks for the next day. Besides the workshop, each student conducted an icebreaker for about ten minutes before we started the workshop, but these were also contributing to sharing various ideas.

We were able to use a large studio space as an exhibition space for the final project, so we installed both their final artwork and the results of each workshop. It seemed that the participants enjoyed producing flexible ideas without being bound more than necessary to the content of the seminar so far, and it was a higher-level presentation than I thought.

Although it was a short period, I believe that the communication between the participants progressed throughout the course and we were able to advance the curriculum with an excellent atmosphere. It was a pleasure to think of combining complex themes, using words as art materials, using Indian ink sticks, and making experiences such as performance and collaboration a source of new creation for participants. I went to the university on foot every day instead of using trams or buses and the scenery of the city of Plzen and the university campus which I have experienced in the thirty minutes commuting time were always beautiful, the weather was fresh and spending good days. Finally, I am grateful to Mr Tatsuhiko Murata and Ms Makiko Tsuji who gave me this fantastic opportunity, Ms Markéta Kohoutková, Art Camp Coordinator who supported me at the University of West Bohemia, and all the students who took the course I would like to take this opportunity to express my most profound gratitude.