Director’s Note: Looking Back at the First Two Years of Beyond Invisible Borders
Who would have known that 2020 would be a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, when we had our kickoff event for this project in October, 2019. For half a year since then until March, 2020, we had discussions and workshops on a regular basis to figure out, specifically, what kind of programs would be possible for us to organize in order to fulfill the purpose of this art project: “To reflect on invisible borders and obstacles based on the hypothesis that Tokyo has various invisible barriers“, while facilitating team-building exercises.
The pandemic hit the entire world in early 2020, and we all have had to experience strict restrictions on art projects and group gatherings in general, even though the human race never stopped gathering together in history. Under such a circumstance, we still wanted to stick to in-person programming for our project, and decided to run the project after having to change the program details of kyodo 20_30 and reschedule our calendar. It was because of our belief that online programming cannot substitute the “marginal exchange” between people in real life, which brings joy to the human connections.
kyodo 20_30 aims to involve those aged between 20 and 30 who will be in charge of society in 2030, regardless of nationality, language, and cultural backgrounds.
The program’s vision was to collaborate with each other at Kyodo Atelier and make a brand-new community, in hopes that it will be a case study for the upcoming multicultural society, where people with various backgrounds not only co-exist, but also create something together and share mutual trust, while respecting individual differences.
Communities are by nature born spontaneously. Communities on different levels (ex. families, local communities, countries) obviously have their own meanings and purposes. However, no matter which community you look at, I think that the meanings and purposes attached to the community are given to it afterwards. I am not a sociologist nor a anthropologist, so I am not going to discuss my theory with my ill-equipped knowledge, but what I want to stress here is that it is extremely difficult to create a new, man-made community.
It’s a different story, if it is an purpose-built organization such as an athletic team or a corporation. Organizations - whether for-profit or nonprofit, have some sort of purpose and generally aim to make something. But can we create “spontaneous” communities without clear purposes or goals?
That was what I had to think about a lot as the Project Director. I am the head of Theatre Company shelf, and I am a theatre director. So it is not difficult for me to gather people to create what I want to create. Well, it has its difficulties, but I have learned the methods to do so through my long experience.
However, kyodo 20_30 as a community is not an organization with a clear mutual purpose.
The end-goal of creating a community is to create a community itself, and has no external purpose - but creating a theatre company has the purpose of producing theatre.
We wanted kyodo 20_30 to be such a community with no clear purpose. Even if it ends up fulfilling some sort of purpose or goal or creating a social movement, we didn’t want it to be restricted by any imposed, specific, expected outcomes of its existence. We also didn’t want it to have some sort of “promise” like school does - the promise for you to learn something even if you just sit there. We wanted it to encourage people to voluntarily do something together with strangers. Of course, I made it clear that it’s OK for them to do nothing as well, but honestly, it was very messy planning on my part - in a sense that I gathered people, but didn’t instruct them what exactly they should be doing, or teach them how to do whatever they wanted to do.
The only request I had for the participants was, as I said earlier, to reflect on invisible borders and obstacles based on the hypothesis that Tokyo has various invisible barriers. I also asked them to present their findings in a form of some sort of questions, in a way that they can be shared with other people and the rest of society.
How much of that was achieved and was not achieved?
As the end of the first year of kyodo 20_30 comes nearer, there are so many things I wish I would have done differently, but I definitely have gained a lot from the experience as well. I am grateful that so many promising ideas came from the players and the collaborators despite the fact that this community, kyodo 20_30, didn’t exactly require collaboration, but only “assumed” it. The ideas that the players and the collaborators came up with voluntarily will not stop at the planned presentations, and will be carried over to the next year of the project.
That being said, this project/program has only started, and it is very important to keep this community going in the coming years.
I also want to note here that, this project has given us the opportunity to rethink our existing values that give importance to mass-production, efficiency, and the scale of our products (i.e. the number of audiences and product reach), in the face of the pandemic. I truly feel that it was because of the fact that this project was organized with The Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Arts Council Tokyo, that we were able to not only realize the odd nature of our values, but also actually work on them.
To have individuals respect each other’s differences and collaborate together. To let them move their hands and sweat together to create something. It is my hope that, organizing an art project that facilitates such activities regularly will help us prepare for our future co-existence and multicultural society, which will be critical in the coming years.
Yasuhito Yano, Beyond Invisible Borders Director