Take the Tsukuba Express train from Tokyo's electronics quarter and get off at the Moriya station. You will find yourself in a landscape of bamboo trees and rice fields. This is where ARCUS studio is located, an international residency programme run by the Ibaraki prefecture since 1995. Each year five to six artists, selected from hundreds of applicants, are asked to create and show their works from September to December. ARCUS studio has one slot for a Japanese artist, but most are saved for artists from overseas. The current artists in residence are Donald Abad (France), Srinivasa Prasad Bangalore (India), Debbie Han (USA), Lee Szu-Hui (Taiwan), and Takehito Shiina (Japan).
Although it's only a 32-minute train ride from Akihabara and an additional 10 minute bus ride from the train station, the staff at ARCUS studio finds it challenging to get visitors. To promote more foot traffic, Mizuki Endo, ARCUS studio’s new director, has initiated an open call for new project proposals. Now anyone can bring in proposals. There is no selection process, and free-form discussions with the staff can result in a realized project. Additionally, in most cases ARCUS studio will even provide a budget or material support. A mixture of events and lectures by 26 artists, curators and writers is already lined up for the 2007 season, ending in March 2008. Every weekend there is something going on. Even though this process may sound chaotic, the increase in opportunities for artists, curators and writers is creating the desired increase in visitors.
I find this attempt intriguing. ARCUS studio attempts to be both inclusive and exclusive — on the one hand acting as a friendly arts centre that invites everyone’s participation, and on the other hand running an exclusive international artist residency program. This allows diverse forms and differing qualities of art to exist side by side — a situation uncommon in art institutions. Also, the ARCUS studio is located in a closed elementary school building that is today used as a community’s culture centre, meaning that the variety of events at ARCUS studio might attract the attention of people who wouldn’t normally be interested in contemporary art.
It will be interesting to keep an eye on the transformation of ARCUS studio. The particular combination of people — all from varied walks of life and all sharing their ideas in such a supportive environment — is unique to the ARCUS studio programme. This programme encourages a lively mix of talents that is adding new energy to Japan’s cultural landscape.
- Sat, 20 Oct 2007