Experiments for thinking, for wondering, for learning
Takehisa Yuu Curator, Contemporary Art Center, Art Tower Mito
Born of parents from Hiroshima, Masumoto Yasuto says he was occasionally told stories about the war and the atomic bomb. It was in 2010 that he began to produce works on the theme of “Hiroshima”. The method that he adopted was to ask foreigners about what they learnt at school regarding Hiroshima, inviting them to express their impressions, emotions and knowledge using their bodies and recording them with a video camera(Outsider’s Memoir). The footage shows the artist’s own concerns about how to cope with the problem that Hiroshima symbolizes being directly transplanted to others, who respond to the artist’s requests with bafflement and earnestness.
Masumoto has been carrying out different “experiments”. The subjects of the experiments are diverse, ranging from some little things that bother him to some offhand ideas of his students, but they are all based on the participants’ personal interests and experiences. The above mentioned work is one of them. Although the experiments are never imposed and are always carried out with the participants’ consent, their largely differing reactions such as enjoyment, perplexity, and even discomfort stir manifold emotions inside viewers. From these experiments, the artist has chosen to present for this exhibition a series of workshops in which participants ex- perience the simulated situation at the time of the war that is reconstructed from memories told by close relatives of the artist or the workshop partici- pants. It is an experiment about how the experiences of war that were passed on by word of mouth are imagined, thought of and understood in the present day by those who did not experience the war.
Nonetheless, Masumoto’s interest lies not in the reproduction of a past event, but rather in what those who did not experience an event may think and become aware in the process of deconstructing the memories of those who were directly involved. This is why, in all of his experiments, Masumoto employs a method that brings out a proactive engagement by the par- ticipants, trying to spur their thinking through dialogue and bodily actions. Something that he often refers to in using such methods is the kind of situations seen in Brazilian samba schools, where beginners and skilled dancers“ spontaneouslylearnanddeepentheirstudiestogether ”.The schools are places where participants mutually and autonomously stimulate each other in an interactive manner that lacks the hierarchy of the teacher/ pupil relationship. In Masumoto’s workshops too, the participants do not simply follow prescribed actions and methodologies, but instead discuss them to gether to then put them into practice. The workshops take many different forms, from reliving someone’s small narratives, to playing games on a social theme, or experiencing a trivial event together, but they all have in common the fact that thinking is prompted by enjoyable and thrilling physical experience. Just like with the samba schools, the methodology of allowing participants to voluntarily stimulate each other, bringing out each other’s individual initiative through mutual communication and bodily acts, functions as a mechanism to incite thinking and learning about someone else’s experience that is separated by those of the participants due to dif- ferences in time, place and awareness.
Some marginal event experienced by a close relative, some small thing that concerns the artist, personal interests of friends and students... However naïve it may be, Masumoto seeks fields that may be opened by thinking and wondering, channels in which he may connect with others or other things. His pursuit seems to question the renouncing of thought that presents itself at the countless divergences that divide those who have experienced an event and those who have not. A place for thinking, wondering and learning together: this is what Masumoto creates through his “experiments”. The numerous and inexhaustible experiments appear to us as explorations of possible ways to live in a society where it has become impossible to live comfortably and fulfillingly within small social universes.