Collaboration and Community-Building in Contemporary Art in Japan and Denmark

After the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear incidents in the North-Eastern Japan in 2011, many contemporary artists and scholars have focused on the role of art in connection to the recovery and rebuilding of local communities. Other elements of precarious societies, such as depopulation in rural areas and decline of the Japanese population, have triggered the emergence of chiiki aato (regional art) and various types of socially-engaged art projects in Japan. Artists are seeking new ways of creating art that are based on collaboration with non-artist local population or communities, as well as new forms of art-based education for both children and adults. Although not political in a direct manner, many of such new art projects pay attention to social interaction and provide means to formulate alternative lifestyles and values. Thus, socially-engaged art projects in Japan offer ways to imagine a transformation toward other societal models, which are less inclined towards neo-liberal globalization and commercialism, and focus instead on sharing and altruism.

The “social turn” in contemporary art is not limited to Japan, but has been a significant trend on the international art scene since the 1990s. In Denmark too, many artists engage in collective and community-based art projects, and scholars and critics discuss the theoretical and methodological implications of new socially-engaged art forms. Many artists in Japan, Denmark and other places in the world find meaningful output for their artistic practice by creating art projects that engage with local communities and cross societal boundaries as a means to provide visions for future societies.

About the seminar

The seminar will include scholars, critics and artists that have knowledge about or experience with collaborative and community-based art practice in Japan, Denmark, and other places. Professor Mōri Yoshitaka from Tokyo University of the Arts is the keynote speaker. With a background in sociology, Professor Mōri is an expert in new media art forms as well as political and activist art movements in the Post-bubble Japanese society.

Experts from the Danish context will present their research and experience within the context of community-building art practices in Japan and Denmark. Contributions will include presentations of art projects and artistic practices, as well as theoretical and methodological perspectives of research and knowledge production in the field of collaboration and community-based art.

Some questions to be discussed

What motivates artists to use collaboration as an aesthetic or social tool? How can collaboration be a reactive tool to prevent exclusion? What kind of knowledge can emerge from artistic practices about transnational collaboration and community building? If socially-engaged art projects are historical or site specific or based on local communities, how is it possible to transmit experience and knowledge from one geographical or cultural context to another? What are the potentials for scholarly, curatorial and artistic exchange between Japan and Denmark?


Saturday, November 4, 2017, in room 27.0.09

Registration and coffee

Welcome and introduction by Gunhild Borggreen, University of Copenhagen
JSPS Presentation

Morning session: Currents in Contemporary Japan
Keynote: Mōri Yoshitaka, Professor at Tokyo University of the Arts: "What Can Art Do after a Catastrophe? The Great East Japan Earthquake and New Forms of Contemporary Art in Japan"
Line Marie Thorsen, PhD fellow at Aarhus University: "Sowing seeds in the desert: artful farming and the undoing of desertifications"

12:00-13:30: Lunch

Afternoon session: Artists’ collaborations
Rikke Luther, artist and PhD fellow at Royal Danish Art Academy and University of Copenhagen: "Changing the Meeting"
Georg Jagunov, Jacob Remin, Lars Kynde, Toshie Takeuchi: "Making Land"
GRASSLANDS, Lene Noer: "On GRASSLANDS: 4 villages - 4 cases of participatory cultural citizenship"



Sunday, November 5, 2017, in room 27.0.09


Welcome back
JSPS fellows Jacob Kreutzfeldt and Gunhild Borggreen about JSPS experience in Japan

Morning session: Perspectives on Transnational Collaboration
Peter van der Mejden, Postdoc at the University of Copenhagen: "The Sociopoetics of Disappearance"
Miryam Sas, Professor at University of California, Berkeley: "Moves Like Sand: Collective Practices and Site-Specific Critique in Japanese Contemporary Art 1960s to the Present"
Signe Meisner Christensen, Postdoc at Zürcher Hochschule der Künste and Aalborg Universitet: "Infrastructure as Collective Production"

12:30-13:30: Lunch

13:30-15:30: Film session
Short introduction by Mōri Yoshitaka
Screening of Iki no ato (Trace of Breath), 2016. Director: Komori Haruka.

Summing up and good bye


Practical information

The seminar is free and includes lunch and refreshments both days. Please sign up below in order. Limited seats. 

The seminar takes place at University of Copenhagen, Southern Campus, Njalsgade 136, room 27.0.09

Sign up

Register for the seminar by sending an e-mail to Gunhild Borggreen, before October 27th.
The seminar is free of charge, and includes lunch and refreshments both days. Seating is limited, so be sure to sign up.


For more information, contact Gunhild Borggreen, Associate Professor at Department of Arts and Cultural Studies,