Tokyo Heterotopia

Artist: Akira Takayama
Location: Smartphone App
Year: 2013
Researcher: Jun Kitazawa

Tokyo Heterotopia is a theatrical investigation into urban otherness in Tokyo by Akira Takayama. The concept has been realised in stages using different forms and methods. The project first appeard at the Festival Tokyo 2013 (F/T13) as a theatrical performance using radio tour. In the second stage, it was adopted into a video installation, Yokohama Commune, at Yokohama Triennale 2014, and then a live installation in the Koganecho area in Yokohama. The new way of the exploration is now avairable as digital application on iPhone and smartphone. It becomes an interactive theatrical experience that is site-specific and meditative.

Participants download an app into their smartphone, and then were free to visit, in whichever order they wished, various locations that revealed the Asia that exists inside Tokyo. After arriving at a site, they can hear a story about the location, written by six poets and novelists. The narratives were created based on research by the Port Tourism Research Center. For the most part they were read by people whose native language was not Japanese. The locations included religious facilities, monuments, the site of a former refugee center, and ethnic restaurants, etc. The journey around Tokyo invited participants on a tour of alien cultures within the familiar city landscape.

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The word 'heterotopia' is a term coined by Michel Foucault, meaning spaces of otherness neither here nor there. It has been scheduled that Tokyo Heterotopia will continue to expand ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Public Art can take various forms and methodologies. In Japan, construction of three-dimentional objects and sculptures newly in a public space has no longer been the mainstream of Public Art since 2000s due to the country's prolonged economic stagnation. Under the circumstances, I nominate Tokyo Heterotopia as an innovative case to reconstruct the notion of Public Art because the work presents a new way of 'Place Remaking' in urban environment.

Progress Agency