From the Departing Director, Chiaki Soma

A message from Chiaki Soma, who served as Program Director from F/T09 to F/T13.

Exactly five years have passed now since the first ever day of Festival/Tokyo on February 26th, 2009. In that time there have been a total of six festivals and alongside many artists, audiences and colleagues, we have built a unique arts festival which could only exist in the here and now. I would like to take this opportunity to thank from the bottom of my heart all those who have supported and participated in the festival, right from the time when it was unknown.

During the six festivals where I served as director I doggedly continued to ask questions. These were the questions of what is theatre, what is art, and who are "we" who practise it. These were questions born out of Japan in the here and the now - that is, the start of the twenty-first century - while we also attempted to connect them with the past and future, as well as open them up to areas beyond the arts and the world beyond Japan.

If we take the arts as a response to society, we must continue then to consider how the society in which we live today is changing as both those who create the arts and those who enjoy them. In these past five years I sense a crisis emerging before us, one with which the framework of ideas and historical perspective up till now cannot compete with, not least the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami and the consequent Fukushima accident, and the continued strain in relations with our neighbors in Asia. In the face of these large tidings, the arts are ultimately merely small activities grounded in the individual. However, it is precisely for this reason that I believe the arts are fundamentally free and are able to open up our complex world, time and humanity itself, along with many possibilities. Ideas from the here and now are not restrained by the here and now. They go beyond time and allow us to encounter the dead and even those who are not yet born. And so with those distant people who are not here with us, we can be connected through the intermediary of the arts.

My idea of the publicness of the arts is to open up the door to those possibilities. This is rather an abstract way of putting things but it is like the question of how possibilities that are a mere 1% of the overall can be accepted by the remaining 99% and continue to be opened up. Here I believe the arts are the foundation for the things related to "us" overall, the constituents of the here and now; that is, they are the foundation of the public. How will the thinking behind this foundation as well as the means for embodying it be practised in society in the time to come? And can it be shared? These inquiries continue.

Finally, I would like to quote from the manifesto I wrote when envisaging the first Festival/Tokyo and with this bid farewell to the festival. Thank you very much for everything.

"The diverse issues and values born out of the society and city in which we live today bump up against each other, at times resonating, at times criticizing. It is like a kind of magnetic field in which the truly real things of our age, the truly compelling things, are being woven as expression. This is the ideal form of Festival/Tokyo. And it is a platform that is open to all people. How many artists and participants will gather there? How far can a strong sense of a place and time be shared? These challenges have already begun in the actions of all the people engaged in this festival that is born here."

Chiaki Soma
  • April 25, 2014