Festival/Tokyo 2017: Message from the Director

Festival/Tokyo 2017
Newcomers, Towards a Big Place

I have boundless hope for “newcomers.” While they may not yet be able to completely change all the foolish and ridiculous things happening around the world today, already some newcomers have emerged. To change the world they need 15 or 20 years. As such, I want Festival/Tokyo to build firm exchange between people around the global in order to prepare for this time. The most important mission of an international festival is to continue to advance exchange at the civic level utterly unrelated to the conflicts between nations or the clashes between political powers, and to present activities and works of art that continue to embrace mutual civic respect. There are all kinds of levels of international exchange, though exchange through art is the most potent when it comes to recognizing our different values and customs, and encouraging us to respect each other. Our efforts focus on how an international festival can be an extremely valuable tool for breaking free from the various biases in the media or the values of politicians that are influenced by their interests in order to achieve direct and honest exchange.

The 2017 festival continues last year’s theme of “newcomers.” These newcomers are the younger generation quite distinct from their predecessors and the people who will become the central force in society 15 or 20 years from now. They exist in great numbers, though may currently lack any semblance of power. How do they see the world? If we can understand that even just a bit, then could the older generations get closer to them? There are many things we want to confirm. This is the will that runs throughout the F/T17 programs. The “big place” of our theme has a double meaning: it expresses both the expectation for the “newcomers” as well as our request to the artists in much of the F/T17 lineup to break out of the narrow confines of the theatre space so as to create something freely using larger sites.

The festival will open with a dance work by the Thai choreographer Pichet Klunchun using Minami Ikebukuro Park and the road that stretches from the park to the east entrance to Ikebukuro Station, and drawing liberally yet not restrictively from Thai traditions. When considering exchange through art between Asian nations, the question of how to deal with traditional and ethnic practices becomes very important, and we certainly do not intend simply to present a “fusion” of the traditional and the contemporary. Takahiro Fujita of mum & gypsy will present a new work using an art space called Paradise Air in a former love hotel provided by a pachinko parlor near Matsudo Station as well as a space provided by Matsudo City. Yukio Shiba of mamagoto will use the entire underground floor of Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre to stage a new play. The F/T in the City Performance Series, which was launched at the 2016 festival, returns in a newly expanded form this year. The Asia Series also returns, this time with a showcase of Chinese artists. The focus here is again on “newcomers,” introducing various works and projects from the perspective of what is familiar to young people in China today. The showcase is bound to come into contact with the orientation of China’s young generation.

We have demanded so much of Masataka Matsuda. Being an educator, we asked him to help with a project that aims to uncover emerging talent in addition to creating a new work about Fukushima with his own group, marebito theater company. But Matsuda exceeded all our expectations, presenting a manifesto for the “theatre of incidents” and displaying firm leadership. The festival is fully committed to introducing this theatre of incidents that Matsuday is advocating.

There were some other projects we wanted to do but our economic circumstances meant we had to give up. But surely the function of a director is not to give up. There is still a little time.

Festival/Tokyo 2017 is organized by the Festival/Tokyo Executive Committee (Chair: Shigeo Fukuchi). The core body within the committee is NPO Arts Network Japan (Representative: Akiko Yonehara), which takes care of the practical management of the festival. This structure has received the fundamental support of Toshima City and Mayor Yukio Takano. Toshima City is also one of the groups comprising the executive committee, so ordinarily this is not the place to express my gratitude, but I would like to do so sincerely from my position as festival director. Moreover, the Japan Foundation Asia Center, which co-organizes the festival’s opening production, has not only provided financial support but also great spiritual help. Shiseido Co., Ltd. and Asahi Breweries, Ltd. continue in their long-running roles as festival sponsors, providing much assistance. And of course, it goes without saying how grateful we are to Arts Council Tokyo. Finally, I would like to express my deep appreciation for the many designers and members of the festival staff, who strive ceaselessly to overcome our hardships in spite of the selfish demands of their director. F/T now reaches its tenth iteration. There is, as always, no end in sight for our difficulties, but continuing is our strength.

Sachio Ichimura
Director, Festival/Tokyo 2017

June 12th: There is a change to the initially announced lineup for Festival/Tokyo 2017. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Mum & Gypsy will no longer be appearing at the festival this autumn.