|■Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties
||■Center for Conservation Science
|■Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems
||■Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation
|■Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage
Presentation by Ms. Ayako Ogawa during the seminar
Although many people once had an image of gendai bijutsu (contemporary art) as being difficult to understand and tended to avoid it, it is now becoming familiar even to Japanese people as they start to refer to it as “gendai art,” which seems to sound more approachable. It has become normal for art museums to exhibit and store works of contemporary art. However, the materials and techniques used in contemporary art vary tremendously from one piece of work to another, and art museums are now finding it increasingly difficult to effectively conserve and restore them using their traditional expertise. To discuss such issues concerning the conservation and restoration of contemporary art, the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems held a seminar on January 30th, featuring the following speakers: Ms. Ayako OGAWA, Project Researcher, The National Museum of Art, Osaka; and Mr. Yuichiro Taira, Project Associate Professor, Arts & Science LAB., Tokyo University of the Arts.
In her presentation titled “The Conservation and Restoration of Contemporary Art in Art Museums,” Ms. Ogawa addressed the issues facing art museums. The National Museum of Art, Osaka (NMAO), which she works for, actively collects and exhibits time-based media works (artworks that employ a temporal form of expression) including video recordings, installations, and performances, which do not simply fit into the framework of museums. Just days before this seminar, the exhibition Travelers: Stepping into the Unknown started at the NMAO (from January 21st to May 6th, 2018). Providing examples from this exhibition, including a work by Robert Rauschenberg and a performance-based work by Allora & Calzadilla, Ms. Ogawa outlined a range of tasks involved in hosting such artworks, from receiving to exhibiting.
Mr. Taira’s presentation was titled “Is Contemporary Art Such a Special Thing in the History of Art Conservation and Restoration?” and challenged the idea of how Western art and ancient Japanese cultural properties should be conserved or restored. The works of video art created from the 1960s to 1980s, most notably those of Nam June Paik, use cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors. Today, liquid crystal displays (LCDs) have become the dominant type of display, making it almost impossible to find a replacement CRT monitor. However, even if the material identity of the original work is lost after restoring it with an LCD instead of a CRT monitor, the core identity of the work, or its “DNA,” could be clearly communicated to the audience. Mr. Taira presented an argument from a broad perspective, even taking into account the ritual of Shikinen Sengu (a periodical transfer of god to a new shrine building) in Ise Shrine and other methods of passing down cultural properties that date back to ancient Japan. His argument extended beyond the topics of contemporary art and provided an opportunity for us to rethink how best to restore cultural properties, for which people have different approaches to inpainting, reworking, and hypothetical restoration depending on each property.
While most presentations delivered at the Department’s seminars usually cover topics related to art history, this particular seminar was devoted to the topics of conservation and restoration of art, which attracted many people from other departments. After the presentations, participants exchanged their views from different professional perspectives.
Screenshot of the literature published in an exhibition catalog after conducting a search on WorldCat.
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties endeavors to collect and utilize literature and materials on fine arts. To transmit information globally through the Online Computer Library Center, Inc. (OCLC), the world’s largest online library service provider, the Institute has proceeded with the project through repeated consultations with OCLC Center, Kinokuniya Company Ltd., its agent in Japan. As a result, in January 2018, approximately 50,000 items of data from articles and papers included in the exhibition catalogs were entered as “Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Art Bibliography in Japan” in the OCLC Central Index, the world’s largest corporative bibliographic catalog database. This contribution has allowed users to access bibliographic data on exhibition catalog papers including “Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Art Bibliography in Japan” by inputting any key words such as artists and works on fine art through search services such as WorldCat.org (https://www.worldcat.org/) and Art Discovery Group Catalogue (https://artdiscovery.net/).
Published books and magazines can be accessed from general search engines or through library databases. However, articles and papers placed in exhibition catalogs that are highly specialized are not widely known. This time, reused data on articles and papers published in exhibition catalogs donated by art galleries and museums throughout Japan for the “Yearbook of Japanese Art” editing project that the Institute has been continually conducting since its early days, was provided. Although the function of accessing the entire text online from the search result directly has not been provided yet—an issue that needs to be solved—creating a possibility for discovery of any required materials for global internet users is of great significance. At this moment, the data accumulated from 1930 through 2013 were contributed, and the Institute will strengthen its information transmission by continually adding new data.
This achievement is the result of the “project to formulate the basic grounds for sending information on cultural assets centered on fine arts and crafts both domestically and internationally,” a joint project that has been conducted with the National Museum of Western Art since 2016.
Venue of the symposium (Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan)
During the international symposium
The international symposium “Cultural Heritage and Religion in East Asia” was held at the Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan, from January 8th to 9th, 2018. The participants at this symposium, co-hosted by Academia Sinica and The Australian National University, included specialists in cultural heritage studies from Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Australia, the U.S., and the U.K. As a representative from Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tomo ISHIMURA, Head of the Audio-Visual Documentation Section, Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage, was invited to present at the symposium. In his presentation titled “Intangible cultural heritage and the protection system related to religion in Japan,” ISHIMURA argued that the Act on Protection of Cultural Properties in Japan can cover some elements of intangible cultural heritage with religious associations, but not other elements, by citing the examples of the Shunie ceremony held at Todaiji Temple and the Yamahoko Junko parade held as part of the Gion Festival. As a commentator, a South Korean researcher reviewed ISHIMURA’s presentation from various perspectives, making reference to Japan’s postwar policy of separating religion from the state.
The main takeaway from this symposium was that many East Asian countries and regions recognize religion as an important element of intangible cultural heritage and that this notion is often reflected in their heritage protection and tourism policies. ISHIMURA also learned that this has both positive and negative aspects; while religious elements of heritage are protected under such policies, these elements can lose their original forms in the process of tourism or development.
In contrast, Japan does not, in principle, apply the Act on Protection of Cultural Properties to religious elements. In reality, however, while festivals celebrated primarily by religious bodies are not easily designated as cultural properties to be protected under this act, those celebrated primarily by local communities can be designated as cultural properties. It is, in fact, often difficult to separate religious and secular elements of actual festivals.
This symposium served as a valuable opportunity for us to reflect on what is considered “cultural heritage” in Japan, that is, what “cultural heritage” means in Japan, by comparing our country’s situation with examples of other countries.
Rice terrace (Hapao, Ifugao Province)
Weaving on a hand loom (Oong, Ifugao Province)
The International Research Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region (IRCI), established in Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture as one of UNESCO’s Category 2 Centres, has been conducting research and surveys on disaster prevention for intangible cultural heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region since fiscal 2016. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has continuously cooperated with the IRCI in its research projects. Recently, Tomo ISHIMURA, Head of the Audio-Visual Documentation Section of the Department, who also serves as Cooperative Researcher at the IRCI, joined the IRCI’s field survey in the Philippines.
The Philippines is a country prone to natural disasters. For example, the volcanic eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the island of Luzon in 1991 caused catastrophic damage to Aeta, an indigenous tribe living in the area. More recently, in October 2013, an earthquake occurred near Bohol Island and damaged some historical buildings, including Santo Niño Church, the country’s oldest church in Cebu Island. The earthquake was followed by Typhoon Yolanda in November of the same year, which devastated many parts of the country, including the island of Leyte. Therefore, how to protect both tangible and intangible cultural heritage from such disasters is a major challenge.
A field survey was conducted from January 24 to February 1, 2018, in the provinces of Ifugao and Abra, which are part of the Cordillera region in northern Luzon. Cordillera is a mountainous area where many indigenous peoples live, and therefore is home to a great diversity of intangible cultural heritage. Furthermore, many parts of this region are still underdeveloped and vulnerable to disaster risks. The project team for this survey comprised five members: Ms. Yoko NOJIMA, Associate Fellow of the IRCI; Prof. Norma RESPICIO of the University of the Philippines, specializing in textile weaving and dyeing; two officials from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Philippines; and Mr. ISHIMURA from the Institute.
Of the two provinces, Ifugao is more famous because of the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. However, this heritage site was once included on the List of World Heritage in Danger because of the declining population and abandonment of rice farming by communities. Since then, community-led activities have been conducted to revive the culture. Hudhud Chants of the Ifugao was recently inscribed on the UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, along with the traditional tugging ritual practiced in the village of Hapao, Ifugao, as part of tugging rituals and games jointly nominated by Vietnam, Cambodia, Republic of Korea, and the Philippines. The survey revealed that because Ifugao is primarily located on rugged, mountainous terrain, landslides triggered by typhoons and earthquakes are serious problems for the province, often causing hazardous situations to rice terraces, houses, and roads. In recent years, however, local communities have been actively leading tourism and development programs, and the team witnessed how traditional handcrafts, such as textile weaving and wood carving, are gaining popularity. Thus, the province of Ifugao seemed to be successfully incorporating traditional culture with a modern approach by effectively taking advantage of the “brand” of the province, including UNESCO’s World Heritage or Intangible Cultural Heritage sites.
Compared with other provinces in the Cordillera region, Abra Province is located in relatively low land, mainly over a basin along a river. From the survey, however, the team learned that deforestation and mining development in mountainous areas have exposed the province to the risks of such disasters as overflowing of rivers and floods. In response to this problem, the province has implemented the Lapat system, which incorporates a traditional resource use management system practiced by indigenous communities into the modern legal system. The project team examined how the Lapat system is helping the province achieve sustainable development. In addition, the remnants of traditional culture are still clearly visible in this province. It seemed that traditional practices, such as worshipping of a sacred stone called pinaing, or a ritual performed by a psychic medium called baglan, coexist with Christian beliefs and the knowledge of modern science to support the local identity.
Through this field survey, the team learned how the two provinces are taking advantage of traditional culture in line with sustainable development and successfully demonstrating resilience despite their vulnerability to disasters. These examples would provide important suggestions for disaster prevention for intangible cultural heritage worldwide.
Rehearsal (Prof. Haruko KOMODA, who served as our adviser, in the foreground)
Heike (or Heike-biwa) is one of Japan’s traditional performing arts wherein the blind beggar priests (biwa hōshi) musically recite Heike Monogatari (the Tale of the Heike) while playing the biwa (lute) as an accompaniment. It flourished and reached its peak in the Muromachi period. However, Heike-biwa has gradually declined in popularity since then, and now there is only one person who has officially inherited this tradition. On January 15th, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage recorded Heike at the Performing Arts Studio of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, with the help of the Heike-gatari Research Society, a study and performance group founded in 2015 under the initiative of Prof. Haruko KOMODA of Musashino Academia Musicae to promote and pass down the techniques of Heike-gatari (recitation of the Tale of the Heike) to the next generation.
The Department recorded the following performances: the traditional piece, Koyo; the reconstructed piece, Kogo (from the sanjyu part to the beginning of the kudari part); the reconstructed piece, Atsumori (the kudoki part at the start); and the reconstructed piece, Gion Shoja. One of the most notable characteristics of the Heike-gatari Research Society is that the Society, which consists of emerging performers of the Jiuta and koto repertories, Mr. Yuji KIKUO, Mr. Naoichi TANAKA, and Mr. Shogo HIYOSHI, along with Prof. Haruko KOMODA, a leading authority in the study of Heike, has been reconstructing Heike based on objective evidence. The Department, together with the Society, will continue to archive the recordings of not only traditional pieces but also reconstructed pieces of Heike.
Registration booth for the public exhibition of the conservation facility for mural paintings of Takamatsuzuka Tumulus, a national treasure
I participated as a staff explained in the public exhibition of the conservation facility for the mural paintings of Takamatsuzuka Tumulus, which are designated as a national treasure. After the dismantling of the stone chamber from Takamatsuzuka Tumulus in 2007, the conservation facility was opened to the public twice a year. From 2017 onward, the frequency of public exhibitions of the facility, along with the mural paintings of Kitora Tumulus at Shijin no Yakata, the Kitora Tumulus Mural Experiential Museum, was increased to four times a year. Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been hosting these events since the first time the facility was opened to the public.
At the 20th public exhibition held recently, we placed the West Wall (Group of Female Figures, White Tiger, and Group of Male Figures) and the North Wall (Black Tortoise) in the area close to the exhibition corridor to provide visitors a view of the progress of the conservation of the mural paintings since they were taken out from the tumulus ten years ago; moreover, visitors can compare the paintings with the mural painting of Black Tortoise from Kitora Tumulus, which was also on exhibition at the same time. Although the event was held during winter, when the number of tourists to Asuka Village is low, it attracted approximately 1,000 visitors, including people without pre-registration. Many visitors were amazed with the progress of the cleaning of the mural paintings, and left with newly developed interests in the future restoration process and exhibitions.
Seminar in session
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties held the World Heritage Seminar with the theme of “Process of Evaluating Nominations and Roles of the Advisory Bodies for Inscription on the World Heritage List” at the Institute’s seminar room on January 18, 2018.
This Seminar, held for the first time, is designed for local government officials in charge of matters related to World Heritage, and aims to provide information about the system of World Heritage and the latest trends as well as an opportunity for exchange of ideas. Focusing on the process of how the Advisory Bodies evaluate nominations, this year’s Seminar featured various speakers who discussed the actual details of what International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), in particular, does, from different perspectives.
First, Ms. Asuka SAKAINO from the Institute presented a report on the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee held in Krakow, Poland, in July 2017. Ms. Yoko FUTAGAMI, also from the Institute, then provided an overview of the World Heritage Seminar, and also described the evaluation process for the World Heritage List and problems with the current situation. Another speaker featured in the Seminar was Ms. Miki OKADERA, Chief Engineer of the Fukuoka Prefectural Government, who played a critical role in the preparation of the nomination file for the Sacred Island of Okinoshima and Associated Sites in the Munakata Region and addressed the evaluation by the Advisory Bodies. She talked about her journey through the entire process related to the nomination of the sites, which was examined during the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee and inscribed on the list. In addition, Prof. Nobu KURODA of the University of Tsukuba shared her insights into the site mission from a professional viewpoint, based on her actual experience as one of the experts appointed by an Advisory Body to conduct a site mission in 2006. Finally, Prof. Toshiyuki KONO of Kyushu University, who was appointed president of ICOMOS in December 2017, delivered a presentation on the roles of the Advisory Bodies from the organization’s perspective.
A total of 74 people attended the event, including officials from 29 prefectural or local government in charge of matters related to World Heritage as well as officials from the Cabinet Secretariat, the Agency for Cultural Affairs, and the Subdivision on World’s Cultural Heritage of the Council for Cultural Affairs.
The Institute will continue to host such Seminars to communicate information obtained through the study of World Heritage and provide opportunities for people to share information.