The Japan Foundation, Toronto:Activity report of the Japan Foundation, Toronto

The Japan Foundation, Toronto

topics_0812_02_01.jpg Nuit Blanche, an all-night, Toronto-wide contemporary art exhibition, took place from sunset to sunrise on Saturday, October 4. This was the third year this festival has been held in Toronto. Nuit Blanche is an event that gives young and old alike the opportunity to enjoy contemporary art casually. According to the news, approximately 1 million people participated in the festivities this year. The magnitude of the event is clear when you consider that the population of Toronto is 5.5 million - indeed, a very large segment of the community came out to join in the fun.

A work titled "Into the Blue" by Japanese artist Takahiro Fujiwara was selected as one of this year's feature exhibits. The Japan Foundation lent its support to the realization of this exhibition.

"Into the Blue" is a vibrant, corn-shaped blue balloon that was suspended in mid-air in the city's largest shopping mall, the Eaton Centre. The balloon revolved in the air while glimmering in the light of the mall. The shopping area was transformed from its everyday context by the appearance of the giant blue object which, when looked at from underneath, afforded the audience the sensation that they were being drawn up into the blue. As may be expected from the busiest shopping mall in Toronto, hundreds of people surrounded the piece, regardless of the fact that it was the middle of the night. Everyone enjoyed it in their own way by taking pictures and videos of the work with their cell phones and lying underneath it and staring up into it. It is estimated that over 20,000 people saw the work that night.

There were many twists and turns leading up to the realization of this exhibit.It was during this past spring that Mr. Fujiwara received a request from curator Gordon Hatt to use environmentally friendly materials to create his piece.Mr. Fujiwara began searching for an appropriate material, and finally arrived at soft acrylic after a long struggle. Soft acrylic can be processed in a similar manner to vinyl, and when Mr. Fujiwara put in a request to Inabata & Co., Ltd., a developer of environmentally friendly soft acrylic sheets, the company graciously accepted, and the realization of the exhibit became tangible.Because it is quite a new material, there were no soft acrylic sheets in the blue colour that the artist needed for his piece, and the company's inventory had essentially no surplus. However, they were able to provide Mr. Fujiwara with colourless, clear soft acrylic, free of charge.

The processes of printing the soft acrylic in the blue colour and forming the sheets into the shape that the artist had envisioned were entrusted to different companies. With the help of engineers in the field, the piece was completed just days before the exhibition. The fact that the Japanese companies and engineers had devoted immense effort for the sake of art gave this blue object the power to draw tens of thousands of people to see it while it was suspended in the large mall throughout the night.

The Japan Foundation provided the project with a grant for some of the shipping charges for the piece, worked closely together with curator Gordon Hatt and Mr. Fujiwara, and cooperated in a variety of other ways to help realize this exhibit. The Foundation also participated in a woodblock print exhibit at Nuit Blanche, which received more than 3,000 visitors that night. It was a great pleasure to enjoy contemporary art together with the citizens of Toronto.

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