Takuya Watanabe

For the residence in ARCUS

Good luck on your journey

How far can we really know the world that someone else sees, and is it possible to express this? These are the major questions that my work is dealing with. During my residency at ARCUS Project, that “someone else” became Brazilians of Japanese descent living in the city of Joso. The members of this community have a complex identity that straddles the cultural, political, and linguistic differences between Japan and Brazil.

My video work, Good luck on your journey, came out of a meeting with a Japanese Brazilian man, who has lived the first half of his life in Brazil and the second half so far in Japan, and his son, who was born and brought up in Japan. I created the resulting work in collaboration with them. The man frequently behaves in a stereotypically Japanese way. Though he can speak Japanese well enough for everyday conversation or customary greetings, he says that he is unable to express his emotions or more complicated things. I first proposed to the man that he write a letter to himself as he was before he left Brazil for Japan. This letter written in Portuguese is received by his son, who is now about the same age as the man was when he left. The son then translates the letter into Japanese. Finally, the man reads out the translated letter in Japanese with help from his son. This is the process that is captured in the video work. The letter describes how the man views Japanese society as well as expresses his encouragement to young people with future hopes of coming to Japan to work.

Watanabe was born in Tokyo in 1990, and lives and works there today. He earned an MFA in Inter-Media Art at Tokyo University of the Arts. While addressing the circumstances of individuals he meets through research and interviews, Watanabe produces video installations that paradoxically reveal the structures and power dynamics of our society. Watanabe originally studied ceramics, but after encountering the repetitive tasks of workers he observed at a ceramic tile factory, he produced Factory worker “K” dealing with the theme of labor, and has presented other works such as The things his brother was seeing, which focuses on suburbs and the family while addressing themes of sibling relationships and domestic violence.

[Selected Exhibitions and Activities]
2018 ‘Early Morning Musings’, Komagome SOKO, Tokyo
2017 ‘Wild: Untamed Mind’, 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT, Tokyo
2017 ‘Fragile Perspectives’, gallery COEXIST-TOKYO, Tokyo
2016 ART AWARD TOKYO MARUNOUCHI 2016 Judge’s Prize
2015 ‘TWS-Emerging 2015 [Part.6]’, TWS Shibuya, Tokyo

Reasons for Selection
For the ARCUS Project, Watanabe will focus on divisions between the Japanese-Brazilian community and mainstream Japanese society in the city of Joso, located next to Moriya, conducting a survey and then producing an artwork. The Kanto-Tohoku Heavy Rainfall of summer 2015 broke the Kinu River embankment in Joso, causing people to cooperate in an emergency while at the same time highlighting disparities in communication of disaster information to the community. He will interview concerned parties about the psychology and emotions of that time and conduct on-site surveys. We can anticipate a compelling reinterpretation of contemporary Japanese society with regard to natural disasters, immigration and labor.

Comment for Open Studios
In his practice, Takuya Watanabe turns the circumstances faced by particular individuals into video installations that portray larger social structures or the nature of power. His previous work includes Factory worker “K,” which he made based on interviews with someone who worked at a large factory, and The things his brother was seeing, which retells the story of the destruction of a family living in the suburbs of a major city.

During his residency at ARCUS Project, Watanabe conceived a work from immersing himself in the community of Japanese Brazilians in Joso, a city that neighbors Moriya, and researching their relationship with local Japanese society. Over the course of this he met Yuso. Leaving his home country of Brazil at the age of 22 to come to Japan, Yuso has now lived here for nearly 21 years. While talking with him, Watanabe realized that Yuso would discuss his life in Japan in Japanese but then switch to Portuguese to express emotional nuances. This seemed to embody his identity, caught as it is between two different linguistic cultures.

At Open Studios, Watanabe exhibits a video installation based on a message Yuso wrote in Portuguese to himself as he was around 21 years ago when he left Brazil. Yuso appears in the installation alongside his son, Gabriel. The fully bilingual Gabriel translates his father’s letter, which Yuso then reads out in Japanese. As he does this, the partially hidden cultural and political layer of society in Joso occupied by Japanese Brazilians is revealed.

Director Keisuke Ozawa

Selected WorksShow Image
ActivitiesShow Image
Open StudiosShow Image

Resident Artists 2019

Christopher Beauregard  <USA>

Takuya Watanabe  <Japan>

Ruth Waters  <UK>