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Referendum Project

A mobile theatre project archiving Japan’s post-3.11 voices

This project is a theatrical response to questions that arose from the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the Tohoku tsunami: What are our voices and how can we hear them? The project features a refrigerated truck converted into a video installation with viewing booths and “Referendum Project” written on the outside. Visitors can enter and select DVDs to watch. Junior high school students from Tokyo and Fukushima were interviewed with the same everyday questions: What do you want the most right now? What would you do if you were prime minister? What will Fukushima/ Tokyo be like in the future? What do you understand the least right now? What is your dream?

The audience is free to watch whichever and how many DVDs they want. Afterwards, they too are asked the same questions; they write their answers on a “ballot paper” and place it in a quasiballot box. These “votes” are then published on the project website, together with the students’ interviews forming an archive of the voices of people in Japan.

The project collects the voices of students too young to participate directly in politics, and asks audiences to consider larger questions that are not simply a case of for or against. In this way, the work is a national referendum in the form of a theatre project.

In 2011, the truck and its voices first went on a tour around Tokyo and Fukushima. During the onemonth “performance” talks were held at each stopping point, inviting guest speakers to discuss postwar Japanese politics, policy-making, and culture. These talks were later published.

In 2012, the Referendum Project toured the areas in Tohoku hit by the 3.11 disaster. In spring 2014, it visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The project is ongoing, continuing to add new junior high school student interviews and audience “votes” and build up a body of post-2011 voices.

The interviews featured in “Referendum Project” have been exhibited at Art Tower Mito, Wiener Festwochen, the Schouwburg Theater in Rotterdam, Hebbel am Ufer in Berlin, and Künstlerhaus Mousonturm in Frankfurt am Main.

Referendum Project
Referendum Project F/T11

The Complete Manual of Evacuation – Tokyo

Theatrical architecture creating new urban encounters

This theatrical project set up “evacuation points” at locations around the 29 stations of the JR Yamanote Line, designed to create unique encounters between participants and the city of Tokyo. Participants first visited the project website, where they answered a series of questions. According to their answers, they were designated a certain location near a Yamanote Line station. The participant then downloaded a map to get there and went to visit the site. There they discovered various communities, from religious facilities to collective and shared housing, homeless people, and even so-called “encounter cafés” where men pay to meet women. The project reimagined the circular Yamanote Line as a “Tokyo clock”, curating locations around the city as places to evacuate from “Tokyo time”. The participants became temporary evacuees, constructing new relationships with the city as they explored unknown areas.

The Complete Manual of Evacuation – Tokyo
The Complete Manual of Evacuation – Tokyo  F/T10

Compartment City – Tokyo

Staging the diversity of Tokyo in Ikebukuro Nishiguchi Park

A special prefab building with 24-hour video-viewing booths was installed in Ikebukuro Nishiguchi Park in north Tokyo. Visitors paid to enter and were then free to watch any DVDs they wanted. The videos featured interviews shot in Ikebukuro Nishiguchi Park. From morning until late at night, a never-ending flow of people passes through this public plaza. Who are these people? How can we hear their hidden voices? The interviewees varied in ages, genders and nationalities, but they were all asked the same questions: What do you want the most right now? Do you think Tokyo is a good place to live? Do you think Japan is rich? What is your dream? What are you?

After watching the videos, audiences were offered the chance to take part in an optional tour: an “evacuation drill”. They were given a map taking them through Ikebukuro’s underground passageways to a room in a building where there was an “encounter café”. Visitors could choose a conversation partner through one-way glass and then engage them in a ten-minute dialogue. A final epilogue took place at a small room overlooking the park.

In 2010, “Compartment City – Kyoto” was created for Kyoto Experiment. In 2011, “Compartment City – Vienna” was created for the Wiener Festwochen.

『Compartment City – Tokyo  F/T09 Autumn