Mr. Makoto Aida is an artist known for his works containing violence against women such as “Dogs” series. This symposium was planned by the residents and non-residents of Niigata city who question the fact that Niigata City had given him the 8th Ango Award. The four panelists were Chieko Nishiyama (Lecturer of Aoyama Gakuin University), Tomomi Shibuya (Associate Professor of Tokyo Keizai University), Minori Kitahara (Representative of Love Peace Club), and Kazue Muta (Professor of Osaka University). The members of Niigata Gender Seminar took a role of MC. Just over 40 people attended the symposium including some from outside of Niigata city or prefecture such as Tokyo.
Unfortunately, none of the four panelists are Niigata City residents. Shibuya mentioned this in her opening statement telling how difficult it is for locals to criticize the Niigata City’s award-giving in an onymous manner and explaining about the barrier they face in expanding the Ango Award criticism locally.
Titling Kensho: Dai 8-kai Ango-sho no Tsukurarekata/ Katararekata (Verification: How the 8th Ango Awards were Created and Told), Nishiyama presented the photos of street ads for Makoto Aida exhibitions, his works such as “Dogs” series, the outline of the Ango Awards, the information on the City’s website, etc. Then, she re-criticized the criticism against feminism found in the Niigata Nippo’s article reporting a symposium held by Niigata University of International and Information Studies. The local newspaper’s article had been posted just before the artist received the Award. She strongly insisted that Niigata City needed to withdraw the Ango Award from Mr. Aida as the City failed to inform their citizens of his works containing sexual violence and his language and behavior about his restroom peeping and yet praised his “way of being” as “dysphemism.”
Because the symposium covered an ongoing issue in the local community, close to 20 quality feedbacks and questions (equal to roughly half of the attendees) were given and highly concentrated Q&A continued. Finally the symposium came to a close and the place of discussion was changed and brought into a post-symposium party.
The Niigata Nippo (morning edition on June 26) reported on this symposium titled “Niigata City’s selection for the Ango Awards received criticism at the symposium concerning affirmation of sexual violence.” As the Committee members, Nishiyama and Shibuya, as described above, questioned Mr. Aida’s taking restroom peeping into his own image as an artist and accused the City government’s awarding his way of being. However, the Niigata Nippo’s article deleted this point of argument and did not even mention the fact that Shibuya was one of the panelists. It reported the citizens on this symposium focusing only on the artworks. This is an apparent information control. In the end of this article, it introduced the worn-out comment issued by the City’s Cultural Policy Department; “the selection committee highly evaluated (Mr. Aida’s) critical spirit as he accurately looks at today.”
Furthermore, Niigata City Mayor said at a press conference held on June 27 on the Ango Award criticism at the June 22 symposium, “With being an outlaw as one of the subjects, various conflicts cannot be avoided from happening. (The critical voices) will not affect the future selection for the Awards.” “I sincerely listen to criticism. I will not argue with the selection committee whomever they choose.”（The Niigata Nippo morning edition on June 28）
For the last time, I would repeat this as many times as I could, but our point regarding Mr. Aida’s restroom peeping (in fact, female genitals peeping) is not “Don’t award someone who peeped into restrooms in the past.” We are saying, “the city must not praise as an outlaw or award the artist who implies his own sexual criminal experience of women’s restroom peeping, takes it into part of his “artist image” claiming it would not hurt him at all, and continues to utilize it as he publishes a restroom peeping novel.
Currently, sexual discrimination and sexual harassment by taunting at assemblies are being called into question with severity. Similarly, sexual discrimination and sexual harassment by giving an award should never be allowed. The dispute in Niigata will heat up from this point on.
Original Article on the WAN Website: August 13, 2014
Translated by Kumiko Moriya