March 2010 heralded the opening of a brand new arts centre in the heart of Tokyo, in the famous electronics district of Akihabara. In Tokyo where there is such a plethora of arts facilities what can this new initiative provide for the city we may ask? 3331 Arts Chiyoda offers a new model for a creative hub which builds a unique platform for cross-disciplinary, cross-community and cross-regional exchange. Based on the site of a former junior high school, this renovated 4 storey building, with its original character, plays host to an exciting range of events, exhibitions, community facilities, creative organizations and artistic practitioners. 3331 creates a space in which people of many different backgrounds and experiences can come together to explore, learn and create.
The center has been initiated by members of the artist initiative group commandN, who have over 10 years of creative engagement established a wide reputation for their innovative approach to artistic projects, always determined to challenge the presumptions surrounding contemporary arts practice and to deconstruct its frameworks. They have undertaken a vigorous enquiry into the connection of art and everyday life, bringing contemporary arts into new spaces and into new relations with society. Their acclaimed projects include Akihabara TV - an international video festival screened on the televisions of Akihabara's electronics stores, Zerodate - a project bringing together artists hailing from Odate, Akita prefecture, in an attempt to revitalize the area, Tokyo Rabbit Paradise Project - a video installation in human size rabbit hutches presented in shopping centres around Europe and Asia and POWWOW a pioneering series of discussions between artists and other guest speakers and audiences in an informal setting. In their instigation of 3331 Arts Chiyoda the members aim to push their concept of alternative spaces and alternative arts practice to another stage, where a multiplicity of forms and perspectives can exist in the same point.
The centre is a testimony to the diversity of Japan's arts scene and its regional practices. This is clearly demonstrated in the wide range of tenant organizations based in the centre, including independent art galleries (Bambiart), organizations supporting and promoting the artistic work of people with disabilities (Able Art), exhibition and support centre for art students (Akibatamabi21), printing services (Rensei Print Park), community media networks (streetmedia) and arts education facilities. The centre also follows a philosophy of inclusivity and accessibility with a range of resources which are available for the public including meeting/conference facilities, sports/events hall, allotment plots and community spaces, encouraging the involvement of not only artists and arts related audiences but also from local communities and the general public.
Another distinctive feature of 3331 Arts Chiyoda is its artist in residency program, providing an opportunity to both young and established artists to pursue an active artistic engagement in the context of Tokyo. 3331's first resident artist was Taiwanese video artist and director of Taipei Contemporary Art Centre, Wang Jun-Jieh. 3331 is aiming to expand upon this program by connecting a number of different related residency centres in Okinawa, Akita and Toyama and form a network which will enable visiting artists to explore the distinctive cultural condition of different provincial areas of Japan.
3331 is not only concerned with providing a hub for Tokyo and the regions of Japan but is dedicated to building a network throughout wider Asia and internationally. Recent undertakings by commandN members in projects such as Regional Code Asia (an archive of interviews and resources from artists, curators and various organizations around Asia), demonstrate a keen motivation to develop deeper dialogues and collaborations within the region, an engagement which 3331 aims to nurture through its future activities.
The inaugural exhibition "Look if you like, but you will have to leap" presents 6 projects which clearly indicate the participatory, dialogical approach of 3331 both on a local and regional level. 3331 has made a significant commitment through the commissioning of 3 renowned artists for site-specific projects to be held at the centre over a five year period. An introduction to their projects is on display here. Katsuhiko Hibino, whose Day After Tomorrow project has connected communities in 22 areas throughout Japan through the nurturing and exchange of morning glory seeds, presents here a series of drawings made upon his travels, described as a reflection of the collection of memories and experiences built up through itinerant existence, rather like that of the seed. Hiroshi Fuji presents a vivid sculptural landscape, made from old toys collected through his toy exchange project Kaekko. Kazuhiko Hachiya introduces the projects of creative engineers and scientists in "Extreme DIY", a taster of the kind of hands on experimentation to be pursued in his Akihabara Tsukutte Mita Lab.
ZERODATE offers in a playful installation various unique goods from the local shopping streets of Odate, increasingly under threat of closure as large suburban shopping centres gain in popularity. Regional Code Asia brings together an exceptional body of resources collected from various areas of Asia examining the approaches of alternative arts spaces, creative practitioners and arts institutions. With video interviews with artists, curators and other arts professionals in India, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam and a wide range of texts, brochures and catalogues from even further afield the space presents an excellent opportunity to learn about the artistic innovation of neighbouring countries.
Finally the work of Wang Jun-Jieh produced during his residency period is here presented as Taipei Contemporary Art Centre Tokyo Branch, including works of various Taiwanese artists, an outline of the new art centre being established in Taipei and an area for visitors to share their thoughts upon what the function of an art centre should be.
Further related events have been taking place throughout the arts centre in celebration of its opening. These have included a symposium of alternative arts spaces from China, Taiwan, Korea and Singapore, a series of dance workshops/performances, an exhibition by Ryoichi Sakamoto and the Yellow Magic Orchestra, Insideout/Tokyo project (connecting Tokyo with the wider provinces of Japan) and the launch of nanairo a radio broadcasting channel for arts students.
3331 has already achieved a great deal within its first few weeks of opening, yet its official grand opening is yet to come. Set for 26th June 2010 the centre will be fully launched on an even more ambitious scale, with a whole series of stimulating events and exhibitions, we look forward to the further unleashing of 3331's potential.