NANAIRO CHANNEL is an associate project of 3331 Arts Chiyoda. It is a new enterprise initiated by local arts students to create a space of expression and exchange between young people studying the arts throughout the country. Based in the radio centre above the milieu of electronic parts stalls and beneath the railway line of Akihabara, NANA CHAN is taking on the challenge to connect the diverse practices of young creative practitioners through a dedicated media platform, utilizing the latest in personal broadcast and social media. Based upon the infrastructure of Ustream participants can broadcast their events, art production processes and presentations, to name but a few of the possibilities of such a facility, which provides not only the ability to document creative engagements but also the possibility of being employed as a form of artistic expression in itself.
I spoke with Nanaho Kanmuri, one of the leading members of the project, to learn more about this innovative bridging of individuals and institutions across different arts fields and different geographic regions of Japan.
What is NANAIRO Channel (NANA CHAN)?
NANA CHAN is a media centre providing a space for students to broadcast their range of expressions and ideas through various different media. NANAIRO means 7 colours in Japanese, a reference to the multicolours of the rainbow. This reflects 7ch's purpose to bring students of many different fields, with their own individual colour, together in collaboration, mixing together to form a brand new colour as it were.
How was NANA CHAN formed and why?
NANA CHAN was born from a frustration with the confines of engaging in expression limited to one's own department or own university, and aims to create an inter-disciplinary network which allows for new forms of expression on a much wider stage, overcoming this isolation of artistic practice and aspiring to instigate new discussion and collaboration.
How have you formed the network of NANA CHAN?
The network began through friends and through the use of Mixi, twitter, SKYPE, Ustream and other such online communication media we have expanded to include students all over the country.
How many members does NANA CHAN have?
There is a core team of 10 people working on NANA CHAN, but in terms of participation and contribution this number easily exceeds 100 at this time.
What is the vision of NANA CHAN?
Through building an inter-disciplinary network create the next generation of leaders for both the art scene and society.
We want to encourage a deeper connection between creative students which will carry on into their future careers, firstly in Japan but with the possibility to spread internationally.
How has NANA CHAN been used so far?
It has enabled participants to realize the events that they want to make, it has provided a space for presentation and for critical discussion, with many different approaches indicated by the students involved. The project launched in February of this year and we held a series of events marking this in March, to coincide with the opening of 3331 Arts Chiyoda. Throughout March NANA CHAN, in its satellite space of 3331, held exhibitions, performances and live programs, demonstrating the energy of arts students. There were original programs such as 'Akihabara Bento Boys', a cooking program lead by a group of male students, programs documenting the very process of creating art work, live dance, theatre and music performances and even an auction of artists' signatures (which could be bought for exchange of a personal item).
Your office space has a very distinctive interior architecture - formed of cardboard boxes - could you explain the relevance of these structures?
The cardboard box has become quite an emblem of NANA CHAN. We want to emphasise the migratory nature of the project, its constant movement in a relay between different participants. Cardboard boxes are used for moving things from one place to another, they indicate a transitory state which reflects the situation of NANA CHAN itself. Each box can be seen as an individual space, which can contain different forms of expression. We are utilizing these boxes as an exhibition space and archive of past events through the collection of items which act as relics of previous broadcasts. We also want to exchange these boxes with students participating in the project from different parts of the country, so that they can build a physical sense of connection, as well as their online connection.
What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of using media tools/the internet for communication?
Such tools have enabled a kind of communication that was not previously possible. We were particularly interested in using Ustream, for example, because of that sense of liveness, which we think is important in communication. Through these media we can connect with people all over the country (and even internationally) and receive direct feedback on our activities and begin to enter into discussion through the mediation of the internet. However we are also aware of the problematics involved in such a mediated engagement. In particular you have to be aware of the risks of publishing personal information in a public space. I personally feel that face to face communication is extremely important and that the internet can not replace this. We want to bring a balance between the physical and the virtual in a way. Therefore with many of our events there is an offline audience physically in the space, as well as the online audience. We also want to engage people into more direct exchange beyond the internet.
In the 80's Kogawa Tetsuo was pioneering the miniFM movement in Japan encouraging students and local groups to set up their own short-range radio broadcasts. There seems to be some correlation with your own activities. Have you been in contact with him at all?
We have not spoken to such a respected figure, but it would be interesting to know his perspective on our activities. There appears to be a kind of cycle which repeats itself in different forms over the decades, NANA CHAN is perhaps a modest interpretation of similar interests in community, network and open broadcast which Kogawa was dealing with at that time. There is now renewed interest in the practices of radio because of new convenient and cheap methods of broadcasting via the internet. NANA CHAN brings sound and image together, which is interesting, but also has many areas unexplored, and entails the instability of the actual media itself and a certain difficulties which come about due to unfamiliarity with the technology/program/website itself.
What kind of activity and exchange are you hoping to instigate from now?
With the opening events of March as a starting point, we aim to build upon these towards a wider approach assimilating many different fields and students from the various regions of Japan. We also think it important to take a wider grasp of media, which is not limited to twitter, skype and Ustream, but includes writing, radio, photography and other forms of communication.
How can people get involved?
We encourage any creative student who is interested in participating through their own broadcast to contact NANA CHAN at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will gladly schedule them in to the program.
NANA CHAN is planning more events for this month, so please stay tuned to www.nanachan.tv