Historical Perspective of Art and Technology: Japanese Culture Revived in Digital Era

- On Originality and Japanese Culture -

Machiko Kusahara


Computer and telecommunication technology brought a new possibility in making art. It has not only broadened the way of representing artists' imagination in the form of still images or moving images, but it has also made it possible to share imagination among artists or art-loving people. Digital data can be copied and emitted without loss of quality. Finally the idealism of DADA or FLUXUS found the technical infra structure.
This possibility is important enough to change the occidental tradition in making and appreciating art. Copyright on network is an example of the traditional value facing a radical transition. The idea of originality is going through transformation.

Interestingly enough, some young Japanese artists feel comfortable in breaking rules (or myths) of originality using digital technology. For them it is a tool for integrating different ways of imagination, or even different ego. Open your mind and you can enjoy making art with others, they say. Rather than feeling solitude by trying to find one's original idea, one can exchange his/her imagination with others and grow more fruitfull trees together!
Here art-making exists within communication. Finishing a piece is not the goal.
This refers to the long history of Japanese culture from linked poems from hundreds of years ago to collaborative paintings in elementary schools . As digital technology matures, artists started to bring in Japanese tradition within the new form of art-making.

Every country has its tradition. Japanese tradition concerning originality has been almost always accused by the West in relation to the copyright issue. But the same tradition might help breaking the boundary between ego on the network. In this global telecommunication society we should look for the positive way of integrating different cultural background.

(Arte no Seculo XXI, Sao Paulo, 1995 - full text published in Portuguese in 1997)