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From the Kabukicho Art Center Concept Committee

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Takashi Katayama

Manhattan is known for Broadway, which is large and popular, like a sunflower, and for Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway, which are small and avant-garde, like evening primroses. Since its completion in 1964, the Ohjo Building has always been subtly mindful of the city giants, such as the former Milano Theater in Shinjuku, the former Shinjuku Koma Theater, and the newly built Tokyu Kabukicho Tower, as it has created and developed its own space. This is not only in the context of art, as in this project, but also in the context of running various businesses at various times at Ohjo, such as a meikyoku kissa (classical music cafe), a cabaret, a karaoke bar, and an izakaya bar, while always giving Broadway a side glance. There lies a distinct Off and Off-Off history, encounters with people, and memories, encapsulated and engraved at a small scale.

The relationship between the front stage and the naraku, which is the theme of this exhibition, is in the same line of thought.

It is my mission in life to continue operating this unique building created by my grandfather, and I hope to carry the spirit of being Off and Off-Off for this art event and in future creations; I relish in the joy of being a tiny star that shines bright in its power.

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Ryuta Uhiro

To start things off, Kabukicho is not a town where goods are sold. It’s a town that has sold situations, services, and bodies. Looking at the city’s history in relation to art, it has been a place where happenings and physical expressions have sporadically emerged, such as Zero Jigen (Zero Dimension), Shinjuku Shonen Art, Jyokyo Gekijyo (Situation Theatre), and, in the case of Chim↑Pom, Ellie’s wedding demonstration and our exhibition in a building approaching demolition. Is an art space possible in such a city? Materiality and stability are essential for museum-type white cubes. What has occurred in Kabukicho is exactly the opposite: it is an accident caused by performative fluidity. This is (perhaps) why Kabukicho has never needed an art museum, even in the context of theater-oriented city development. If an "art museum" were to be built in this city, what viewers would see there would not be things, but absolute events. Is it possible to create such an exhibition space?

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Maki Tezuka  

"You could die in the next hour, right? Then let's have fun!" Expensive champagne in hand, a popular host shouts from his seat at a host club.

This neighborhood is a bustling place atop a marshland. Even though the soil from Tsunohazu tries to block the water in this wetland, the drunken sweat of people who don’t think twice about tomorrow wanders through the suffocating heat of Golden Gai, and reaches the water that pours through the cracked walls of the underground host clubs. Dampness, isn't that what we have been dreading and trying to hide? And yet I believe that people need time to get swamped by the wetness without worrying about what others think: to be free of titles and roles, and to just be human.

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Yuko Yamamoto

Kabukicho in Shinjuku is Tokyo’s last, organically-developed downtown area, where diversity abounded in postwar reconstruction, where many avant-garde artists lived and worked since 1960, and where street culture is still alive and present. The realistic atmosphere of a neighborhood where actual people who speak their minds have found a place to live is at once frightening and refreshing. Working on various art projects with Chim↑Pom from Smappa!Group and Tokyu Kabukicho Tower, I realize that the culture built by these very people is what makes this area so compelling. I feel that the local artistic activities that have been newly launched at the Ohjo Building have the potential to become part of the Japanese art scene and, because of its characteristics, to in turn gain the most international recognition.

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Kuniaki Tajima

Is the naraku hell? I keep pondering about this question.

The naraku is made of “soil,” and the stage stands on top of the soil, and perhaps we who dance on stage constitute the “wind.”

I remember a poem by the poet Wataru Iwasaki, who wrote, "Jet black is the color that reflects light.”

Light erupts from the bottom of the naraku, and we dance atop.

The naraku represents hope; it forms the natural environment.

Chim↑Pom from Smappa!Group has aptly chosen "Na-Lucky" as this project’s theme.

We feel hope at the bottom of the naraku, dance in the jet black light, and become kabukimono (deviators).

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