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TWS: Past, Present & Future

Japan's first artist support program

In 2001, Japan was still experiencing the aftereffects of its burst economic bubble, and art and cultural activities were in a dormant age. Although Tokyo had many talented emerging artists, they lacked economic support and had few opportunities to display their works. Facing such circumstances, Tokyo's metropolitan government discussed various measures to revive culture in Tokyo. One trial measure they came up with was the Tokyo Wonder Wall--an innovative public exhibition that began in May 2000. Designed to draw out the numerous artists residing in Tokyo's hinterlands, the Tokyo metropolitan government began for the first time a project designed to discover and support emerging artists. The project continued to develop, becoming a program that hosts permanent activities and venues that support Tokyo's emerging artists. Out of these events, Tokyo Wonder Site (TWS) was born.

Joining hands to create a "site"

From its inception, TWS has striven to be a platform for new art in Tokyo and create horizons. It was a type of art center never before seen in Japan, a public support agency for art activities, a trial organization for implementing cultural measures, and a venue for creators from all genres to interact. Its primary theme at that time, "Making Site," represented its charge to work together with others to create a "site." Ever since its operations began, it has acted as a stepping-stone for emerging artists in Japan.

The rise of alternative spaces in Asia

Around the turn of the millennium, a rise in new spaces that fell outside the category of art museums, galleries and other traditional alternative spaces simultaneously occurred around the world. These spaces were created by artists and those involved in culture, and had the same goal as that of TWS's activities: to serve as spaces for creators and communities that previously had not been present in Asia. TWS joined the activities of countries around the world, further clarifying its missions.

International networks

TWS's second facility, TWS Shibuya, was established in 2005 in an effort to strengthen TWS's international network platform. Entering its fourth year of operation, TWS Shibuya serves to introduce both domestic and international alternative spaces, joint projects with international art and culture institutions, internationally active foreign creators, and young Japanese creators. At the same time, it also joined hands with "TWS Art Cafe kurage" (currently, TWS Art Cafe "24/7 coffee & roaster"), where visitors in Shibuya can conveniently enjoy artworks while drinking and eating, aiming to create a new style of gathering spots in Tokyo where art can be experienced first-hand. TWS has increased its international recognition through joint projects with domestic and international art and culture institutions and alternative spaces, and collaborative works with established and internationally active creators, assuming a key role as one of the few bases of international culture exchanges in Tokyo.

A place for more "creation" and "dialogue"

To meet the increase in need for international exchange operations and provide more creative support, TWS Aoyama:Creator-in-Residence, an artist-in-residence facility, was opened in 2006 at the United Nations University's former Research and Development Center. As with the other two facilities, a facility that had been in disuse for years was converted using minimal repairs and put into effective use as a place to conduct international exchanges through art and culture. Previously the facility had been a lodging facility for the United Nations--an agency seeking world peace. Located in Aoyama, Tokyo where many creators gather, it played a role as a base of international creation and production for young creators in a wide spectrum of creative fields ranging from art to design to music, calling upon its creative surroundings. TWS Aoyama's establishment marked the birth of a place where more creation and sharing of processes can be conducted, comprehensively beginning, along with the approaching TWS Shibuya, stays, investigations, productions and exhibitions as an art center in the center of Tokyo, and commencing activities as Tokyo's new international platform and art center. Its residence operations do not only host creators, but also sends creators abroad, promoting international cultural exchanges in both directions. In 2014, renewing the name as "Tokyo Wonder Site Residency", the residency has opened in new location, in Sumida.

Education and modern societal issues

Seven years were spent preparing a phased support program for artists from the time of their graduation until their mid-career periods, in their middle thirties. Beginning with "Tokyo Wonder Wall," in which undergraduate and grad school graduates can participate, and "TWS-Emerging," in which prospective "Tokyo Wonder Wall" participants are selected, TWS is now able to offer steps according to artist ages and levels, including "TEAM," which introduces active creators ranging in age from their late twenties to mid thirties, and the "Residency Program" which provides creators in that generation the opportunities to stay at TWS and other residencies. Activities of creators who steadily grew while climbing up the TWS steps have caught the attention of people in various places. This undertaking takes on meaning only when continued. At TWS, we hope to make these phased support steps even more secure.

However, although these fostering steps for young creators have been completed, Tokyo is still laden with an unresolved art and culture issues. Namely, although modern art deals with not just aesthetic issues but problems in modern society, such art has not yet taken root in the Japanese society. This problem largely relates to education as well. Have we not focused on cultivating the ability to resolve small, answerable issues rather than the ability to think about large problems such as this?

At TWS, we have also addressed the challenges relating to both these points. What can we do about the problems of modern society through the power of art and culture? And how can we gain the ability to speak out and raise issues about them? From these two perspectives we are creating new focal points for activities.

Tokyo Wonder Site will always transmit creativity in Tokyo to the world as the leading edge of Tokyo's art platform, functioning as a place to conduct true dialogue.