VIENNA – The Japanese Embassy in Austria has withdrawn its endorsement of an art exhibition in Vienna to mark 150 years of bilateral diplomatic ties, deeming some politically and socially critical art works inappropriate, according to the embassy and organizers.
The “Japan Unlimited” exhibition, held since late September with the help of the Austrian Foreign Ministry, features some works on the theme of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis as well as Japan’s wartime history.
Some artists participating in the Austrian event had also taken part in the “After ‘Freedom of Expression?’ ” exhibition in Nagoya that sparked controversy.
Withdrawal of the embassy’s endorsement came after an unidentified Japanese lawmaker who learned of the artists’ participation in both the Nagoya and Vienna exhibitions asked the Japanese Foreign Ministry to look into the matter, according to “Japan Unlimited” curator Marcello Farabegoli.
The exhibition, scheduled to run through Nov. 24, will now go on without the official logo identifying the event as a project for the anniversary year.
Art works in the exhibition included one showing blood in the pattern of Japan’s rising sun symbol streaming down from radiation protection gear, and a video of a person posing as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologizing to China and South Korea for the country’s wartime aggression.
A piece based on a picture of Emperor Hirohito, who is known posthumously as Emperor Showa, and Douglas MacArthur, the supreme commander of the Allied Powers that occupied Japan after World War II, also satirizes Japan’s postwar relations with the United States.
Japan’s “After ‘Freedom of Expression?’ ” exhibition, held as part of the Aichi Triennale 2019 art festival between Aug. 1 and Oct. 14, prompted a backlash in some quarters as it featured a statue symbolizing “comfort women.” The term is a euphemism used to refer to women who provided sex, including those who did so against their will, for Japanese troops before and during World War II.
The exhibition ran for 10 days in total due to a flurry of protests and threats.
Related article: ウィーン芸術展、公認撤回 原発事故や政権批判を問題視かvia東京新聞