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Asian Improv aRts Midwest (AIRMW) is pleased to present “思考回路 / Shikou Kairo: Patterns of Thought” at the Hairpin Arts Center as part of the Chicago Obihiro Exchange Project. Initiated in 2018, the Chicago Obihiro Exchange Project facilitates an immersive exchange between Japanese-American artists in Chicago and artists from the Obihiro / Tokachi area. It was developed to maintain the global cultural perspective integral to the landscape of contemporary art and expand the conversation of cultural aesthetics in relation to artistic integrity of the new post-war generation of Japanese & Japanese American artists through the cultivation of international dialogue between Chicago and Japan.

As a resettlement city following the end of World War II, the identities of the longstanding Japanese American community in Chicago is inevitably rooted in the histories of internment. The artists of AIRMW however, are part of the community of post-war immigrants where identity is more inherently defined through the bicultural lineage of language and globalization in lieu of the often didactic exploration of the socio-political grievances of WWII.  Within the arts, this experience manifests itself through the context of aesthetics. The pictorial diegesis of works is a presentation of culture through the particular sensibilities of Japanese aesthetics.

The exchange project was developed to expand this conversation of the importance of cultural aesthetics as part of maintaining the artistic integrity of this new generation of the Japanese & Japanese American artists. It also works to cultivate the international dialogue between Chicago and Japan, maintaining the global cultural perspective that is integral to the landscape of contemporary art. The inaugural exchange participants were calligrapher Natsuki Kubo (Sapporo) and Kioto Aoki (Chicago/AIRMW). In May 2018, Kubo did a collaborative live performance at Links Hall for AIRMW’s “Beyond the Box” series with AIRMW’s Tatsu Aoki, Kioto Aoki, Fujima Yoshinojo and cellist Jamie Kempkers. In July, Kioto Aoki from AIRMW went to Obihiro to present a solo photography exhibition. She also organized a community darkroom space above the gallery, in collaboration with local photographer Souda Seijiro.

The 2019 exchange began with Kiyomi and Kioto going to the Obihiro/Tokachi region for a month-long residency in June to create work for the Chicago exhibition. There they met with local community members ranging from artists to cafe startups to learn about the social and cultural landscape of this region. Kiyomi produced illustration-based narrative caricatures while Kioto created a pinhole series making cameras out of materials received from each participant to photograph their workspace, concomitantly creating two itinerant darkrooms.

 “思考回路 / Shikou Kairo: Patterns of Thought” opens with a one-week solo presentation of Chicago-based calligrapher Hekiun Oda, followed by a group exhibition featuring  Japanese artists Daisaku Ueno and Masanori Umeda, and Hiroshi Mehata. Framing the conversation around what it means to be defined as a Japanese artist, particularly outside of Japan, the exhibition presents artists who deal with a vernacular of aesthetics rather than a vernacular of didactics. The artists here are inherently influenced by their Japanese cultural background, yet the content of their work goes beyond a retroactive search for a cultural identity. Their mode of practice is grounded in how the innate nature of growing up with the language, culture and traditions manifest a visual or affectual aesthetic. The international dialogue between Chicago and Japan maintains a global perspective integral to the landscape of contemporary art.

Throughout the three weeks, AIRMW presents a variety of public presentations: artists talks, calligraphy and tea ceremony workshops, performances by Tsukasa Taiko, Shubukai, and Toyoaki Shamisen; including local performance artists and musicians of the Japanese diaspora. 

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