Chicago Obihiro Exchange Project
An Asian Improv aRts Midwest Arts Initiative Program
Initiated in 2018, the Chicago Obihiro Exchange Project is a program produced by Asian Improv aRts Midwest that facilitates an immersive exchange between Japanese-American artists in Chicago and artists from the Obihiro / Tokachi area in Japan.
As a resettlement city following the end of World War II, the identities of the longstanding Japanese American community in Chicago are inevitably rooted in the histories of internment. The concomitant need to assimilate necessitated a forced distancing from Japanese heritage, affecting the relationship to language, tradition, and cultural identity in the following generations. As a result, discussions around Japanese American artists of this diaspora and their work are often grounded in the didactic explorations of the socio-political grievances of WWII. The work becomes an exploration of cultural identity through didactic diegesis of the Japanese American experience.
While recognizing the importance of this chapter in American history, the artists of AIRMW are part of the new, post-war generation of Japanese immigrants. The artistic identity of these artists is not defined by cultural identity present in the content of their work, but is manifested within the context of 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. This experience extends beyond just Japan, and AIRMW has broadened the criteria of inquiry to encompass the broader Asian and Asian American diaspora of this new generation for the 2020 iteration.
The Chicago Obihiro Exchange Project is part of AIRMW’s Arts Initiative Exchange Program and is a collaboration with the Tokachi International Cultural Exchange Center in Obihiro, Japan.