Chicago Obihiro Exchange Project | 思考回路 • Shikoukairo: Patterns of Thought

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 region of 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. And 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.

With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting international travel, the 2020 project revisited the underlying concept the exchange program– of reframing the conversation around cultural diegesis in the arts. 思考回路 • Shikoukairo II : Patterns of Thought featured local Chicago artists who are working with process and material to reflect on what it means to make work during extended isolation. The dialogue continues in 2021 with 思考回路 • Shikoukairo III, an exhibition considering notions of legibility and visibility through the photographic, cinematic, abstracted, textural, refracted, reflective, tactile and sonic image.

2022 programming sees the release of Hiroshi Mehata’s solo album through Asian Improv Records, recorded during his visit to Chicago in 2019 as part of the first 思考回路 • Shikoukairo presentation.

The Chicago Obihiro Exchange Project is part of AIRMW’s Arts Initiative Exchange Program and originally began as a collaboration with the Tokachi International Cultural Exchange Center in Obihiro, Japan.