Ed and Ellis in Tokyo

P3 art and environment supports their art projects through their activities as urban planners. At the time, this was unique in Tokyo where the dominance of the commercial system meant that artists hired galleries in order to present their work.

Tokyo had been undergoing change partly due to a series of economic crises that caused a shift in the way that the city’s inhabitants saw their futures and the future of the city. Uncertainty and insecurity had pervaded the lives of particularly younger Japanese people. P3 invited us to look at their organisation’s role in relation to the changing needs of its audience.

In the research phase of the project, we took part in architecture, art and design workshops in Tokyo with the aim of meeting groups who were analysing contemporary issues related to living in Tokyo. Through this interaction we developed the project that would focus on issues within a purpose-built environment that used P3’s gallery space as the centre, with satellite venues. A range of inter-related events responded to expressions of alienation amongst particularly the 18-35 year olds from their peer group and from their elders. People wanted to engage with the city’s evolution in order to understand individual experiences such as belonging, attachment and memory.

In the developmental stages of the project, P3 transformed its way of working by integrating themselves, the audience, public space, other venues and us. They brought together organisations that would not normally have worked together and dissolved the usual distinctions between exhibition, public art and community art practice.

In Ed and Ellis in Tokyo we set up the first in a series of purpose-built public studios. Central to the project was a wool blanket that each day incorporated extracts of conversations between visitors and us about their lives in Tokyo and their aspirations for Japanese society and themselves as individuals. After machining in Scotland, The blanket travelled between the houses of the people whose texts were incorporated in it, to use as they wanted.

The gallery was transformed into a public meeting place and was quickly adopted as a regular venue. A lecture programme highlighted issues such as architecture’s effect on collective memory and the (im)probability of integration into Japanese society by other Asian cultures. The café that became part of the temporary exhibition space functioned as a creative zone for invited DJ’s each of whom was involved in a specific area of visual practice.

The project was made possible by the generous engagement of the 12 volunteers recruited by P3. Acting as hosts, interpreters and translators in the museum, they accompanied us onto the streets as a promotional team while we distributed printed material, mimicking Tokyo street advertising strategies. The three satellite venues hosted elements of the project including public lectures and an architect-led bus tour of Tokyo’s motorway network.

As in many of our projects there were t-shirts, flyers, fold-outs, stickers and balloons that were given away in exchange for conversation and as promotional material; designed in collaboration with Stout/Kramer.

The experience of devising and working on the project was for us exceptional. The openness, and the desire to engage, encountered in the people we worked with and in all audiences, was overwhelming. The lack of cynicism that distinguishes the Japanese art audience from a European audience reinforced for us art’s ability to have an immediate and direct impact, and that it can in fact affect people’s lives in a lasting way.

P3 Art and Environment, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of

Contemporary Art, Nadiff Gallery and the streets of Tokyo, Japan, 1998

Invited to look at P3's role in relation to the changing needs of its audience, individual experiences of belonging, attachment and memory were shared