Walker Art Center
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Interactions/Intersections: Cultural Globalism and Educational Practice


reverse, by incubating the small discussion and then getting them to take the conclusions and the ideas that come out of it and translate them into the world.

SS: A topic we always revisit, when talking about art objects, artistic practice, and larger theoretical ideas, is the audience. How do people in our community, in our own institution, interact with the work? How can it change the way they think? How can it open up the world to them? What does it, in fact, mean to them?

CA: Something unique about the Walker is that education planning and strategies are part of a project's formation, rather than being tacked on at the end. That sensibility about the importance of education was certainly shared by the advisory committee members. They were concerned about how these ideas would be communicated and what experiences would be created, not simply what an object "meant."

KMS: For me, the beginning of any project is about connecting with the local community. I think about how best to connect global issues to our local community, as well as how to highlight the global issues that are very much alive in the local community.

SS: For example, would you say that Forgiveness was a major project in which that played itself out? In some ways, it seemed to be a very significant and defining moment for you, when the global and the local, as well as your own personal background, came together.

KMS: I learned some valuable lessons through the Forgiveness residency.[11] First, I realized that the distance between global and local issues was closer than I had anticipated. Being Japanese, I had to deal with "ghosts" of past history, and I was in a sensitive position. On a personal level, this experience made me realize that I still had a lot to learn about my own cultural history, especially in relation to other Asian countries. It is somewhat ironic that I had to be in the United States to engage myself further in that history.

From the beginning of the process, I found that issues of Japanese aggression toward other Asian countries during World War II remained very much unresolved in local Asian and Asian American communities. Those issues were still very emotional. Early on in the planning stage, the Walker received a letter from a local Korean activist that included materials about "comfort women."[12] I began receiving phone calls and e-mails from local Japanese, Korean, and Chinese activists and historians. Essentially, though they were all excited about Forgiveness, they were concerned about how the historical and political context would be presented to the audiences. The only way to present the Forgiveness residency, as respectable of and appropriate to our local communities, was to work closely with them. We needed to provide appropriate educational tools for audiences to understand the historical context in Asia, which reflects the perspectives of Chinese and Korean communities, while being sensitive to the Japanese community. In order to provide a deeper artistic context and respect for Asian traditional art forms, we offered a series of master classes in Noh, Beijing Opera, and Korean traditional dance forms, all of which were employed in the production. We also organized a community forum[13] to explore some of the many controversial issues surrounding inter-Asian conflict and to examine the process

11 Forgiveness was conceived and directed by the Chinese theatrical innovator Chen Shi-Zheng, in collaboration with Noh master Akira Matsui and composer Eve Beglarian. Co-commissioned by the Walker, the work had its world premiere at the Walker Art Center on March 9, 2000.

From February 20 to March 11, 2000, the Walker Art Center presented a three-week residency with artists from China, Japan, Korea, and the United States coinciding with the final development of Forgiveness. Together with community partners, the Walker's performing arts and community programs departments collaborated on designing this residency, which explored the painful twentieth-century history of Japan, China, and Korea, and examined possible paths toward reconciliation. Forgiveness drew from traditional Asian art forms to create a contemporary theater-music-dance experience. Due to the complexity of the piece, both politically and artistically, we were challenged to develop educational activities employing multiple viewpoints to enable audiences to embrace the performance.

12 Comfort women were the young women of various ethnic and national backgrounds and social circumstances who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army before and during World War II.

13 "The Future of the Past" forum was held at the Walker Art Center on March 11, 2000. Panelists were Adelbert Batica, a specialist on equal opportunity employment and diversity issues; Akiko Tsutsui, member of the Japanese Relations Committee of the Global Alliance for Preserving the History of World War II; Dr. Byong Moon Kim, director of the Korean American Today and Tomorrow Center; Juliana Pegues, writer and visual artist; and Dr. Yue-him Tam, professor of history and director of East Asian Studies and Japan Study at Macalester College, St. Paul.