When creating, there is no better stance than to possess an understanding of both original and derivative works.

NaBaBa : For me, it was a pretty symbolic occurrence when JNT-san came to Kaikai Kiki. JNT-san is someone who’s created a subcultural phenomenon of sorts on web and who, on the internet at least, had achieved originality. You ran the site Rakgadget, created you own original works there, and additionally, created an illustration forum where everyone could submit their works. In other words, you had grasped the popularity of derivative works among the Internet generation and developed them into something original. With the site closing and your coming to Kaikai Kiki to create analog works, I see both the potential and the limitations for an artist creating works on the internet.

JNTHED : My activities on the site were exciting and I was devoted to it, but in a lot of ways it was exhausting and little more than a children’s playground.

NaBaBa : But you didn’t think so at the time?

JNTHED : No. At the time I thought, “I’m going to find success in an unprecedented way, without being bound by the existing framework!” and I believed I could do it. I still haven’t given up on that, but finding it there was difficult for me and I felt that I had reached the end of what I could do. I don’t know, I feel like I keep saying the same things over and over.

NaBaBa : But reflecting on that past, you’ve come to Kaikai Kiki and are now creating original works, right? I do feel a similarity between that and the limitations I felt with Chaos*Lounge. Simply, they couldn’t continue on with just that alone.

JNTHED : It’s exactly as you say. I’m getting poked and prodded from all directions. I have my own sense of justice or areas where I point out what I think is wrong but when people find respond negatively, I hear their reasoning and often think: “They’re right. My anger comes from a narrowness of vision and lack of knowledge. I misunderstood things and acted arrogantly.” It’s like, I’m sorry, I’ve got a lot to learn…

NaBaBa : (Laughs). MOD culture was able to flourish because the game companies were very supportive and accepting. I know it would have been beaten into the ground if there was any sense of ill will. Whether it be games or not, there are so many things that have actually been erased because of that.

STAG : In the end, the final decision rests with the people who own the rights and I feel we’re being allowed to play within the realms they set. For example, the karaoke that you find in a Perfume CD– you can sample the material or the vocals, but there’s a history of the copyright owner pulling the video and music once it reaches a point that is no longer permissible. Until then, there is a grace range. They were saying “Hey, help us spread the word”, and we were partially playing their game. But once it became unpardonable, they cut all ties. I think that’s one effective strategy to get people fired up about a cultural asset. If a copyright owner comes and thrusts a “No” in your face, there’s little effect in crying out against it in the small space available to you. That only leads to narrowness of vision and loss of quality. Even if you decide to go down the road of derivative creation rather than making something original, there’s nothing better than having an understanding of both viewpoints.

JNTHED : Expressing anger toward the framework without being knowledgeable about it makes you a joke.

NaBaBa : The ultimate power lies with them. In Japan, whether it’s comiket or anything else, the border between the primary works and the derivative works that is used to spread the phenomenon is grayer than in other countries and the two can be difficult to tell apart at a glance. There are some things that rise to become original works but there’s another category where you’re told, “do any more and you’re out.” I detest the feeling of being suppressed and if I don’t like it, I have to get on the side that does the suppressing. In other words, I have to create my own primary works and create my media myself. Unless I do that, I’m just going to continue being used.

*This discussion was held between 5 of the 6 participating artists in the group exhibition. Hiruki was absent.

Text by Kotaro Okazawa, Photo by Fuminari Yoshitsugu
Published in the June 2012 Issue of “BIJUTSU TECHO”