Abstract

This article analyzes the various practices of the WAWA Project as a case study of community-based art after the Great East Japan Earthquake on 11 March 2011 (“3.11”). Organized by Masato Nakamura (b. 1963), the Tokyo-based artist, college professor, and director of an artist collective commandN, the WAWA Project is an ongoing project that initiates, mobilizes, promotes, and connects local residents and civic groups in disaster-stricken areas for their regeneration efforts. In the current discourse of contemporary art, the WAWA Project can be discussed within the framework of relational aesthetics, in the sense that the works of art function as a platform through which the individuals are engaged collectively with particular experiences and social circumstances so as to create a communal unity. This conceptualization of relational aesthetics becomes theoretically impoverished and politically suspect when combined with Japan's changed sociopolitical environment in the wake of 3.11. When the state exploits the rhetoric of communal solidarity, it seriously undermines democracy, threatens autonomous individuals, and blocks egalitarian social structure instead of furthering it. I argue that the dynamic, creative, and contestatory networks and initiatives that WAWA Project has promoted, which are distinct from the more formalized community associations and artistic projects, will allow us to articulate alternative ways of challenging conventional conceptions of community and social order.

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