Photo/IllutrationAhn Se-hong talks about the cancellation of the “After ‘Freedom of Expression?’” exhibition while showing his photos of former "comfort women" in Tokyo on Aug. 22. (Kayoko Sekiguchi)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Artists whose works drew threats that led to the premature closure of an Aichi Triennale 2019 exhibition demanded its reopening at a meeting on Aug. 22 in Tokyo.

The group said that allowing the event to stay closed amounted to giving in to racism and terrorism.

“After 'Freedom of Expression?' ”, an exhibition at the international art festival curated by artistic director journalist Daisuke Tsuda, received numerous threats over its controversial subject matter, including one to burn it down. It closed on Aug. 3 after only a three-day run.

Aichi Governor Hideaki Omura, who also chairs the organizing committee of the Aichi Triennale, cited the safety of viewers in calling off the exhibition.

At the Tokyo meeting, the artists explained the intentions behind some of their works at the exhibit and shared their perspectives on events leading up to the cancellation.

At the canceled exhibition, artist Nobuyuki Oura displayed a video, which included footage of a portrait of Emperor Showa being burned.

Oura lamented that many people had focused only on such scenes in his 20-minute video.

“If you watch the whole thing, you will know it doesn’t just criticize the emperor,” he said. “It was described in an eccentric manner, which makes me very sad.”

South Korean photographer Ahn Se-hong, who had displayed photos of former “comfort women” at the exhibition, projected the photos and commented on the show being shut down.

Comfort woman is a euphemism for women who were forced to provide sex to Japanese troops before and during World War II.

Another comfort women photo exhibition by the artist was temporarily canceled in 2012.

“We should band together to demand the exhibition resume," Ahn said. "We must protect the right to know and freedom of expression.”