Photo/IllutrationAichi Governor Hideaki Omura holds a news conference on Sept. 25 in which he indicates his intention to resume the "After 'Freedom of Expression?'" exhibit at the Aichi Triennale. (Noboru Tomura)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

An art exhibition on freedom of expression that triggered a public outcry and threats of violent acts should be reopened, the governor of Aichi Prefecture said Sept. 25.

Hideaki Omura said he wanted to resume showing the "After 'Freedom of Expression?'" exhibit before the Aichi Triennale 2019 closes on Oct. 14.

The exhibit was shut down on Aug. 3 after only three days.

Omura's decision follows the release of an interim report the same day that looked into why the exhibit was canceled in the first place.

Provocative displays that triggered the sharp public reaction included a sculpture depicting a young girl as a symbol for "comfort women" who provided sex to wartime Japanese troops.

Omura indicated that the exhibit should only reopen if certain conditions are met.

These included measures to avoid the risk of additional threats as well as a repeat of the torrent of phone complaints that disrupted the organizing committee's normal office operations.

Some artists who had their work included in the exhibit contended that insisting on such conditions constituted a form of censorship and vowed to oppose any reopening.

Omura also called for rules to be enforced on taking photos of the displays and spreading messages about the exhibit over social networking sites.

He said the methods for displaying the works should be improved and additional explanatory material should be provided.

The committee that appraised the reason for the exhibit's cancellation pointed to one video that included scenes of portraits of Emperor Showa, the posthumous name of Emperor Hirohito, being burned. Hirohito reigned from 1926 until 1989.

The committee suggested that the video be shown at a separate venue and include an opportunity for the artist to explain what he intended.

But Nobuyuki Oura, who created the video, said: "Reopening the exhibit would only make sense if it was shown as it was before the cancellation. Moving my work elsewhere and making it easier to view would also differ from the original intent of the exhibit."

He also described as "censorship" the suggestion that captions or other explanations be added to the work to make it more palatable to the public.

In the interim report, the committee said the exhibit should be resumed as soon as possible since it provided a chance to ponder the status of freedom of expression in the current social climate.

But the committee also found fault with Daisuke Tsuda, the artistic director of the Aichi Triennale, and said he went ahead with the exhibit despite being aware controversy was bound to erupt.

It also pointed out that the organizing committee and Aichi prefectural government did not have a workable plan in place to reduce the risks stemming from "inappropriate decisions and actions" taken by the artistic director.

Tsuda held a news conference on Sept. 25 and disclosed he had been reprimanded by Omura. He also accepted the criticism of the appraisal committee but said he had no intention of resigning as artistic director.

The committee also took note of concerns voiced by some foreign artists represented at the exhibition that canceling the event on grounds of safety issues amounted to a form of censorship. It recommended greater and more thoughtful communication with those artists.

The committee also reported that while there did not appear to be many obvious problems at the exhibit site itself, the outcry that flared was spread by individuals who had not actually seen the exhibit but were reacting to partial images transmitted through SNS sites. It said that led to an organized phone campaign to disrupt the daily operations of the organizing committee.