meet bction, the japanese collective taking over buildings in tokyo for the sake of art

Just as B comes after A, BCTION comes after ACTION. Taking the butterfly effect of any cultural phenomenon as their focal point, last week Japanese art collective BCTION saw over 70 young artists convert an abandoned office, located in Tokyo’s business...

by Tish Weinstock and Adam Fletcher
Oct 9 2014, 1:55pm

What does BCTION mean? 
BCTION is a word that we came up with to describe an action that follows another action, setting off a chain reaction in which new actions are born. During the installation and creation of the artworks, more and more artists joined the project. From the moment the project started, people who came to the space would capture their own experience, taking photos of the artworks in progress, or shooting videos for music or fashion in front of finished murals. 

How did it come about?
Photographer Joji Shimamoto introduced me to his friend, an art lover who works in real estate, and the owner of the building in which BCTION took place. Joji and I were given full artistic control of the management of the project, which is a very rare case in Japan, especially on a scale like this. 

What was the idea behind BCTION?
To bring together the different factions of the Japanese art scene, which are typically quite separate, and have them rise together as one. 

What is so significant about using a building that's destined for demolition?
By presenting artworks for such a short time in a location that is soon to vanish, we hope to affirm the appreciation of art, and the spirit of "mottainai" that exists in Japan. I think that we can leave behind a very special memory that will live on forever, unlike the building itself. 

Does this notion of temporality affect the meaning of each artwork inside the space? 
I feel like it enhances the purity of the art. I think visitors are also affected by the feeling that this is something we will have the chance to see only briefly before it is gone, making it that much more exciting.  

How would you describe the work you've exhibited there?
The installation is a circular pattern on the floor, reminiscent of the artwork of an indigenous ritual, with a focal object in the middle. Small circles indicating the north, south, east and west have been incorporated into the circular pattern, tying the piece into the regional characteristics of the land. At the centre of the piece, I placed what looks like a magic circle, which you might see in a futuristic video game. For the BCTION Encore exhibition I added rice bundles known as "inaho" in order to convey a sense of Japan's ancient food culture. 

How do you negotiate between looking backwards at Native American and indigenous Japanese cultures and looking towards the future and embracing modernity within your work?
I am deeply inspired by the artwork of indigenous peoples, particularly the Native Japanese "Ainu" and the Native American "Haida". I feel that I can sense the power of their images coming through a huge gap in time and space, and feel that some of it has been passed to me through DNA from shared ancestors long ago.  By incorporating these ancient patterns with futuristic techniques, I hope to transmit the power of the traditional designs into new formats and to new audiences. 

How important is music and club culture to your overall aesthetic?
When I create large works along with music, I feel that the art changes the feeling of the space, and also the music affects the expression of my art. Club culture provides an environment where all these elements combine, and a great place to incorporate other elements such as decoration, lighting design, visual projections, and so on. I have been live painting since 2001, and the current live painting scene in Japan is basically an extension of club culture, and therefore the two are closely linked here. 

What do you want your viewers to take away from the experience?
I hope that people will be able to find something within themselves that they would like to pursue, and go towards it without hesitation. I hope that it causes people to think about the role that art has in society, and that people can bring vitality to society as a whole in other ways. 

What is your hope for BCTION in the future?
I hope to expand the role of art in Japanese society, and make new connections with like-minded people in other Asian countries, particularly Southeast Asia's ASEAN members. I think working together with people from these countries, where the modern art scene is relatively undeveloped, could help foster rich and diverse art scenes throughout the world.


Text Tish Weinstock
Translation Frank Giarratani

street art
Tish Weinstock
live painting
joji shimamoto