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"Asakusa Laboratory #1"
19:00-21:00, 14 January, 2017
With Eiji Oguma (Keio University), Kristin Surak (SOAS, London), Vincent W. J. van Gerven Oei
ASAKUSA is delighted to announce a series of partly online-based symposiums aimed at advancing curatorial research and interdisciplinary dialogue with fields such as political and social sciences. The programme has been initiated by Mateusz Sapija, Asakusa's first resident curator (2016/17).

Laboratory #I:
It may well be that the impossible at a given moment can become possible only by being stated at a time when it is impossible. (Leszek Kolakowski)
Some say that present time is the state of interregnum in which the current politics are no longer adequate to the status quo, yet the new solutions still have not been designed. Others, that 'the future has been cancelled'. Currently observable significant shift from recent notions of promising future towards spheres that are largely pessimistic comes from variety of reasons: as result of the traumatic 20th century, wide range of present crises - from still unresolved global financial turmoil, wealth inequality and austerity, to climate change and rising demographic aging - finally, lack of solutions offered by apathetic governments. Locally, also Japan - after 200 years of continuous acceleration - came to the moment of disbelief in top-down politics and neoliberalism. Japan is now one of the most unequal members of the OECD, and the country faces disastrous consequences of the dependence on nuclear energy, economic stagnation, gender inequality and reemergence of nationalist politics - all triggering the rise of social movements on a previously unprecedented scale. What we encounter now - globally and locally - is an entry to a period which consequences are unclear.
However, this condition cannot be infinite. In the time when current politics has so little to offer, the search for new solutions is inevitable. As pointed by Kolakowski, the crucial task is the question of timing when the new solutions are proposed and that is what this public programme will aim to contribute to - point the moment of the new beginning as now. The programme will involve both Japanese and international artists whose practice deals with socio-political matters, as well as a range of international and Japanese thinkers concerned with the problems of politics, sociology, activism, economy and the nation state. These activities – drawing upon previous Asakusa's activities - will aim to establish a platform for exchange between the fields of art as well as political and social sciences, in order to imagine future political possibilities and solutions to current crises. This will be achieved through a collaborative engagement in a three public discussions - combining presentations, screenings and discussions - devoted accordingly to the topics of nation state and nationalism, democracy and contemporary capitalism.

19:00 - 21:00, 14 January 2017
On different levels and in different ways, although on a global scale, the nationalist politics are returning as one of the dominant agendas in the contemporary political discourse. As according to many, today's rhetoric represented by the growing amount of leaders – whether it's Orban, Trump or Abe - progressively resemble these calling for the 19th century model of the nation-state rivalry based on army and trade power, or even these of the 1930s Europe – when the agenda based on the shift of perception from 'defeated workers' to the 'national winners', led to the disastrous consequences of the Second World War. With the current current crisis of democracy, impotency of politics, and the turbo-capitalism replacing the real power formerly represented by the governments, came an unstable and anxious social condition. The precarious state of economic, geopolitical and demographic decline is now being shifted towards subjectivity based on racial, national and colonial identity accelerated by fears of losing the homeland, familiar culture, the conservative values, as well as the geographical and cultural borders, As claimed by Panjai Mishra: 'welcome to the age of anger.'
Facing these changes, we need to ask ourselves where did they come from, how this shift is enacted, and what the right counter-actions could be. Thus the programme gathers four speakers representing a range of disciplines: Kirstin Surak will address the cultural nationalism, as well as the political sociology of Japan; Eiji Oguma will take on relations between the events of 3/11 and the nationalistic politics; finally, Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei will act as a responder drawing on his previous work on the notion of the statelessness and the project of the New World Summit.

Eiji Oguma is a Japanese historical sociologist, a professor at the Keio University and a documentary filmmaker. His research focuses on social and political history, issues of Japanese nationalism and post 3/11 social movements.
Kristin Surak is an Associate Professor of Politics at SOAS, University of London and a past Richard B. Fisher Member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. Her research focuses on international migration, nationalism, culture, and political sociology.
Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei is a philosopher, organizer and LGTBQ activist. He studied composition, linguistics, conceptual art, and philosophy. He is editor in chief of the Ideological Guide to the Venice Biennale and an advisor to the New World Summit.

This project is supported by:

ASAKUSA, 1-6-16 Nishi-Asakusa, Taito, Tokyo
For press info and images: Koichiro Osaka /

Image: A Lebanese anti-government protester holds a placard during a demonstration against the ongoing trash crisis and alleged government corruption in Beirut, Lebanon. # Hussein Malla / AP