Looking for new "surprises" in the New Normal era
Our Setagaya Literary Museum (also known as "Setabun") was opened in April 1995, which is regarded as being the first year of the IT revolution. For the past 25 years, we have held numerous attractive projects and worked to improve the museum spaces where local people can experience literature in person. "Setabun" boasts appealing cross-genre diversity. Cross-genre also means cross-generational. No art genre, including literature, can rest on its laurels as being self-explanatory today. We must have the imagination to see things ahead of the curve while always thinking about how we can create surprises. At the same time, the idea of simply retreading old ground must be rejected. The creation of literature and the tradition of literature were not formed in a single day. In keeping with this spirit, "Setabun" has been focusing on the world of writers who have left their mark on the history of modern Japanese literature as well as on new developments in the modern art scene.
However, “Setabun” has recently been confronted with several issues due to dramatic changes in global conditions. First there is the issue of how to coexist with the coronavirus pandemic and the so-called “New Normal” era in which we now find ourselves. As you are undoubtedly aware, the pandemic has completely changed the way in which culture is shared and received worldwide. In short, this has meant a switch from real, face-to-face interaction to the virtual world online. It is difficult to predict the extent to which traditional face-to-face communication will return after the end of the pandemic, but what we know for sure is that the move to online communication is irreversible and will continue to evolve and develop in the future. That said, there is no change to the meaning of the term "real" in relation to literature activities. This is because human spirit and emotional states cannot be categorized simply by the dichotomy of "real" and "virtual". Nor is it simply the case that real = face-to-face and virtual = online. Based on such a belief, I now have a single dream for the future of “Setabun”: that we react well to the modern trend for evolution of ICT technology and connect “Setabun” with local people both face-to-face and online. But how can we do that?
The updated website shows that "Setabun" has already taken the first step toward realizing this dream. Also, projects such as "Three books you will want to read carefully" and "Muttoni's Karakuri House of Literature" will certainly attract more and more people. Online is a public square of sorts, a place to which you can always comfortably return no matter where you are. And in addition to special exhibitions and collection exhibitions, it is my own small dream that the exchange between different genres of literature and art will progress through events based on this double-track combination of face-to-face and online. Particularly in order to unearth young people’s interest in literature, we will need to collaborate with different genres such as music, art, film, anime, and natural science.
Things are constantly changing. And our dreams will also change. However, your fresh ideas and constructive feedback are essential in order to convey the inherent appeal of literature and explore new possibilities adapted to new eras. I am searching in earnest for a new "reality" of literature, and I look forward to exploring with you the new paths that "Setabun" will take for the next generation.
Ikuo Kameyama, Director of Setagaya Literary Museum