Theatre, Violence, and the State

Table of Contents

This discussion between Tadashi Suzuki and Hiroki Azuma examines the role of art in the contemporary world. Suzuki is one of Japan’s leading 20th century theatre directors and has created an avant-garde theatre center in the depopulated village of Toga, Toyama, from where he engages in numerous international projects.

A major theme of the discussion is the relationship between the public and art. Azuma argues that art in contemporary Japan is primarily thought of as something that provides collective benefit, and is supported by the government. Suzuki notes that theatre, too, has become entwined in issues of democratic equality and fairness.

So, what, then, is art to the collective community? Suzuki states that it is “created when someone who doesn’t share the faith appears and the gaze of the Other emerges.” In other words, artists act as Others to the collective and are tasked with criticizing the methods of the community from the outside. Suzuki paradoxically selected Toga as his base in order to acquire a location “external” to Japan.

Azuma has taken a philosophical approach to Fukushima after the Great East Japan Earthquake—the disaster during which it became the site of a major nuclear accident—stating that Fukushima should have chosen Suzuki’s kind of “methodical discrimination.” So long as it is impossible to erase the trauma of the nuclear accident, Fukushima ought to shoulder its legacy of tragedy and work in solidarity with the rest of the world. Azuma concludes by commenting that it is the future mission of artists and philosophers to consider “those things that deviate from the rules of the collective” over the world.