Masaaki Hasegawa - Connecting People Through Art Beyond Borders
In the 21st century, art is not [used] only for expressing yourself or decorating your house, but [it] can also contribute to global peace. Art plays an important social role as a catalyst for connecting people beyond borders such as nationality, language, generation and gender.
Technology has changed our lives so dramatically that we can be connected with others whenever and wherever we want. It has removed the physical limitations from our communication so that today we are each connected globally. However, while we have the technology to connect with others, the current global situation seems to drive many in the opposite direction: many countries and regions are trying to separate themselves from others.
One of the biggest barriers we have that hinder mutual understanding among people today is language. I grew up with a condition called synesthesia, which means that I could see music and sound, and feel time as space. Without knowing much about synesthesia, I talked about what I saw and felt with my friends, but people thought that I was insane.
The more I tried to explain it verbally, the less people understood me.
The Barriers of Language
Language is a useful tool but it is not a perfect means of communication and understanding of each other. There are gaps between different languages, which means that direct translations do not convey the exact same meaning as the original text.
For example, the haiku, the shortest song/poem form in the world, originated in Japan, and it loses most of its beauty when it’s translated into other languages because the sound and context – which are not easily translatable – also have crucial meanings in the original Japanese.
Even the concept of time is different in each language; in English it is often connected to “have”, but in Spanish and Japanese it is connected to “pass”. Each language is thus its own unique world.
Also, there are some concepts that language cannot easily define, such as love or friendship. It does not mean that there are not enough words, but these are concepts that language cannot capture perfectly.
In this respect, art can be a universal language because it does not require linguistic comprehension but makes use of our senses. For example, babies cannot read books but they can feel music and respond to paintings, possibly in a different way from adults, but still as a shared experience.
Connecting People Through Art Beyond Borders
That is why I have developed this project, Connecting People Through Art Beyond Borders, using art as a catalyst for connecting people and not only for expressing myself. Through this project, I have collaborated with different people and organizations from a range of countries such as IE Business school (Spain), Google Campus Madrid (Spain), Tokyo Camii (Japan), Bauhaus Center Tel-Aviv (Israel), Contemporary Museum of Calligraphy (Russia) and the artist Sophie Chir (France).
It is true that each organization and person has different goals but they all acknowledge the impact that art can have on connecting people beyond borders.
For example, education can play an important role in connecting people from different fields, backgrounds and majors. IE Business School, one of the best business schools in the world, puts emphasis on the importance of “humanity”, in that they not only bring together students from over 140 countries but also connect them across different schools and majors. That is why we collaborated to promote the importance of humanity.
Also, in the case of Tokyo Camii, we collaborated to create an experience which used art to remove the barrier between local Japanese people and international people living in Japan. Art allowed both locals and foreigners to share the same moment and experience.
Architecture and design are fundamental when creating a space that can connect people beyond borders. That is why I collaborated with Bauhaus Center Tel-Aviv.
As Bauhaus was at one point shut down, the collaboration reminded people of the importance of being aware of things that they usually take for granted.
Technology is obviously important in contemporary society, but not everybody can understand coding, for instance, and there is a clear barrier between tech-oriented people and people who are not familiar with technology. That is why I collaborated with Google – to connect them.
The Role of Art
Each collaboration can have a different meaning and be based on a different concept, but all the projects share the same and only mission, which is to connect people beyond borders.
Yes, in the art industry, the economic value of each art piece is important. However, more importantly, in the 21st century, art can play a role in connecting people and make the world a better place.
It is not always necessary to be the main character in a story, but it can be the means in aiming for a greater good.
Written by Masaaki Hasegawa.
Featured image: Masaaki Hasegawa for Urvanity Madrid 2018. All images courtesy the author.