[Conversation] Daigaku Yamashiro x Haruo Kobayashi “The past of B seminar and the future of blanClass”


There are people who don't understand when they hear the term " B seminar".

If you look at the names of the artists involved, you will see that the artists who led Japanese contemporary art from the 1960s onwards gathered together .

It's not hard to imagine that it was an experimental and advanced place.

And, as if to inherit that history, " blanClass " was established in the same place.

We want as many people as possible to know about the place where contemporary artists create and present their works, and if possible, to witness it.

We spoke to Haruo Kobayashi, the son of Akio Kobayashi, the father of "B Seminar," and the current director of blanClass.

The interviewer was Daitō Yamashiro, who is also a writer related to blanClass. The past of B seminar and the future of blanClass,

We talked about various episodes. (Location: blanClass)

Interview: Daisuke Yamashiro Photo: Masanobu Nishino text: Akiko Inoue

- Until the B seminar starts up -

``When I woke up one morning and looked up from the stairs, there was no second floor and the sky was blue.''

Daigaku Yamashiro (hereafter Y) : I think I'll start with a simple question, but until I first came to blanClas, I didn't actually know that its predecessor was "B Seminar." So I was really surprised. This is both the B-semi (currently blanClass) and Kobayashi-san's home. Has it been your home since B-semi was established?
Haruo Kobayashi (hereafter K) : When the B Seminar was established, this was the Kobayashi family home. The B Seminar was established in Fujimi-cho, Yokohama in 1967, so we moved to our current location in Idogaya in 1971, when I was three years old.

Y : When I learned that blanClass was a B-seminar, I reread the B-seminar book edited by Mr. Kobayashi (``History of the B-seminar (learning new expressions)'' 2005, published by BankART 1929). In it, Mr. Kobayashi wrote a story about how his family moved to Idogaya when he was 3 years old, and when he looked up from the stairs he could see the sky...

K : Yeah, I remember one morning when I woke up and looked up from the stairs, there was no second floor and the sky was blue. It was a normal wooden house, but it felt like they demolished the second floor, put a steel frame on top of it, and put a prefabricated building on top.

1992 B-semi exterior ©B-seni Learning System

1992 B-semi exterior ©B-seni Learning System
2013 blanClass indoor scenery

blanClass as of 2013
Y : What is B in B seminar?
K : In retrospect, this is the “B” in Bacic Seminar.

When we first started it as a study group at our Fujimi-cho atelier, we had courses ranging from A to E, such as ``Basic Western Painting Class for Anyone'' and ``Art Class for Children.'' So, A called `` Saito Yoshishige Contemporary Art Specialized Seminar,'' a seminar where people who were half-graded as writers brought their works to a joint review, and B called ``Contemporary Art Basic Seminar.'' It was a seminar that was like a basic course in contemporary art.

To put it simply, most of the other courses disappeared and there was only Course B, so we named it B Seminar.
Y : Even with tapes and records, side A often contains pop songs, but side B often contains songs that are a bit more maniacal. I think it's interesting that the sound of B matches the image of contemporary art.
K : It was inevitable that B happened to remain instead of A or C, and I think my father (Akio Kobayashi) liked that.
Y : Was the school and course design model that B Seminar referred to in Japan at the time?
K : I don't think he used anything in Japan as a reference. From around 1957, my father studied at the Art Institute of Fine Art in San Francisco, where the principal was starting a new type of art education. I think that became a base for him to explore the future of art education.

The student riots at Berkeley happened just after my father returned, but San Francisco itself was on the eve of a democratic movement, and interesting artists were starting to appear. So I think my father was really influenced by that overall atmosphere.

Another reason for starting the B-seminar was the student conflict in Japan. This is because Tama Art University's school building is located in Kaminoge, near Yokohama, and there was an incident where Yoshishige Saito, who was teaching there at the time, was kicked out of the school because he would side with students during student disputes. .
Since schools were not functioning at all, students were taking seminars in various places on their own, and it seems that there was a trend where they met people like my father.

Therefore, it seems that many of the people who participated in the first A seminar (Yoshishige Saito's contemporary art seminar) were students of Mr. Saito, who had graduated from Tama Art University.
They were people like Koshimizu Susumu, Yoshida Katsuro, Suga Kishio, and Kobayashi Hakudo, and Sekine Nobuo was also in their circle, so he is listed as one of the early lecturers.
Y : I learned about the existence of B-seminar while studying contemporary art. I didn't know much about the educational program, but I had an image of it as a legendary place. I was surprised that so many members were involved.
Mr. Kobayashi, when did you start getting involved with B seminar?


K : I started getting involved properly when I was around 16 years old. Around that time, I took a leave of absence from school, and during that time I thought, ``If I have some free time, why don't I help?'' and started helping out.
At the same time as I took a leave of absence from school, I was also thinking about specializing in art, and that's when I started getting involved in earnest with the artists who came to my B seminar.
Y : Okazaki Kenjiro and Haraguchi Noriyuki were already active writers back then.
K : Mr. Okazaki first participated as a student, so it wasn't from the beginning. I have no recollection of Mr. Okazaki when he was a student. Mr. Okazaki seems to have some memories, and I heard later that he once took care of me for a day.
Y : That's great! ! I think it was Hakudo Kobayashi's class, and it seems like there were quite a few classes that used videos.
K : Video was used in classes from a very early stage. Open reel video portapaks were used. When Kobayashi, Hiroya Hori, and Morihiro Wada started making video works, they were invited as guests and lecturers quite soon after, so I think they were using videos in classes from 1974-75.

It seems that everyone around there was influenced by Michael Goldberg, who is from Canada.

Y : Video Portapack was introduced to Japan in 1972, so it's really early. Was there a community or interaction between writers?

K : I think it depends on the era, but while there may have been little vertical connection, there may have been some horizontal connection.
It was run on a cram school-like scale, with 40 to 50 students a year.
1975 From Noriyuki Haraguchi Seminar ©B-seni Learning System

1975 From Noriyuki Haraguchi Seminar ©B-seni Learning System
1973 From Kobayashi Hakudo Seminar ©B-seni Learning System

1973 From Kobayashi Hakudo Seminar ©B-seni Learning System
Y : I believe Mr. Kobayashi also went to America around 1989. How did the B seminar develop after you came back?
K : I returned to Japan in 1992, and at that time I was asked to help out with the B seminar in earnest. At that time, my sister was also helping out, and I started out as an assistant.

At that time, there were a lot of relatively formalistic artists who were a generation older than me as instructors, and as the art scene changed in the 1990s, I was in charge of finding and inviting interesting guests. was involved as. It took me a little longer to start working on my yearly schedule, but I was able to get more and more work done at a relatively fast pace. My father was old and in poor health, so I helped him out, but if he had been better, I might not have helped him.
Y : Did you finish your B seminar at the same time that your father, Akio-san, passed away?
K : My father and I said, ``Even if something happens to me and I have to shut down B Seminar, I want the people enrolled there to complete the number of years they originally promised.'' As promised, I continued to do so until about 2004. I didn't plan to close the store immediately after my father passed away, but it became more and more difficult to run the store, and people soon stopped coming.
Y : I guess the attraction of the previous generation and the trends of the times have an influence as well.
K : I think it was also influenced by the fact that it coincided with a very difficult time for contemporary art. The situation kept changing,

From around that time, the term "modern art" became a dying word...
Y : Yes. This coincided with the time when the internet was just becoming popular. Perhaps this is because we have entered an era in which people can obtain information themselves, rather than information coming down from above.
K : I also think that it was just the lifespan of starting a business. It's been 37 years, so I guess there was a time when I had reached my limit...

- From B seminar to blanClass -

``As I was cleaning up the items, saying things like ``I really need them,'' I started talking about ``What can I do with what I have left?''

Y : Mr. Kobayashi started blanClass after closing B seminar, but I think it takes a lot of stamina to start blanClass in less than 5-6 years.

Please tell us how you decided to start blanClass.

K : I published the B-semi book in 2005, a year after I folded B-semi, and then spent three years cleaning it up from 2006 to 2008 (lol). I had to pull out a lot of materials to make a book, so my desire to clean them up escalated, and I decided to throw away everything I didn't need and keep only what I really needed, so I spent three years cleaning it up. .
At that point, I was running out of things to do...but in 2009, I had the opportunity to assist with Noriyuki Haraguchi's exhibition at BankART. This gave me a good opportunity to launch blanClass.

Until then, I had started preparing to do something with this space, which had been a B seminar, but as I was planning things like providing materials for Mr. Haraguchi's exhibition and holding a symposium, In the end, I felt that the only thing I could do was to question art itself.

So, I told the young people who were starting to meet here together, ``Let's start something using art as a starting point.''

I was thinking a lot about the content, but then I suddenly thought, ``It would be nice to have a drink while watching a performance on the weekend,'' so I gave up and decided to go ahead with it (lol). We decided to do it every weekend starting in October of that year.
Y : Every weekend since October 2009! ? At first, you only invited performance artists.
K : Yeah, there were some performance artists around me and I thought maybe I could do it. I didn't use a lot of physical strength to start up, and I didn't feel like I was taking on that much risk.
Y : That's right, the B Seminar was originally held here, and we have the space, and Mr. Kobayashi also coordinated the one-day lectures during the B Seminar, so he has the know-how, so it's a natural fit. .
K : Yeah, so while I was clearing things up and saying things like ``I really need it,'' I started thinking, ``Then what can I do with what I have left?'' I felt like I could just change the rest of the details little by little as I went along.
Y : By the way, how did you decide on the name blanClass?
K : Every Monday, I got together with young people and talked about various things, and one of them said, ``I like words that don't have much meaning,'' and one of them said, ``What do you mean by ``blank?'' Tano. So, when I looked up the meaning, I found out that it meant "white" and that there was actually a blank (a blank period after finishing B seminar), so I thought it would be good since the walls were also white. I combined that with the word ``class'' to make it blanClass.
Y : It goes well with the image here. It’s B (lol)

- From Yokohama to Venice -

``Many writers, myself included, blossomed because of this. I want to say that out loud now. ”

Y : I think blanClass has the blood of the B seminar flowing through it, including the structure and the way writers gather. That's why I myself want to participate in blanClass. Over the past few years, blanClass has started to use the term "live art."
K : I first started calling it live art when I did it in Shinko Village ...
Y : When I first appeared on blanClass, I had no idea what to do and was in trouble (lol).

When I first appeared on blanClass in 2010, I think the writers, the audience, and blanClass all felt like they didn't know what to do. Until then, there were people who were creating paintings, sculptures, installations, and other things that could be viewed by viewers at any time at exhibition venues.

Within the limited time of a one-day event, I was suddenly forced to show the work directly to the viewers, and of course it could be an exhibition, but if it only lasts one day, it can be completed in one day. Everyone wants to do that, right? So I really felt like I didn't know what was expected of me (lol).
But in reality, many writers, myself included, blossomed through this process.

I want to say that out loud now. For example, until now, all I could think of was taking videos and exhibiting them, but if it was just for one day, I would think, ``Let's make something happen,'' and I would create fiction. I planned something like a party. I'm sure there will be some examples of artists other than myself, but I feel that this kind of good matching has happened at blanClass over the past few years. What about that?

2012.12.22 Daitoku Yamashiro Presents Christmas Party [Picture in Picture in The Party in Picture.]

©2012 blanClass HatanoKosuke
K : At first, I thought that there were people who needed a performance space, such as in the so-called performance art and music fields, but I quickly got tired of the rule of only inviting those kinds of people, so next time. It wasn't limited to performances, but it started to change to just calling out to random people I was interested in.

On the one hand, I don't like imposing restrictions, but it can't be helped that there are conditions for everything, so I asked them to discuss the conditions and then do things as freely as possible from there. Since the location is different and it's not a convenient place to come, I was asking them to do something that they haven't done elsewhere.

In addition, I would like you to do something that can be completed in one night, and if possible, it doesn't have to be a work, but I would like you to do an experiment that will explore the output of what you have been thinking so far. You said you were happy and asked for it.

However, there were some people who knew that B Seminar was the parent organization, so even if they didn't say anything, their catchphrase might have been, ``It's experimental, right?'' Of course, I'm saying this because I understand how absurd it is to ask people to do whatever they want. Therefore, when I say that ``a good match was created,'' it was not my intention. I was one of those people who was surprised when I saw what came out.

I said earlier that I woke up when I was helping Mr. Haraguchi, but Mr. Haraguchi told me not to do anything. It's true that there is some shallowness in creating things, and it's fine if it's a simple place or a system, but if you have something that you can definitely share with others, then it's better not to do anything else.
Of course, it's always necessary to support something when it falls down, but it's no good to create things by twisting and turning. I think it's more important to think while surrendering yourself to the phenomenon rather than thinking about it first.

I think that is the true meaning of art for me. And what blanClass does on the weekends is not the end point; we want to continue creating something together.
Y : At blanClass, everyone was called to the “blank” place that Mr. Kobayashi created, and they tried to build pillars and fill the time, and the “mechanism” that was created was created by outsiders. I think people are starting to appreciate it when they see it.
One such example is the exhibition "When the Wind Blows, the Barrel Maker Makes Profit" at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, which I also participated in.

I can't say it all, but I think some of the pillars created by blanClass are included.

K : Tanaka Koki had a strong influence, and I also think that Morita Hiroaki and Sasa Shun were particularly closely related to the work of BlanClass.
Y : Mr. Tanaka's work for the Venice Biennale this time was also photographed as an event at blanClass, right?
K : The work you brought to Venice was created using blanClass. We had to practice a really ambiguous task together with the participants, and instead of recording it on video, we should have taken some of the things that were born there and a record of photos... .
Y : That's interesting. Of course, it was Mr. Tanaka's originality, but I'm sure he thought he could do it with blanClass. I don't think it would create a place as diverse as it is if all college students suddenly gathered together at some university and all did the same thing. In other words, I think it's a work that was born out of a great combination of the concept created by everyone at blanClass and Mr. Tanaka's ideas.
K : When you create something together with other people, something unstable actually happens. I think I developed a desire to try out that instability, undecidedness, and things that ended up going in a completely different direction than I had planned. There was something like that in the exhibition at the Yokohama Triennale. But that has to be fixed. I think that's why I wanted to experiment with blanClass to do something much closer to that point.
Y : As an artist who is involved in creating works here in Yokohama, the fact that a work created in Idogaya in Yokohama received a special award at the Venice Biennale makes me very happy. Moreover, I believe that this trend will continue to develop.

- About the blanClass project “Go to the House of Councilors election!” -

``I want to do what is necessary in any situation, what is necessary in any situation? That's what I want to think. ”

Y : I think that the theme of the House of Councilors election for this event series is one of the new blanClass experiments. What do you think?

K : Well, after the last House of Representatives election, as I interacted with various artists, I felt that so-called politics was moving in one direction. In such a situation, while it is risky for art to deal with political matters, it is possible to do something that would be difficult in other places, such as making politics the theme in real time, at a place like ours. There was a part of me that thought it might be a good idea.

Therefore, the purpose of this project was not to control the House of Councilors election, but rather to prevent people from panicking after the election. What is blanClass' philosophy of wanting to do what is necessary in any situation, or what is necessary in any situation? That's what I want to think about. I don't think that's actually true, but I feel like people have come to think of art as being naive in that way. I'm often asked by foreign artists, ``Why are Japanese artists never concerned with politics?'' When they ask me, I say, ``That's because you still don't understand Japanese art.'' They say things like, "I don't really understand it," or "It's like a haiku, so it's a little difficult to read, so I don't think you'll be able to find something political that's easy to understand."
Y : That's interesting. There are many writers who are not aware that they are wrapped up in oblate.
K : Everything in Japan is created in this way, so it has become part of the grammar. Subcultures also have that kind of thing, and it's only recently that people from other countries have been able to read about Japanese subcultures. Similarly, in art, political elements have existed for a long time, but they are difficult to understand. But if everyone could read it, it would be a completely different story. It's interesting to see things that can be seen as political even from a distance, but there's no need for everyone to go out of their way to do them...

Y : When I was given the theme for the House of Councilors election, I thought that I couldn't say anything about the House of Councilors election, so I would like to use the method of video letters to hold an event. I don't know if it will be a success, but I'm thinking of becoming a performer myself this time.
As I said in today's discussion, I think we need to start by saying that we don't really understand, but we'll give it a try.

So, I hope to be able to obtain a video source that will become the basis for a work called ``Video Letters,'' which I plan to spend some time creating. That's why I think my event on Saturday, July 6th will be something like ``Video Letters,'' where I will record what I am thinking of creating as a video letter. There is an element to video that what you shoot will remain in the future.

What you take is recorded and you can watch it later, or what you take can be viewed on the spot.
K : The great thing about video is that you can watch it on the spot. That's the biggest difference from film.
Y : I think it's a medium that lets you see yourself, or rather shows yourself to someone else.

I don't want to leave a message for the future from this place, but I think there must be something I want to leave behind now.

I would like to take advantage of the upcoming blanClass event to see it for the first time.

- Haruo Kobayashi as an artist -

“The individual things that each person thinks about are art, so we have to keep asking them what they are.”

Y : I would like to ask you about Kobayashi-san as a writer. In my personal opinion, I feel that the activities of blanClass itself are Mr. Kobayashi's work. What do you think?

K : Of course, blanClass is not part of the work, but the word "Class" in blanClass has another meaning in addition to the meaning of "classroom." “Class” as a “hierarchy”. It means thinking about your own position (for example, your position as an artist). I want to continue to identify myself as an artist, so I'm not trying to identify myself with any other title, but I've always been reluctant to create works under my own name. there is.

So, from a young age, I have always collaborated when I create works. That being said, I didn't think anonymity was a good thing. When I was young, I had connections with PH Studio and Dumb Type, so I was influenced by them a lot.

Individuals continue to be individuals, but that doesn't mean I can't get used to the way that an artist's name and work are directly connected, so I personally can't be proactive about that kind of thing. That's why my current position of starting something together with everyone and being a witness to it is very natural. I think people who have the identity of an artist can do more than just create work. So I just want to do that (lol)

I had a lot of influence on that because I was helping out during my B seminar days, and there were quite a few people who were responsible for this kind of work, which normally isn't an artist's job.

But those people are almost all artists. My father, Shigeo Anzai, Yoshiaki Higashino, and others like them - what I find interesting about each of them is that although their output may not necessarily be called a work of art, they themselves are quite artists.
I think that's the way it should be, and if everyone doesn't think about it, it will end up being a question of ``how to act within existing things.''
Y : That's right, it's not interesting that only works displayed in a white cube can be called works.
K : I don't dislike the idea of putting the work first, but I think that what the artist is thinking about is also the essence of the work. Also, if you are wondering if this system is okay, or if there is another way or if you can create a different system, I think it would be better to actively look for it. The very concept of art is extremely unstable, so we have to keep thinking about what it really is. Art is the individual thing each person is thinking about, so we have to keep asking what it is, we have to keep thinking about it, and we have to keep thinking about the system itself that puts it on.

- About archiving -

“What was that about what actually happened! I think we have to think about that. ”

Y : Whether it's B Seminar or blanClass, I think we consciously keep records such as websites and books, but because they don't have a physical form, we save them so that we can think about them later. Does that mean?
K : It's strange to write a book for the B seminar, but it's not good to take it at face value and think it's history. What was that about what actually happened! I think we have to think about that. Of course, the most vivid thing is to think about the present, which is ongoing, but I also think that things from the past should also be considered as current issues.
That's why I want to think about archives and content as actively as possible in the future.
I don't just want to archive it as information for peace of mind; I don't think anyone will be able to witness it anyway, so I think it should be preserved.

Y : There are only a limited number of people who can be present at the scene, and if we don't do something about it, it will end up happening.
K : Or it could be symbolized or replaced with a stronger meaning.
Y : I think this B seminar book is also really amazing. It contains writings from many different people, with one person acting as a witness, and it often touches on facts from both students and teachers. I hope that we will be able to see more of the path from B seminar to blanClass and the activities to date.
K : Nowadays, you can watch a lot of things on YouTube, and I want to share it in that way as well. Also, over the three and a half years I've been working here, I've been able to build relationships with quite a number of artists, so I'd like to consult with them about what I can do next in a more developmental way. I'm starting to wonder if it would be possible to share details with the artists, including what to do and how to run it.

Y : Well, I think it's time to move on to another term. Discovering a new relationship between artists and places (planners) in a way that is different from museums and galleries.
I think it might work.

K : As an example, I want to do e-books now. I'm doing a series of lectures and talks called Expansion Plan with Tatsuo Mashima and I was wondering if I could share it as an e-book... I've released video archives up until now, but Ustream has come full circle and is no longer unusual, so I was wondering if there was something else I could do with text.
I'd like to create some new things that are new and can also make money for artists.
B Seminar and blanClass have been nurtured with roots in Yokohama.
Through this conversation, I feel like I was able to discover some things that remain the same, even as their forms change with the passage of time.
And blanClass is currently a work in progress.
The present always becomes the past, and history is created by the accumulation of the past.
That's why I want you to come and see for yourself what is happening right now.
Click here for all scheduled events for "Go to the House of Councilors Election! 2013 House of Councilors Election Before & After"

A recommended standing bar in Idogaya that Haruo Kobayashi often visits with his writers.

<This event has ended. 〉
"New Id Gaya"

Approximately 2 minutes walk from Idogaya Station on the Keikyu Line
It's on the left after you cross the intersection on the way to blanClass. (Due to store circumstances, we will refrain from publishing address and contact information.)

New Ido Gaya 1

New Ido Gaya 2

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