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Farming Tokyo With Stephen Mushin

Spiral/Wacoal Art Centre, Tokyo

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade
Aesop Japan

Creative Producers
Kathryn Hunyor (ArtsPeople)
Yoshie Ota (Spiral)

Stephen Mushin

Media Highlights
Spiral Magazine

Artwork: Stephen Mushin, Tiger Taxi with deer-leg-launcher, 2014. Image courtesy the artist
Photos courtesy SPIRAL/Wacoal Art Centre

18 – 31 August 2014

“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” – Gloria Steinem

Art exhibition-meets-scientific investigation-meets-creative workshop, ‘Farming Tokyo’ involves children and adults alike in a creative experiment. The goal is a complete re-invention of our cities as ecological systems where waste becomes food and buildings crawl with plants and animals. Over two weeks of the summer holidays, Tokyo locals entered an exciting future world where creativity is king and their job is to create wildly imaginative ways to live healthy, happy, creative lives, while looking after their environment.

Presented only three years after the 2011 Fukushima triple tragedy, the project achieved a potency and relevance that illustrated the importance of art experiences as a forum and avenue for critical thinking, creativity and healing.

The Artist
Ecological designer, sustainability planner, industrial designer, hack engineer and artist – Stephen Mushin is a creative tour de force. Based in Melbourne, Stephen’s illustration, design and performance works explore ecologically sustainable futures, focusing on the interaction between human technologies and the natural world. With a background in industrial design, Stephen has spent the last 15 years working as both an ecological designer on projects dealing with urban food production, waste, renewable energy and master-planning for zero emissions, and as an artist on ‘sustainable futures’ narrative projects. In 2012 he won the British Council’s Big Green Idea Award for an open-source aquaponics system and in 2015 was awarded an Australian Design Honours from the Australian Design Centre.

The Project
Farming Tokyo was a participatory art experience for Japanese children and families. The site-specific, interactive art installation was both an exhibition of Stephen Mushin’s ideas, and a site for collaborative art-making, thinking, and hands-on workshops.

It introduced his ‘Now If What Then’ series of detailed and fascinating illustrations and 3D models of possible future cities, and crazy-but-plausible ecological machines. These were complemented with new works developed during a residency with the Tokyo Agricultural University.

Spiral’s famous atrium was filled with a circular ‘art wall’ developed in collaboration with Japanese designer Shiro Yamamoto. Acting as an evolving art installation, audiences used magnetic shapes and mini-sketches to illustrate their ideas and create a vision of a possible future city.

The creative workshops and public programs attracted both families and professionals, where participants actively engaged in creating imaginative ways to live more sustainably. In this way, the ‘city’ grew and morphed over the exhibition period.

Our Approach
ArtsPeople was commissioned by Spiral to co-curate a contemporary art experience for families. We proposed working with Stephen Mushin to collaboratively develop Farming Tokyo, and secured financial support from the Australian Embassy Tokyo, making it a cross-cultural collaboration and partnership.

Our role included:
Bilingual Curatorial Services
Partnership Negotiation & Management
Audience Engagement Strategies
Curatorial Writing & Translation

Farming Tokyo With Stephen Mushin
Farming Tokyo With Stephen Mushin
Farming Tokyo With Stephen Mushin
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