On May 21, the artistic director of Yokohama Triennale 2014 Yasumasa Morimura unveiled its title, ART Fahrenheit 451: Sailing into the sea of oblivion, and presented the concept as follows:
Voyage through the sea of oblivion
The Yokohama Triennale 2014 aims
to explore the sea of “oblivion”
by means of a ship called “art,”
in a voyage along with
all those who believe in the possibility of artistic adventure
and those who seek out a bold view of the world.
The title of the exhibition in 2014, ART Fahrenheit 451, is needless to say derived from Ray Bradbury’s science fiction novel, Fahrenheit 451. It is a story about burning books and is set in a near-future society where people are forbidden to possess and read books.
With its successful futurist rendering of our contemporary society, it is hard to believe that this literary classic was written in 1953. But what is even more striking is that the novel evokes the significance of “forgetting.”
In the story’s latter half, a group of men appear to claim themselves as “being books.” Each of them have picked up a book and have memorized its entire text. In a resistance against book burning, these people attempt to transform books from material into immaterial memory and secretly preserve only the essence of the books in their mind.
The “people who are books” are exiles from a society that bans books and can also be thought of as “absent people” because their existence and actions of turning books into invisible memories are absent from the visible working of society. In other words, they have become “forgotten people” whose presence has been erased. Bradbury ironically makes a point in Fahrenheit 451 that it is none other than the “forgotten people” that preserve the immense memories of books.
“Forgetting” is memory in the form of a black hole absorbing memories that could not be held on to.
Human beings have discarded (=forgotten) an unimaginable quantity of information (and things) up until this moment. A far greater quantity of information (and things) must have been discarded before even being held in memory. Both the deceased and the yet-to-be-born or “memory in the future” may perhaps also be considered to be “the forgotten” as memories that are not memorized, in addition to memories that have probably been erased and banned by censorship and authorities.
Things that do not speak, things we must not speak about, and things we are not able to speak about. Things we do not want to see, things we must not see, and things we can barely see. Trivial or useless things. Let us think about such innumerable things that fell out of the category of being worthy of being memorized, and let us take this to heart.
The world (universe) is mostly filled with the black hole (or the vast and deep sea) of the forgotten. Compared with this, the world of memory is only a small island in the vast “sea of oblivion.”
Let us shift our position from focusing on “memory” to focusing on the “forgotten” in order to see the world. Then, society, as well as every aspect of our lives, may appear to be utterly different from what we had seen before, and urge us to render this experience, this revelation, and/or this irresistible impulse into a form of expression. Certainly, this attitude toward art is possible, and it could be shared with many people. The word “oblivion” in the exhibition title of Yokohama Triennale 2014 is meant to observe such an attitude. As such, it will have nothing to do with unearthing forgotten history (art history) or sympathizing with nostalgic sentiments.