US-Japan Creative Artists Profile

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2020 Artists

For the 2019-2020 fellowships, teams of artists were selected from the United States and Japan and will work together on a project that reflects the themes of the Olympic Games: unity, collaboration and the long-time friendship between the United States and Japan.


Gene Coleman, Composer

Gene Coleman

Gene Coleman is a composer, musician, and director. A 2014 Guggenheim Fellow and the winner of the 2013 Berlin Prize for Music, he has created more than 70 works for various instrumentation and media. Innovative use of sound, image, space, and time allows Coleman to create work that expands our understanding of the world. Since 2001 his work has focused on the global transformation of culture and music's relationship with science, architecture, video, and dance. He studied painting, music, and new media at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Coleman will collaborate with Adam Vidiksis, a composer/technologist; Akikazu Nakamura, a shakuhachi player; and Sansuzu Tsuruzawa, a Gidayu-style shamisen performer. This project aims to combine Japanese martial arts with music, video, motion sensor technologies, and other digital media. Martial arts was one of the earliest cultural elements that migrated from Japan to the United States and came to influence American culture post-World War II. A key element of that influence was the value of using martial arts to build character and to understand the responsibilities we have towards other people in society to create a just and peaceful world. Digital technologies will be used to translate martial arts movements into sounds, which will then form a landscape over which musicians will play.

Cameron McKinney, Choreographer, Dancer

Cameron mcKinney

A New York City-based choreographer, dancer, educator, and author. He founded Kizuna Dance in 2014 with the mission of creating works that celebrate the Japanese language and culture. He recently received a three-month individual fellowship from the Asian Cultural Council to travel to Japan and continue his studies on the intersections of street dance and butoh. He has presented choreographic work nationally and internationally, as well as leading workshops, master classes, and residencies. He is currently on the faculty at the Gibney Dance Center.

McKinney will collaborate with Toru Shimazaki, a choreographer based in Kobe, Japan. They will produce a 30-minute contemporary dance work for a five-person ensemble. The work will be rooted in an embodiment of the personal histories of dancers both in the United States and Japan, and is meant to resonate on a deeper level with the dancers of both casts. By specifically focusing on the connection between United States-based artists and Japanese artists, the work will portray the bond of friendship that has developed between the two nations over the last several decades by accenting the similarities between the two seemingly disparate cultures.

Sue Mark and Bruce Douglas (marksearch), Interdisciplinary Artists


For more than 20 years, the Oakland-based creative team marksearch has been designing interactive opportunities for communities to publicly share personal histories for empowerment. From neighbor-led walking discussions to sidewalk performances, commemorative plaques recognizing generations' old collective knowledge, and collaborative murals, their global projects preserve neighborhood narratives.

They will collaborate with another artist duo, Natsuka Endo and Hiroyuki Abe. These two wife-husband artistic teams will complete a project of poetic exploration to recognize and honor survivors of the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Working out of a nomadic writing room—a ryokan that combines modern and traditional building techniques—the team will collect haiku from strangers to form a communal poetic message of hope. The writing room will include visual and audio installations of these haikus, with a goal of amplifying the unheard voices of Fukushima youth.

Jesse Schlesinger, Visual Artist

Jesse Schlesinger

A multidisciplinary visual artist working in sculpture, site-specific installation, drawing, and photography. His work is fundamentally concerned with place: how the natural environment, architectural context and engagement, and historical precedent contribute to experience and understanding. His upbringing as a second-generation carpenter (with a focus on traditional craftsmanship) and involvement with a small farm have jointly influenced the philosophy of his work. He has exhibited in galleries and museums in the U.S. and Japan.

Schlesinger will collaborate with Masayo Funakoshi, a chef based in Kyoto, Japan. They will create an installation and performance-based work engaging food, architecture, agriculture, and craft through a temporary, experimental, and functional restaurant. The project will explore sustainability through the lens of food and agriculture, presented within an architectural installation. The importance of craft in Japanese culture and its influence on the West will form the basis for the project, actively engaging these histories from a contemporary perspective, with the intention of proposing a model for sustainability.

Benjamin Volta, Visual Artist

Benjamin Volta

Ben Volta creates intricate public murals and sculptures, working within the fields of education, restorative justice, and urban planning. His practice stands on the belief that art can be a catalyst for change. As a young artist, Volta was a member of the groundbreaking art collective Tim Rollins and K.O.S. and was awarded a Pew Fellowship in 2015. For almost two decades, Volta has been developing a collaborative process with Philadelphia public schools to create participatory art rooted in an exploratory and educational process.

Volta will collaborate with Cho Kuwakado, an educator, and Yasuyuki Sakura, an artist/muralist. Through engagement with youth in the U.S. and Japan, Volta, Kuwakado, and Sakura aim to create a collaborative public artwork. The project draws inspiration from the works of great innovators and educators, such as Benjamin Franklin and Fukuzawa Yukichi. Research will center on the accomplishments of distinguished Japanese and American individuals in sport, science, and education. These accomplishments will be introduced to youth in the United States and Japan during workshops, which will inspire them to create individual artwork that will come to make up the collaborative piece. The project as a whole will express how art, innovation, and sport have the power to change the world and our future.

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2019 Artists

Brian Anderson, Industrial Designer

June to October, 2019
Brian AndersonBrian Anderson leads STUDIOBA, a Chicago-based design practice that examines the craft of design, combining traditional and advanced fabrication techniques to examine material-based meaning in designed objects. Informed by the chemical science, craft traditions, and technical possibilities of material inquiry, his practice explores the labor and aesthetics of creative production. Developed as innovative forms, novel methods, and hybrid materials that demonstrate new ways of knowing, his work is as insistent in its reverence for what has come before as it is on imagining new possibilities. In Japan, Anderson aims to investigate how new developments in and attitudes about making have shifted the roles of materials, labor, and craft in designed objects. His working approach is driven by a diverse background which includes degrees in chemistry, creative writing, and education, infusing his projects with a narrative depth that transcends formalism. Anderson will begin his research at the Kyoto Institute of Technology’s KYOTO Design Lab. In Kyoto he will also work with a consortium of local artisans who have banded together with the goal of internationalizing their artisanal approaches and outcomes, with whom he will engage in collaborative consideration of the essence of Japanese kogei and mingei craftsmanship within broader contexts of making, including that of CAD/CAM technology. Anderson will also engage in fieldwork concerning the documentation of local crafts and endangered skills. In addition to obtaining audio and video material, he also plans to implement on-the-go 3D-scanning technology, with which he will gather information for constructing a catalog of reproducible tactile experiences.

Lee Conell, Writer

July to December, 2019
Lee ConellTennessean author Lee Conell deals deeply in the nature of hauntings and their many guises across cultural frames and individual mindsets. Many of her award-winning short stories are collected in her debut book: Subcortical. Conell’s prose is profoundly personal and humorous, conjuring quotidian vignettes that are immediately relatable, but are quickly launched by her gaze into vivid flights of imagination. In preparation for her upcoming novel The Study of Hidden Animals, which uses Tokyo and Kobe as two of its main settings, Conell will be spending her time in Japan getting closer to the fascinating world of yokai and other monstrous portrayals from Japanese popular culture, both current and ancient, which she sees as arising from common anxieties and transcultural traumas shared by humankind. Conell will also explore the way World War II is fictionalized in local memorials and Japanese history. In particular, she will visit the Chiune Sugihara Memorial Hall and its surroundings, which is directly connected to her ongoing exploration of Jewish culture and communities across countries, an important part of the writer’s ancestry that often informs her work.

Robert Millis, Sound Artist / Researcher

March to July 31, 2019
Born and raised in New York, Robert Millis’ artistic work across media could be rightfully said to be trans-disciplinarian, but is also solidly rooted in his deep relationship with music, which he approaches from both within and without. There is a mutual complementation among his output as a singer-songwriter and composer, his work with the Sublime Frequencies label, and the passion of his adventurous musical ethnography, finding and presenting early recorded sounds across cultures. His in-depth, informed approach fuels his documentary films and works like his book Indian Talking Machine, where Millis explores Indian music using one of his favorite cultural artifacts as a springboard: the 78 rpm record. Early examples of sound recordings and the devices used to reproduce them have fascinated Millis for many years, leading to many works, including his popular book Victrola Favorites. In Japan, the artist wishes to deepen his research in what are the first commercial recordings made in East Asia (1902-03). He plans to organize and present his encounter with these Japanese sources into an artist’s book including CD and vinyl recordings, to present a combination of imagery, writing, and sounds. The work will not only aim at exposing new ears to old sounds, but will also introduce its readers to the inspiring stories and paraphernalia surrounding the records as objects, as well as the ritual of listening to them in itself.

Aya Rodriguez-Izumi, Visual Artist

June to September, 2019
With New York as her base, Aya Rodriguez-Izumi channels her eclectic Cu-ban/Puerto Rican and Okinawan heritage in projects that often occupy unconventional spaces and combine a wide range of media to transform them into stages that facilitate encounters. In her pluralistic practice, which highlights the ritual dimension of everyday activities and the objects that propel them, the artist invites viewers to take the lead in performative inter-actions, the outcome of which shapes her artwork into its final, complete form. During her fellowship, Rodriguez-Izumi will revisit her native Okinawa in order to investigate local rituals and collect material for her upcoming work Project: Iceberg, a piece in which the artist bridges Okinawa (the site of her birth) and East Harlem (her home in the U.S.). The project’s title comes from the code name assigned to the battle of Okinawa, and the artist was inspired to begin it by William T. Randall’s Okinawa’s Tragedy: Sketches From the Last Battle of WWII, a book that compiles Okinawan first-hand accounts surrounding the battle of Okinawa and its aftermath, and was illustrated by the artist’s father, Jose Rodriguez. In Okinawa, Rodriguez-Izumi will respectfully visit ancient Ryukyuan sites as well as the Gama cave system, a crucial war site in which many local victims of the battle of Okinawa sought refuge and perished, decimated by the joint violence of both countries’ armies in their clash.

Jen Shyu, Composer, Vocalist, Multi-instrumentalist, Dancer, Producer

February to July, 2019
Born in Illinois to immigrant parents from Taiwan and East Timor, Jen Shyu currently lives and works in New York City. Her eclectic musical and performance practice is deeply informed by her ancestral roots, vigorous research traditional music and dance around the world, as well as her solid Western classical training. Shyu began violin, piano and ballet training from an early age, later studying opera and obtaining a music degree from Stanford University, and undertaking her own form of ethnographic research of music, dance, and ritual in Cuba, Taiwan, Brazil, China, South Korea, East Timor, Indonesia, and Japan. Besides releasing seven albums leading her band Jade Tongue, Jen Shyu is known for her collaborations with many important musical figures like Steve Coleman, Anthony Braxton, Wadada Leo Smith, and Vijay Iyer. Both as a bandleader and as a collaborator, her bold, unique style has been widely celebrated by peers, critics and the musical press, becoming a Doris Duke Artist in 2016. During her time in Japan, Shyu plans to deepen her study of the Satsuma biwa and noh theater as well as continue an ongoing conversation with Sasaki Itaru concerning his Kaze no Denwa (Phone of the Wind) memorial, which gives one of the communities affected by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami (Otsuchi, Iwate) a way to channel their feelings towards the departed. Having previously composed a song about it in her work Nine Doors, she is now developing ZERO BLOSSOMS, ZERO GRASSES (working title), a ritual music drama inspired in part by the memorial. Photo: Steven Schreiber
For profiles and photos of previous artists, please click on the year2020201820172016201520142013201220112010200920082007200620052004200320022001200019991978-1998Artists' Profiles TOP JAPANESE