size: dimensions variable
size: dimensions variable
菅原 万有 MAARI SUGAWARA
Still from Dreams Come True Very Much, 2021
Dreams Come True Very Much
Single-channel video installation
1:30 min loop
By presenting, not only Japanese identities but identities as a whole as malleable, this short film seeks to illustrate how the unified categories of Japanese and human are categorically interpellated and performatively constituted through discourse. This film critiques the social and ideological biases manifested in both “whiteness” and male domination that inform postwar Japanese identity as well as the agendas of digital technologies.
The backstory of the project is informed by the “Moonshot Research & Development Program” proposed by the Cabinet Office of Japan, in which the government asserts a near future where Japanese people will multiply themselves into both physical and virtual avatars. Emphasizing the political and social possibilities of AI in post-“Moonshot” world, my work unpacks how the Japanese state plans to use digital technologies as renewed forms of oppression. My work seeks to defamiliarize and restructure our experiences with the current Japanese socio-political environments and our present. There are three aspects to this program that I address: the underlying nationalism, Japan’s “subordinate’s double identification”—Japan playing America’s “Japan”—and the colonization of life (removing death from life) as the ultimate form of violence.
Set in a virtual space, the narrative follows a theme of yearning and longing for “Japan(s)” in the minds of the Avatar-Ms—cybernetic avatars of myself. The story takes place in a post-“Moonshot” future, where Japan has vanished after an unspecified man-made catastrophe; no one has seen Japan ever since. The Japanese, shamed by their history, are scattered around the world. Before Japan vanished, the government established the “Moonshot” program to create “Society 5.0,” a notion of a society that integrates cyberspace and physical space to realize economic growths. Each Japanese was suggested by the government to have ten avatars, and most Japanese multiplied themselves to “improve productivity” and become “more resistant to stress”. The government uploaded individuals’ cognitive information, from birth to the point of bodily death, to machines. Such machines are programmed to think that they are the individuals. Thus, Japanese national identity lived on fully intact, as the data (identities) that were saved as “Japanese” will always be “Japanese.” Japanese people, or at least Japanese identities, work forever for the state. Although the program is no longer supported, the avatars live on in the virtual world—including Avatar-Ms, the ten copies of myself. In the virtual world, her cybernetic avatars dream of “Japan(s).”
By presenting not only Japanese identities but identities as a whole as malleable, this film aims to contrast and disrupt essentialized discourses surrounding Japanese identity by presenting identities in general as malleable and open to rearticulation. It draws from Stuart Hall and Judith Butler’s theory of identities as never unified or fixed. I present the identities of both the avatars and “Japan(s)” as contingent and mutable in this film, depending on recognition and context. For instance, the appearance of the avatar’s body changes, and sometimes multiplies: their subjectivity is mutable; they adapt to and reflect whatever context they are in. The mutability of the avatar is supported by Stuart Hall’s argument of “identification as a construction, as a process never completed—always ‘in process’…identification is … conditional, lodged in contingency”. The shapeshifting “Japan(s)” sometimes takes the form of a woman, sometimes of rice, sometimes of a god.
 Cabinet Office, “Moonshot International Symposium Initiative Report,” https://www8.cao.go.jp/cstp/stmain/mspaper3.pdf.
 Stuart Hall, “Introduction: Who Needs 'Identity'?” In Questions of Cultural Identity (California: SAGE Publications, 2012): 4.