Back to the Myths. Beyond the Myths.


Inspired by both the dialogue-based format and critical content from r:ead #4, C&G initiated to take up the hosting role for r:ead#5, and proposed to other regions’ participants the theme of “Myth‧History‧Identity” for exploration in June 2017.

All cultures have their own mythical stories from the ancient time, and these stories, to a certain extent, reflect how their ancestors understood and encountered with the world and nature in the past. The study of historical myths helps reveal the development of a culture and its cultural identity. Indeed, mythical stories can also be considered as the combination of history writing and poem writing, involving many creative visuals. Mythical thoughts often consist of strong creativity for imagination and ability to traverse the areas full of unknowns.

Cultures in East Asia had many ancient mythical stories for a long period of time. In fact, there are many interconnections amongst ancient and historical myths from Japan, Korea and China. Systematic study of these stories with a cultural anthropology’s perspective is quite a modern idea though. It did not begin until the late 19th century in this region. During the Meiji Era, Japanese scholars started to have many intensive researches about Japan’s ancient history. Academic research on mythology also started to appear. Influenced by this period’s Japanese literature, Chinese scholar, Liang Qichao (梁啓超), adopted the Japanese term of “myth”(神話) in his Chinese article about the relationship between history and race in 1902. This was the first time when the term of “神話” was used in Chinese language.1

Under the theme of “Myth・History・Identity,” the art dialogues and exchanges in r:ead #5 will not only focus on the literature or linguistic analysis about myth and history writing, but will also make use of related materials to trigger artistic dialogues and inspire creative ideas amongst participants and audience members. Besides interpreting “myths” as ancient stories about gods and/or heroes, participants are also encouraged to come up other possible interpretations, for example, to look at contemporary “myths” in our societies and to create new “myths” for alternative imaginations about the current systems.

What is r:ead?

Chiaki Soma

In 2012, r:ead was established in Tokyo. At the time I was working as the director of a large-scale art festival that aimed to “represent Tokyo, Japan, and Asia.” Bound by various institutional limitations, it was a place where the quality and quantity of a piece were scrutinized. In such a tense environment, mistakes were not tolerated. Needless to say, the fate of present-day public cultural institutions is to fight on behalf of localist municipalities and nations in intercity and international competitions, only to be harshly evaluated for attendance and festiveness of the programs.

r:ead is an attempt at sowing seeds deeply on a small scale, in a territory free of the obligations that burden cultural organizations. Artists, curators, and translators from four East Asian countries gather in the same place at the same time and engage in dialogue. They are both “neighbor and stranger” to one another, as they discuss their creations, societal contexts, and histories. We were not asked to organize this project. But we realized that in such a process of discourse, we turn over, relativize, and face our own history once again. Seeds of future works are softly sowed in the ground plowed deep by dialogue. At the end of the two-week conversation, all participants present on how they plan to nurture their sprouts. This is the program at r:ead.

r:ead is also a small and independent body in motion, shifting and evolving in accordance with its surrounding situations. r:ead was held in Japan for the first two years but for the third, thanks to Jow-Jiun Gong who participated in r:ead #2, it became a roving event in Tainan that traveled across Taiwan. Owing to the strong initiative of r:ead #3 participants Cho Jieun and Ahn Sohyun, we were able to realize our fourth iteration in South Korea. And this time, Cheng Yee Man Gum and Clara Cheung who participated in r:ead #4 took the initiative to organize r:ead #5 in Hong Kong. This is a project traveling across East Asia, relayed by those who believe in its necessity.

Over the course of five years r:ead has brought new independent initiatives into being. With the inquiries cultivated at r:ead as its chief concept, Arts Commons Tokyo was established. Leaders of Tainan’s independent art scene followed suit. Furthermore, r:ead’s translation director, Kanoko Tamura is exploring new possibilities in the field of art translation, by organizing the Art Translators Collective, specializing in the most important and challenging aspect of our program: interpretation and translation. These projects arose as a natural result of re-confronting local contexts and pressing issues through r:ead.

At r:ead we have an extremely simple, yet frighteningly laborious rule of communication. Everyone speaks in their mother tongue. Continuously from last program, we have situated interpreters and translators living between two languages and cultures, as the third creators/mediators beside artists and curators. This move explicitly raises the issue of language in East Asia. One of the major challenges of r:ead is to address the relation between art and language in the region, heretofore distorted by the inevitable translation into Western languages.

r:ead is not the type of project that has a political agenda, framework, and a budget. Rather it is a temporary community, which comes into existence solely because each participant feels its necessity. And it can only be formed by an accumulation of discourse. No one asked us to do what we do. Everyone involved has a direct connection to East Asia and is the subject of history, taking on the task of renewing the present. As artists, curators, and translators, we mediate otherness. As foreigners, we widen the site of this shared work. We sow the seeds deeply on a small scale. No one knows how they will sprout but we gather here precisely because we do not know, because we yearn for dialogue.

I would like to thank Cheng Yee Man Gum and Clara Cheung who accepted the unstable nature of this project and made it possible to host this year’s eve¬nt in Hong Kong. I would also like to extend my sincere appreciation to our supporters at Hong Kong Arts Development Council, The Japan Foundation and to all artists, curators, interpreters, and staff who have participated in r:ead.