Celebrated Japanese Curator Denied US Visa for Involvement in Protest Against Military Base Expansion

His plans to deliver a keynote address at a conference were cut short.

Japanese artist Fram Kitagawa has been denied a US visa, barring him from attending a conference on public art and activism at the University of Washington, because he took part in a protest against the expansion of a US military base in Sunagawa, Hokkaido, over 45 years ago.

“It is outrageous that Fram Kitagawa, an internationally celebrated curator of socially engaged art in Japan, was just denied a visa to the US to deliver the opening keynote at our scholarly conference on art and politics,” Kathleen Woodward, director of the Simpson Center and Professor of English told the Seattle Globalist.

Kitagawa is general director of the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial and the Setouchi Triennial, and an art professor in his home country.

The artist was invited to deliver a keynote speech by the University of Washington. Photo: University of Washington

The artist was invited to deliver a keynote speech by the University of Washington.
Photo: University of Washington

Kitagawa was invited to deliver a keynote speech at the Socially Engaged Art in Japan conference on Thursday night, but his travel plans were cut short by US authorities.

Justin Jesty, assistant professor of Asian Languages and Literature at the UW, who organized the symposium, said in a press release, “He was never prosecuted or convicted of any crime. He supplied documents to the embassy prepared by Japan’s Ministry of Justice and the head of the National Police attesting to his innocence, but he was still refused a visa.”

Despite being unable to attend in person, Kitagawa delivered his keynote address remotely via video.

The conference hosted by UW and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science promotes “artistic work that crosses boundaries between art and social activism,” and will be attended by over 20 scholars, artists, and curators.

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