A Japanese artist scheduled to speak at a University of Washington conference on public art and activism says he was denied a visa because of participation in protests in the 1960s, according to conference organizers.
“It is outrageous that Fram Kitagawa, an internationally celebrated curator of socially engaged art in Japan, was just denied a visa to the U.S. to deliver the opening keynote at our scholarly conference on art and politics,” said Kathleen Woodward, Director of the Simpson Center and Professor of English.
Artist Fram Kitagawa, who is general director of the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale and the Setouchi Triennale and an art professor in Japan, was to be the keynote speaker for Thursday night on the first day of the Socially Engaged Art in Japan conference, but he was stopped by U.S. authorities, according to the press release:
According to Kitagawa, he was denied a visa by U.S. authorities because of his involvement more than 45 years ago in protests against a U.S. military base expansion in Sunagawa. 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, according to conference organizer Justin Jesty, assistant professor of Asian Languages & Literature.
The conference and keynote will go on as scheduled, with Kitagawa making remarks over video. Also attending the conference are more than 20 scholars, artists, and curators offering a series of intellectual and visual events, according to organizers.
The conference, organized by a number of departments at the UW and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, focuses on “artistic work that crosses the boundaries between art and social activism.”