© Mitsutoshi Hanaga. Courtesy of Mitsutoshi Hanaga Project Committee.
Curse Mantra: How to Kill Factory Owners
Jusatsu Kito Sodan (Mitsutoshi Hanaga)
(Para Site Residency Flat, Hong Kong)
curated by Koichiro Osaka (Asakusa)
23 Aug – Sep 14, 2019
August 23 – September 14, 12-5pm*
Opening Reception: August 22, 6-8pm
Closing Party: September 14, 6-8pm
5/F, 30 Queen Street
Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
*The exhibition is by appointment only. Please contact us at email@example.com at least 48 hours prior to desired viewing time.
Throughout recorded history, a definitive privilege of being in power has been the right to decide life and death. Modernity endowed the state with a new biopolitical mechanism to control an individual’s life and the living body, through the precarious conditions of the market. These allow only questionable consideration of the ethical implications of emotional justice, which nevertheless still functions within a claimed moral paradigm.
The 1960s saw instances of environmental pollution in Japan, spreading fatal diseases such as the Itai-itai disease and Yokkaichi asthma among vulnerable citizens in rural regions. While lengthy scientific investigations were undertaken to determine the causes, the factory’s mishandling of industrial waste continued, and this malaise was simultaneously obfuscated by colluding local politicians, bureaucrats and business owners, sacrificing people’s health for corporate profits. Amid the victims’ suffering and unheard voices, a small collective of Buddhist monks and followers assembled a protest group that traveled across the country to disputed industrial complexes. They formed a procession, drumming and chanting sutra, and performed Abhichara rites—in order to curse factory owners to death.
Traversing art, politics, and religion—an execution through tantric practices of esoteric Buddhism informed by avant-garde activism, Jusatsu Kito Sodan (1970-unknown) fought for spiritual and physical retaliation on behalf of the dead, and exposed the conditions of moral and emotional injustice in their newly constituted society. The group challenged industrialists with counter-murder attempts, legally considered as an “impossible crime” that could not be prosecuted in their judiciary system. These activities emerged from a critical position about the historical trajectories of their religious sects and the use of Tantric Buddhism for “spiritual protection” of the state since the 9th century, with the aim of returning power to the hands of those in need.
Curse Mantra: How to Kill Factory Owners gathers scarce materials of literature produced by member priests and documentary photographs by Mitsutoshi Hanaga (1933-99), who later became a monk after a transformative experience with the group. Accompanied by two essays, A Brief History of Curse Mantra and Democracy as a Farce (Figuring the CIA), the exhibition looks back in time to early examples of anti-corporate and anti-government activism, and questions the very belief—while expressing mistrust—in the effectiveness of modern progressive politics.
The exhibition is curated by Koichiro Osaka (Asakusa), who is currently a Curator-in-Residence at Para Site, in collaboration with Aoyama | Meguro, Tokyo, with generous support from Taro Hanaga. Special thanks to Jaime Marie Davis, Jiaru Wu, and all at Para Site, Hong Kong.
Mitsutoshi Hanaga (b. Tokyo, 1933-1999) is a photojournalist working at the intersection of art, politics and society, and a dedicated advocate of avant-garde arts and student activism since the 1960s until the 1980s. Hanaga’s photography has been published in widely circulated magazines such as Asahi Graph (1970) and LIFE (1964). It has garnered renewed attention in recent years as a vital documentation of exhibition and performance history, and has been exhibited at Pompidou Centre, Paris (1983), Asia Culture Center, Gwangju (2015), Tate Modern, London (2015), National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (2018), among many others.
Koichiro Osaka (b.1979) is a curator, writer and the founding director of Asakusa, a Tokyo-based art space for curatorial collaboration and practices. After studying human sciences at Waseda University, he moved to Bangkok (2001-2004) and then to London (2005-2012) to develop his skills in public policy and economics. His broad interests in humanities and social sciences led him to consider contemporary art as a means to foster critical thinking through generating interdisciplinary questions. He graduated from Central Saint Martins in art criticism and curation.