In a similar vein, think about “Japanese culture” and “the culture of Japan.”
The former presumes a pre-defined set of authentically “Japanese” behaviors, while the latter evokes an openness and a willingness to accept the reality of how people in Japan are actually behaving. I like to think those unconscious actions and customs in everyday life make up the actual “culture” of a country. But they are hard to measure.
Sadly, I sense that the kind of nationalism and aikokushin (love for one’s country) the government is trying to instill in children through school education is based on the former. It tries to teach a “Japanese culture” that ordinary citizens have long lost touch with.
This deprives children of the opportunity to see the powerful but hidden connections between themselves and their culture– in other words, to have ownership of their values and the empowerment to change that culture if need be.
To see it from the other side, if we just added a no (“of”) to the curriculum title, it might unleash so much more flexibility in the way we think about culture.
How could something make you feel so serene, meditative, peaceful–something that’s made of fluorescent tubes? Is there something about light that makes things look ethereal? I even remember sketching the works to see if there were any patterns. But they were all just a few types of ordinary fluorescent tubes put together. But they were beautiful.
I asked a staff member there, who told me that in fact, yes, they will expire someday in the future. According to what he’d heard, people who purchased the work received a couple of spare tubes, which I guess was part of the idea because they were mundane objects at the time. Now, ironically, those tubes are becoming harder to find. So a body of work that most likely raised questions about mass production is now something akin to a candle. It is literally burning away its finite resources, as long as it is being exhibited.
And so the works now possess a unique quality of being static, yet finite. Unlike traditional paintings and sculptures. I found this to be an interesting example of how context changes the meaning of things.