2021. 08

“masayume”– An Art Project Received to Great Acclaim

Special interview : Contemporary art team [mé]
From left, Hirofumi Masui (production manager), Haruka Kojin (artist), Kenji Minamigawa (director)


Interview and article: Moyo Urashima Photos: Katsumi Minamoto Translation: James Watt


On the July 16 and August,2021, an unimaginably Gigantic Face could be found floating in the skies above Tokyo. This was “masayume”, one of the art projects selected for Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13, (organized by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Arts Council Tokyo) and designed to use culture to revitalize the city in the summer of 2021. It was produced and curated by contemporary art team 目 [mé] .  For “masayume”, or “true dream”, the team collected images of the faces of real people from around the world and selected one to be transformed into this enormous, eye-catching floating head that inspired awe in all who witnessed it. Word spread quickly as it was discussed both on television and online.


We interviewed the three members of the contemporary art team [mé],  behind the project “masayume”, back in 2019, and we had the opportunity to talk to them again about the postponing of the festival due to the spread of COVID-19, and about how they feel now that the project has been brought to realization.

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目[mé], masayume, 2019-2021, Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13
Photo : KANEDA Kozo

Incorporating reactions from around the world


── How do you feel about the project finally getting off the ground after being delayed for a year?


Minamigawa When I saw that face floating up into the sky, for a brief moment, I thought it was a dream. But then I realized that it was just the beginning. The ”masayume” project isn’t just about raising a face up into the sky. It’s about looking at the various reactions to that floating face, and the emotional changes people feel when they see it, including ourselves.


We didn’t know how it would go that day, but it was a good experience to see how many people shared the project on social media and other places in real time. Conversely, word was spreading, but people share only brief comments on news and social media, so it was kind of a test of how people will communicate what we’re doing.




Kojin Even though I’m the one who made it, directly after I saw the face floating in the sky I thought, “That’s a real mystery.” It’s normally pretty weird to see a giant face in the sky. It took a lot of people three years of struggle to create this overwhelming mystery, and when you think about the chances that were taken to achieve it, it’s really moving.


I also think we picked the right face because it fit perfectly into the scenery of Tokyo. We held a public discussion of which face would be selected for the skies of Tokyo in what we called a “Face Meeting” in 2019, and one of the key points that came up was that we wanted a face that would seem like it was looking back at the people who saw it. I was really happy to see it floating there in the sky, and it really seemed to be looking back at me.



Masui The biggest thing for me was that I was really happy that we finally did it. I was really busy with the technical staff on the day of the project, but I had a moment to take a breath, and I saw the face right there up in the sky. It was like, ‘What is that?’ It really is full of mystery.

Selecting an individual’s face to float over Tokyo – why?



目[mé], masayume, 2019-2021, Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13
Photo:TSUSHIMA Takahiro



── Interviewer: You mentioned previously that the themes of the project were “private” and “public”. Can you explain that?


Minamigawa People consider a lot of things to be private. Some of the most private pieces of information we have are the face that most truly represents us, our dreams, that sort of thing. Dreams are probably the most private things we know, and some people think that nothing is more boring than another person’s dreams. We’ve taken just that kind of private information and suddenly thrust it into the middle of the Tokyo landscape, one of the most public places you can find. Right in the middle of all the trees and buildings and clouds you have this face of someone you don’t know. We wanted people to look at it and think of the relationship between private and public things. What does humanity co-exist with? This pandemic is like that too. We hope people will see it not as someone else’s fault, but as a situation that we all have to contribute to solving.


Kojin Like he said, the work comes from a dream I had when I was 14. We didn’t put any real restrictions on what the face had to look like, and we received entries from more than 1,000 people in Japan and other countries. We want people to think of it like this: anyone could send an entry, so maybe that face in the sky that so many people were seeing could be theirs. We wanted everyone to see it to think of it as their own. We wanted them to ask themselves what they felt when it looked back at them. We wanted them to think about their own existence, not as something that is already defined.


目[mé], masayume, 2019-2021, Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13
Photo : KANEDA Kozo



── Interviewer: Why did you choose to fly the head over Yoyogi and Sumida parks?


Minamigawa First, we selected spots where the city behind the face would be recognizable as Tokyo. There were plenty of places we could have flown it, but there are surprisingly few places where you get that typical Tokyo landscape. Choosing the location was pretty difficult.


Kojin We made the head black and white so it blends in with the city’s scenery. We were afraid that if we used color, it would have looked like something familiar like advertising or something. But we put a lot of work into the shading and particularly the shadows on the face to make sure it had a strong sense of presence and didn’t blend too much into the landscape. The black we used there is around the same shade of black you find in the surroundings, which kind of lets it get drawn in.


目[mé], masayume, 2019-2021, Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13
Photo:TSUSHIMA Takahiro



Masui The head is made of 1,000 parts, and the colors were made by combining pieces with light and dark shades of black, glossy sections, semi-glossy sections, etc. We started by researching ink companies, and we were looking for ink that was deep black. We then took the ink we discovered in that process to the companies that we were looking at to put the head together, and said, ‘So we have this ink…’. Most companies were reluctant to use materials and ink they had never used before, but one warmed up to the idea after we explained various things to them, and started offering their own opinions too.


It took a lot of trial and error to find the materials and print colors they needed to create the ideal face.


Questioning meaning in a constantly changing world


── Interviewer: The masayume project was originally meant for summer 2020 but it was postponed for a year due to COVID-19. Did that change any of your plans?



Masui We may have got an extra year for production, but it still didn’t give us any breathing room. The factory making the head shut down when the state of emergency was declared, and it took us a while to find the black ink and fabric.


The head is six or seven stories tall so to make it we needed ink that was as light as possible, but it couldn’t crack when the fabric stretched, and it had to be heat resistant, so that made it heavier. We had multiple fabricating companies and engineers working on technical balance and other processes, and we had to help them understand the purpose of the artwork as well, so the fabrication ended up being very difficult.





目[mé], masayume, 2019-2021, Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13
Photo:TSUSHIMA Takahiro

Minamigawa COVID-19 changed the situation a lot. After it was postponed, we didn’t think we should just do the project as originally planned. We took the 2020 plan and thought about how to rework it to match the current situation.
This year’s Olympics and Paralympics were completely different from the Olympics in 1964. After Tokyo, they will move to cities that have held the Olympics in the past, Paris and then Los Angeles. The games used to serve as a symbol of urban development, but that’s different now. So we wanted to take this chance and use the artwork to ask the essential question of why humanity gathers like this every four years, and to create perspective through it. It’s no different in a pandemic. We are asking why we have to face this situation. I think it’s necessary to use your imagination to understand the world from a new perspective.



Kojin I want people to confront this mystery because of the difficult situation we’re in right now. I think that hope can come from being able to forget the real world for even just a moment, and to be released from the shackles of reason and rationality. Suddenly seeing something like this in the skies of Tokyo is like seeing a miracle. Everyone can see that even in these tough times people are doing things like this. I thought this when I saw that dream back in middle school, but I hope people will see this and realize that there are places like this, places that will do such unimaginable things.


目[mé], masayume, 2019-2021, Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13
Photo:ADACHI Yasuhiro



── Interviewer: What are you planning for the future, both for masayume and [mé]?


Minamigawa I think it would be interesting to make this a regular event, where we select a face from around the world every four years in time for the Olympics and Paralympics, and then have it float in the skies above the host city.


Masui This piece had more restrictions and conditions than anything we’ve done before what with COVID-19 and the weather and locations. But the experience of cooperating with so many people to create it was really valuable, and I think it is important that we managed to succeed in bringing it to realization in this way. It’s possible that future works will be made in even more difficult conditions, but I hope we manage to create something good in the process.


Kojin We’ve made a lot of different pieces in the past, but nothing that has allowed us to pose a question to the general public, to humanity, in the same way masayume has done. For me this was a new experience, and one that I will really treasure. There were many things that I just can’t emotionally assimilate, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop thinking about it.


At the atelier in Kitamoto, Saitama



  • Artist Haruka Kojin, director Kenji Minamigawa, and production manager Hirofumi Masui stand at the heart of this contemporary art team. They work together to create their work through harnessing the individual technical skills and aptitude of each member, emphasizing the importance of display conditions – including exhibition space and audience – but without relying too much on any particular method or artistic genre. The work they create aims to connect the infinite uncertainties of the real world with people’s true feelings. The group has taken part in many art festivals around Japan, and they had their first team exhibition – titled [mé] Obviously, no one can make heads nor tails – was held in 2019 at the Chiba City Museum of Art. In July and August 2021, their project masayume was chosen to be a part of Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13 – an event comprised of artworks selected by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Arts Council Tokyo – after a public call for proposals and a one-year postponement due to the spread of COVID-19.



    【About Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13】
    Organized by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Arts Council Tokyo, Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13 was planned as the core of Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL, and it called for a wide range of innovative and creative projects, projects in which as many people as possible could participate. From a total of 2,436 proposals from around the world, 13 were selected, and they were collectively named Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13.

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