Makoto Fujimura – Culture Care

From Volume 1, Issue 6, 2017


EOF: Thank you so much for stopping and taking the time to talk to us about your new

book, Culture Care, Reconnecting with Beauty for our Common Life. I have just finished

the book. The title speaks for itself; it is about taking care of our culture and passing it

on from generation to generation. I loved the way you started off talking about three “Gs”

to discuss generative thinking. Maybe you could just start off defining those for the audience.


FUJIMURA: Absolutely. Culture care is an easy concept; it is to move away from the culture wars metaphor

and see culture as an ecosystem rather than a territory to be fought over. These three G’s are very

practical ways of reminding ourselves to live in the abundance rather than scarcity. It is hard to do as every

day we face hurdles. We tend to be more driven by our need to survive in this Darwinian way of living.

The three G’s are: Genesis moments, creating genesis moments; and Generosity; as well as

Generational thinking. I am an artist. I often think that what artists and musicians do well is to see

every moment as a new, fresh, genesis moment and we are able to create into the future that way. I

speak in the book about how all of us can do that. We are all created to be creative and we have the

capacity to observe and see something new in every situation, even in the harsh realities of what

we go through. Added to that is that I challenge artist types to be generous to society rather than being seen as this

egotistical, self-obsessive group of people. We can take the lead in sharing what we observe with the

world as a way of compassion and empathy, which artists actually have a high capacity for empathy.

That is what makes us great artists. We can intuit what other people are feeling or what we are seeing

in tangible form. I have been encouraging artists to see themselves as leaders in generosity and

compassion. They don’t have to be so by speaking or standing up in front of people. They can lead

by paying attention and being aware of what surrounds us.

Thirdly, is generational and I always think that cultural forms are passed down. It’s multigenerational,

sometimes creates master artists overnight but often times it takes several generations. I take

that to mean culture and the fact of what we do today in culture; if it is enduring at all and if it is

impactful at all, it would affect the next generation and beyond that and I would always talk about

culture as something that is spoken of in 500-year terms rather than five days, which we have gotten

so used to.


That is a beautiful concept. I have always felt visual artists are kind of the nonverbal philosophers

and you can tell how the culture is going by what they are doing with their

art, in the fringes. That is an awesome idea to turn that expression of what is happening

into being a leader and making things happen.


This is something that I have thought about; we have assumptions by ourselves and in society

about what artists can do or can’t do and this idea of an artist as a romantic genius, moody and not

very useful to society. It is not very helpful in capturing that even the most bohemian artists tend

to be able to affect culture and therefore they are leaders in society for certain journeys and I think

we need to recover that sense of participating in that, whether by enjoying art or by creating art.


As I was reading the book, another of many It is not very helpful in capturing that even the most 

bohemian artists tend to be able to affect culture and therefore they are leaders in

society … great moments was when I was reading your analogy on the industrial map of the Hudson

River; when they were developing that and then the culture that we are dealing with today.

Maybe you could share that analogy?


That analogy was taking a look at some of the history of the Hudson River, and of course the Hudson River

was very polluted in the 50’s and 60’s. One of the maps apparently was an industrial map that was from

the 50’s and painted the Hudson River completely black. That was supposed to be the positive influence

of the industrial revolution going well and that the river was used to such an extent that it is black and so

the idea, I suppose, was that every major river should be used to the extent that the Hudson was.

We shudder at that today, thinking “how could anyone think that?” But this is how fast shifts have taken

place and I argue that same kind of industrial pollution is happening in cultural rivers where we assume

that just because the industry is churning out artworks and music and so forth, that it is a good thing. Where

in many respects, artists are starving because they don’t have oxygen and they don’t have the kind of nurturing

environment to create enduring art. We end up becoming bottom feeders like catfish, gobbling up everything

in sight because we have to survive and so I try to encourage artists to swim upstream; to be like trout, very

discerning creatures that are very sensitive to the environment. They are beautiful, as well, and so that

analogy has helped me to see that just because we have been very successful in the bottom line thinking,

just because we have been busy in industrial ways — to commodify art— it is not necessarily producing

very good art; enduring art that can affect the culture at large. It is like the black river of culture has been damaged

and polluted over the years and we need to recover this sense of beauty that we have been given. A beautiful river

we need to recover, not just for the sake of artists, but also for the sake of culture at large.


Artists are very thoughtful individuals. I guess I should ask your opinion on what you feel is causing some of that;

is it because of the culture at large which has no civil discourse? Is it the way that they are being taught today?

What are the some of the reasons for that?


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