Kodama Kanazawa is a curator of contemporary art, currently based in Shanghai, China. After working for 12 years in public art museums, she began working independently in 2013. From April 2017, she has also been working as senior deputy director of curatorial affairs at Towada Art Center, Aomori, Japan. Her interest lies in human being’s psychological transition in conjunction with the change of time, which also relates to her theme: How can we recognize invisible social structures that result in difficulties such as poverty, disparity or discrimination? In practice, her interest manifests in the topics of cultural imperialism in modern and contemporary Japan, globalisation and new-media art from the world, which have been expressed in over 40 exhibitions, both domestic and overseas, during her career.
Kanazawa originally read Japanese literature from the seventh century to the present. For her graduation thesis, she studied Natsume Soseki, a novelist who studied in London in the beginning of the twentieth century and after returning to Japan, wrote about the conflicts of Japanese in the modernisation period. Through her study of a novel by Soseki, she discussed the first wave of Western culture in Japan and the fluctuation of cultural identity due to such change. This experience made her strongly interested in cultural imperialism in Japan thereafter.
For her MA, she studied art history and theory at the Tokyo University of the Arts. In particular, she was interested in the ways in which people have accepted Western art after the modernisation period. She explored the history of art education, which enabled her to access people’s inner struggle regarding Western cultural values. For her master’s thesis, she specialised in Japanese manga, which has developed as a vernacular culture. In her doctoral course, she furthered her research and found that manga culture had been taboo in school education for a long time. She then tried to study the traces of cultural imperialism in the post-war period, by looking at streams of art education after the modernity.
In addition, the course she took in graduate school included training for artists, which contributed to her understanding of the aesthetic and practical side of her later curatorial practice.
As an assistant curator, the Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto, she joined the curatorial team for almost all exhibitions, including shows by Marina Abramovic, Ann Hamilton, Yayoi Kusama, and Tadanori Yokoo. She also curated shows by artists from the local community and exhibitions with specific themes from the museum collections. She made a great effort to promote contemporary art through over 300 gallery tours, over 150 events, and over 50 workshops. Having the experiences in working with internationally acclaimed artists as well as younger generation of artists, she continually revised her practice of providing interpretations to new expressions, which allowed her to deepen and broaden the scope into the workings of creativity in contemporary art.
At the Kawasaki City Museum, she worked as a curator of the manga section, curated shows on manga, and conducted acquisitions. She was also engaged in two exhibitions a year on an average, which included shows consisting of the museum collections, interdisciplinary exhibitions, contemporary art exhibitions, and exhibitions that included contemporary art and old works or works from different fields. Through her work in Kawasaki, she not only furthered her knowledge of Japanese manga culture from the seventeenth century to the present, but also experienced numerous collaborations between different fields such as moving images, new media arts, photographs, and contemporary art. This provided her a great opportunity to experience creativity from lots of different viewpoints, without becoming enclosed in a small box of fine art.
In 2013, she became independent and has curated exhibitions both in home and overseas.
She has published over 30 books of exhibition catalogues in her career.