004 Guest artists I wasn’t told about

It was on September 28, 2015 that the Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games held a press conference and revealed the fact that indeed, special requests to participate in the competition had been sent out to eight designers, on September 9, 2014. It was through this press conference that I first learned of the existence of guest artists (guest designers). As a member of the panel of judges, I was flabbergasted by the revelation; how could a key piece of information, something integral to the judging process, have been kept from us?

Three days after the press conference of September 28, a weekly magazine came out on October 1, with a detailed report—covering far specific grounds compared to what was released by the Organizing Committee. The article shed light on new evidence that only members of the Organizing Committee and select individuals on the judging panel (Mr. Kazumasa Nagai and Mr. Takuma Takasaki, who sent out the letters of invitation to the guest artists) could have known.

I looked up past cases and found precedents. I learned about competitions that were held with invitation-only guest artists. I could see that the practice of inviting guest artists is a valid process. Then why conceal the fact and not make it public?

I am not taking issue with the practice of guest artists itself. I feel that the biggest problem at hand is: some judges on the panel, in addition to the Organizing Committee, were privy to the existence of guest artists, while the fact was not disclosed to other judges, including me. Similarly, when we look at the entrants to the competition, 96 entrants, not counting the eight guest artists, were unaware of the group of invitees. They were not told. That creates a problem. We are saying inviting guest artists is a legitimate practice, so it was just a matter of disclosing the information beforehand. By keeping things under the wraps the Organizing Committee created the current situation, open to suspicion. I feel that the Organizing Committee brought the unfortunate situation on itself.

Let me digress a little from the main topic. In the report released by the Organizing Committee on September 28, 2015, there was no mention of the fact that except for a select few judges, the panel of judges were kept in the dark about the guest artists. There was no explanation as to who made the guest artist selections. Furthermore, there was nothing about how the information was never disclosed to entrants other than the guest artists. None of the self-evident, crucial information was included in the report. I was one of the parties concerned, yet even I couldn’t follow the report’s logic. It was not only this report that caused a sense of unease in me. Even before this, I was hit by a similar feeling, at the press conferences held on August 28 and September 1. The disillusionment was one of the reasons that prompted me to start this blog.

At the meeting with the Organization Committee official, which was held on September 3, 2014, while listening to the screening guidelines, I vaguely remember something was mentioned about guest artists—but nothing more. There was no explanation as to guest artists per se; no mention of numbers, no names, nothing specific. Nothing was ever said about guest artists, ever since, including the day we gathered to make the selection for the competition. I heard nothing.

If we are to maintain that the judging was conducted in a fair and equitable manner, we must be able to say that all the judges on the panel and all competition entrants were on the same page, sharing the same information regarding the screening process. Yet in reality, there were two groups among the judges; one that knew about guest artists, and another that did not. There were two groups among the entrants; one that was well aware of guest artists and another that was not. Now that these facts have come to light it can surely be said that the premise of fairness has been shattered.

After I became aware of the existence of guest artists through the press conference held on September 28, I could finally make the connection. The realization triggered a certain memory—an incident that took place during the judging. It happened on the second day of the judging. Things were warming up. Judges were trying to keep their focus on the submissions. The atmosphere in the room was getting intense. That is when I heard an Organizing Committee official utter some words that sounded like, “Shouldn’t we keep this? It’s a submission from one of the guest artists.” At that time, I was not aware that there were any guest artists. And the official’s words weren’t meant for my ears. I did not pursue the matter further. But now, the memory has come back. I remember the mysterious words. And I have made the connection. I finally understood the meaning behind those words. All submissions made by guest artists had to proceed to a certain stage, regardless of what points they earned. Could that have been one of the rules agreed upon—by the inner set?

Keiko Hirano

Keiko Hirano:
Designer/Visioner, Executive Director of Communication Design Laboratory
Hirano served on the panel that chose the official emblem for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, which was ultimately withdrawn.