The Educational System of An Empire

The primary concern of this work is to examine how people today receive and interpret the “facts” and the edited historical memories presented by documentary resources like film archives, and in what ways they might challenge or resist these “facts.”
The work intersperses archival footage with new footage filmed by Fujii himself. The archival footage is excerpted from The Educational System of Japan, an instructional film produced by the Provost Ma rshal Ge neral of the War Department of the United States for use in the Civil Affairs Training Schools that were set up across the country for the purpose of teaching about the societies and languages of enemy countries. The visual material in the film was drawn from segments on education that appeared in numerous Japanese reference films. Re-edited to fit the agenda of the US military, the footage was combined with voiceover narration to show how the Empire of Japan implemented a program to Japanize its subjects in accordance with national policy – not only in schools but also in the realm of everyday life. On the other hand, Fujii’s footage was shot in 2015 during his participation in the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) Residency program, where he organized a workshop with Korean students about memories of war. The students were shown archival footage of historical incidents, and then asked by Fujii to act out what they had seen and communicate it to peers who had not viewed the footage.
Questions about who holds and exercises authority, and how to record what happens, intersect and become entangled in complex ways across multiple layers of the work, from the arbitrariness of the edited footage to the artist’s instructions to the students in the workshop and the physical discomfort of those who are made to explain and reenact the torture scenes they had been shown. This condition of intersection and entanglement in turn can be said to reflect the tensions that exist between different nations, the asymmetrical relations between filmmaker and subject, and issues of mutual trust between individuals that transcend nationality.