SFPC in Yamaguchi Day 1

Sep 6 · 7 min read

by Mel Huang, designer and educator, Student of SFPC Summer 2019 in Yamaguchi

Hazy and in a state of daze, I’m not too sure if I’m awake or dreaming.

It’s my first time in Japan and I have just stepped off the ferry from Naoshima, one of Japan’s art islands, completely entranced by both the art, locals and island itself.

I make my way via several trains to complete my journey to Yamaguchi from Melbourne, Australia. In total, it’s taken me 21 hours of planes, trains and a lot of great food to get here.

Today is day one

I’m nervous and excited. I’m eating random fish cakes in broth from 7/11 to calm myself as I walk into Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media[YCAM], trying to be as normal and still as possible as to not alarm anyone with any of my over-the-top, frantic body movements.

I am an interactive designer and educator in the arts and culture sectors and founder of Technecolour, an organization providing technical workshops for creative practitioners. I have been following the School of Poetic Computation both as a prospective student but also as an inspirational model for both artist-led communities and the redefinition of what education is.

So instead of recounting the minutes of the first day, I thought I would share my moments of inspiration and my reflections on them.

SFPC Cofounder Taeyoon Choi introducing SFPC.

Culture as a human right

Taeyoon opened with this idea of Cultural Rights. You can read more about it here. This is the idea about fostering a world where access to culture is considered a human right and by being artists, we position ourselves as cultural ambassadors.

For me, this concept is wildly relevant not only to this trip but the city that I am from. My access to inspiration, ideas and most of all opportunities is something I hold dearly and is fundamentally tied to my identity. It wasn’t until I started researching into cultural accessibility that I felt the gravity of this. Whilst looking at projects which provide captioning for a hearing-impaired audience or providing audible experiences of culture to the vision-impaired, I began to see how few options these communities had to access not only culture but investigate and indulge in their personal cultural interests. The simple act of walking into an art gallery is no longer as straight forward.

So let’s start to contribute, grain by grain, in our own ways as cultural ambassadors. Taeyoon, I’m on board!

Setting purpose

So how do we build this community of cultural ambassadors?

  • Ask questions to each other
  • Learn and share openly, generously
  • Recognize the transformation within and around you
  • Build a community of practitioners
  • Consider technology as a gift

This really set the tone for the day and perhaps the week. I appreciated this transparency of focus not only for us as individuals but for us, as a collective, to be deliberate about the community we’re building in the present.

Students in conversation at YCAM.

Setting goals

Later in the day, Lauren asked us to set our goals and questions we wanted to explore during the week — with the caveat, of course, that a week isn’t a huge amount of time, so they could be longer-term questions and goals we may have.

We broke off into groups of 3 or 4 and spoke openly about the things we were thinking about and exploring. I really enjoyed this process and only wish we had more time to dive deeper. It became clear that as a group we’re all experiencing something similar.

SFPC organizer Lauren Gardner leading an intention setting workshop.

Black Mountain College

Black Mountain College was an experimental college which was able to thrive and exist outside the constraints of what the education system was dictating. They were able to be malleable and teach alongside the students focusing on the type of arts education they wanted to create. Their interdisciplinary approach to learning and prioritization of art-making and creation I find really inspiring.

Whether or not you’re a teacher, I think it’s an interesting view to take on the world around you. To be questioning the constraints that you feel are external to yourself and discover alternative pathways to the world you desire.

There are two key highlights here that inspire me:

  1. The student at the centre of education and the teachers as practitioners themselves.

That the student, rather than the curriculum, is the proper centre….

That a faculty… to be measured by what they do with what they know…

– Black Mountain College, Prospectus, 1952

2. The next is the idea of “prioritizing art-making as a necessary component of education” and highlighting the process of creation is as important as the creation itself.

“Art work deals with the problem of a piece of art, but more, it teaches the process of all creating, the shaping out of the shapeless. We learn from it that no picture exists before is done, no form before it is shaped.”

– Anni Albers. We Need the Crafts for their Contact with Materials, Design, 46:4. December 12, 1944

And it’s really worth noting here the special and significant qualities that are shared amongst SFPC and YCAM. In the brief time we have had together, it is already clear that these sentiments live between both the two faculties and students themselves.

Family dinners

The way to my heart is food, and so this is definitely my vibe. The week-long intensive include some family dinner nights where we share a meal, share our stories and share the cleanup.

“For is there any practice less selfish, any labor less alienated, any time less wasted, than preparing something delicious and nourishing for people you love?”

― Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

For me, most things can be fixed with food. And most things can be forgotten when tenderly cooking a meal for someone I love.

Student Yuki Horikawa and Hind Al Saad in conversation.

Technology as a gift

The week will be centered around the theme of “technology as a gift”.

“My understanding of ‘Technology as a gift’ is an invitation to imagine a radically different type of technology from the conventional, Capitalist understanding of technology. Your understanding of ‘Technology as a gift’ is up for you to define.”

– Taeyoon Choi, Technology as a gift

As part of this we were asked to share, “What is the best gift you ever got and why?”, which included both some funny and heartwarming tales about our lives.

A gift that gives you a new form of expression

When you receive a gift that sparks that first bit of curiosity in what becomes a new hobby and pursuit.

  • A knitted blanket turned into a love of knitting
  • A camera turned into a love of photography
  • A laptop and/or computer that turns into an opportunity

A gift that symbolizes that you’ve made a true connection

When you receive a gift from a friend or partner where you realize this person will be an important person in your life.

  • A handcrafted gift we’ve received that’s customized for us
  • A cookie from a friend’s home town
  • A surprise gift of goodwill from a group of friends

A gift of opportunity

When you receive the gift of someone investing their time to help you or allowing you the time and space to take a chance on yourself.

  • A job recommendation or introduction from someone you know
  • The generosity that a loved one shows us to give us the time to chase what’s important to us
  • A stranger’s smile and/or appreciation for your work
  • The traits we inherit from our parents that make us the people we are today like tenacity or endless curiosity

A gift we probably all feel

The gift of this time together.

  • The time we have here, together
  • The SFPC curriculum and SFPC/YCAM faculty’s time and energy

And last but not least, the gift of pets

Which deserves it’s own line but is fairly self-explanatory. Mainly cats for us today 🐈 but I also have a dog so I’ll sneak him in there too 🐕

It was really wonderful to hear stories about what true interdisciplinary collaboration with multidisciplinary creative practitioners and artists looks like across organizations, projects and even my peers in the room.

I’m really hoping to learn more about the research that YCAM do, the SFPC curriculum and approaches to teaching and learning about the projects and processes of my peers.

This posting was published by Taeyoon Choi.

Photo: Naoki Takehisa
Courtesy of Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media [YCAM]


Written by


School for Poetic Computation—since Fall 2013.



School for poetic computation

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