Social Dive (International)

Why is the river laughing?

Michael Hornblow

*This project has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 infection that prevented the artist from coming to Japan.

<Tokyo Biennale 2020 SOCIAL DIVE Artist-in-Residence Projects>

“Why is the river laughing?”…takes a SOCIAL DIVE into Tokyo by diving into the river itself. Artist-researcher, Michael Hornblow, from New Zealand, will lead a series of workshops and creative actions for public participation, to retrace Tokyo’s river systems as a way of imagining alternate histories and futures. The Kanda, Nihonbashi and Sumida rivers are a key focus, for the way they perform a spiraling movement through the moat of the Imperial Palace – a central feature of the city plan going back to when river systems helped define the Edo-period as “a floating world”. The project is a dive into history, drawing out the man-made construction of Tokyo’s rivers as they reflect the changing course of political and natural forces. It is also a dive into the social and urban fabric of today. Working in teams, participants will roll river water through the streets inside a swarm of old tires, which act as a conceptual apparatus for revealing where roads and flyovers obscure the historical and ecological importance of local tributaries. The construction of nature has always defined Tokyo’s river systems, and now we find ourselves at a convergence – what we make of ourselves, and other beings.

(As of February 2021)

1: “O’megaVille” 2014, Glasshouse Gallery (New York, USA), Photo by Michael Hornblow
2: “5FootWay” 2014, Asialink performing arts residency (Yogyakarta, Indonesia), Video still by Michael Hornblow
3: “Apalagi Archipelago” 2014, Arts Island Festival (Bali/Java, Indonesia), Photo by Ashley McLellan


Michael Hornblow

Michael Hornblow is a multidisciplinary artist from New Zealand, currently living in Bangkok where he is Artistic Director of Buffalo Field, a community-based festival in the old town area of Nang Loeng. Michael’s background includes architecture and design, video making, public art, dance, live art and installation. He is especially interested in how social practice meets cross-cultural collaboration and community development, through embodied, ecological and relational ways of working. Michael is also an Adjunct Senior Lecturer in Architecture and Design at the University of Tasmania, and before that spent two years as a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Concordia University in Montreal, after completing his PhD in Architecture at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Previous art presentations include Melbourne Festival, the International Symposium on Electronic Art (Sydney, Vancouver, Hong Kong), and a long history of creative work in Asia, including Melaka Festival (Malaysia), residencies in Indonesia with Asialink and the Australia Indonesia Institute, and dance training with choreographers in Japan (Min Tanaka, Kazuo Ohno, Ko Murobushi).

Photo by Kinga Mi