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Project reexamines society through goats’ eyes

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Two goats stroll as if appreciating the art installation of sheets with images of goats on them in Toride, Ibaraki Prefecture, on Nov. 20. The artwork was displayed for an art festival held by students of Tokyo University of the Arts at the Toride Campus. The goats are kept on campus under the “Goat’s Eyes” project.

“Never judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes” goes an old saw. But what if the footwear was replaced with hooves?

A university arts program poses such a question in an attempt to spur creativity.

A project that aims to shift viewpoints entirely by imagining what society is like from a goat’s perspective is being conducted at the Toride Campus of Tokyo University of the Arts in Toride, Ibaraki Prefecture.

The purpose of the project, dubbed “Goat’s Eyes,” is to profoundly reexamine art and contemporary society.

The program was launched last year by university’s Prof. Tsuyoshi Ozawa in the Department of Intermedia Art of the Faculty of Fine Arts together with the Toride Art Project — a group of artists and local residents working to revitalize communities through artistic activities. The students and teachers at the school, among others, also participated.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A graduate student, center, paints the sky from a vantage point close to goats using paint containing goat excrement on Nov. 20. “It’s fascinating to create something using goat manure, which is considered unwanted, to make a painting that brings comfort to life,” the student said.

About 40 students and teachers and about 20 local residents take turns caring for two goats. The students are also tasked with creating art via the project.

One goat is Ehime, a female about 10 years old, and the other is Mugi, a 1-year-old female. The goats were brought to the campus in December 2020.

Why were goats chosen for the project?

“Goats and humans have a shared history, and we have coexisted for a long time. There are countries where people use goat manure as fuel for cooking, and some believe goats have therapeutic power,” Ozawa said. “I was inspired by the idea that if we have animals that are totally different from humans wander around in a dignified manner at this arts school campus, then something wonderful will surely happen.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A local volunteer, right, talks about goats on Nov. 21. The shelter where the goats reside won a student competition judged by the goats themselves. The shelter was chosen because the animals settled in it.

Ayae Kamiya, 24, is a first-year student in the graduate school of intermedia arts, in which she creates installations and films.

“My view of the world changed after I participated in this project,” she said. “For example, when I see leaves lying on the ground, I consider whether goats would like them. A goat’s point of view sprouted in my mind.”

Kamiya added: “Art has always been enhanced by considering novel perspectives that no one had thought of before. Trial and error efforts to interact with goats, which live an entirely different existence, could lead to the drive to overcome barriers and invent something.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prefired ceramics made of clay mixed with goat manure

The group held an art exhibition at a gallery at JR Toride Station in September. The title of the exhibition was “Goat’s eyes provide inspiration for art.”

Ozawa displayed photos of goats looking at the art he had made.

“Making the goats look at our work was as difficult as having it recognized by the public,” Ozawa said with a laugh.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A rock salt artwork that changes shape as it is licked by the goats.

Project members plan to create a “transparent arts center” with no walls or ceiling and with goats at its core. The framework will be based on the interest and curiosity instilled by living with goats. The goal is to bring together people of various generations and walks of life and see what happens.

By regarding goats as a means to bond with various kinds of people, members plan to study a next-generation community with goats at its center.