IE MVDM graduate Masaaki Hasegawa.

IE alumni are active in all sorts of areas after they complete their programs, and next month Japanese alumni Masaaki Hasegawa will be featured in an exhibit at the Bauhaus Center Tel Aviv. Given the IE School of Architecture and Design‘s ongoing activities to celebrate it’s 10th anniversary, and to highlight IE’s ongoing activities in Israel, we recently caught up with Masaaki to discuss the Bauhaus movement, his exhibit, and life as an entrepreneur after graduating from the Master in Visual and Digital Media (MVDM) at the IE School of Human Science and Technology.

Interview Transcript Featuring IE MVDM Alumni Masaaki Hasegawa (MH) and Joël McConnell (JM), IE’s Director for Europe and Central Asia.

JM: Bauhaus is often associated with a type of architecture, but it’s more than that no? What’s Bauhaus’ link to Israel in particular? What sources might you recommend for more information on the subject of Bauhaus?

MH: Bauhaus was a revolutionary school of art, architecture, and design established by Walter Gropius in Germany in early 1900’s. In Tel Aviv there are some 4000 Bauhaus-style buildings, and the district where many of these buildings are found is commonly referred to as the “White City”, which is registered as a UNESCO cultural heritage site. And, it’s worth mentioning that Tel Aviv has the biggest number of Bauhaus-style buildings of any city in the world. When it was established, Bauhaus was very unique as it aimed to connect art and craftsmanship (and industry generally). Bauhaus was perhaps the first formal school that offered a cross-disciplinary education that connected the artistic aspect with the practical perspective. Much like life today where activity has become more and more cross-border and cross-disciplinary, today’s most innovative companies now have founders who have a background in art, design, or other human-centered subjects, so I believe we still have much to learn from the Bauhaus movement, and much of the Bauhaus teachings are very much relevant to our lives today.

JM: I understand you have an exhibit coming up in January at Bauhaus Center Tel Aviv, can you tell me what you will be presenting? Any special pieces you’re particularly proud of? Do you consider yourself more designer or artist?

MH: The Bauhaus Center Tel Aviv and I share the same philosophy that art can connect people beyond borders and it is an important role that art plays in the 21st century. So this collaboration is a great chance for us to demonstrate that art can connect people. For this exhibition I created a special art installation on the windows of the Bauhaus Center Tel Aviv to remind people that “what we assume will last forever can disappear in a day” as this artwork on the window is erasable. Conceptually it’s similar to the fact that we know some day we’ll pass away or that we really should be more concerned about natural resource consumption, but in reality, we tend to not act on this conceptual understanding. I want to make people think and challenge them to take action. Bauhaus closed its doors in 1933 even though it was a revolutionary school with great professors like Kandinsky. So, through this exhibition we would like to provide people with an opportunity to rethink how we treat things in our life, and this art installation is a conceptual symbol of this revival of Bauhaus in Tel Aviv. Am I an artist or designer? I would say I’m an artist who practices design knowledge, to connect the those dots we hear so much about, to make ideas come to fruition.

JM: You spent time in Israel after you completed your Master degree at IE.  Can you tell me about your program experience, and how you chose to go to Israel after graduation? Is there a lot of connection between Japan and Israel?

MH: At IE, I took a Master in Visual and Digital Media. It was a perfect combination of creativity and entrepreneurship, as IE has its origin as a business school. What IE offered me was an environment in which you can openly discuss with people with completely different backgrounds, values, and cultures. Also, throughout the program, the faculty and school drove me to explore my curiosity and my personal ventures. This experience helped me cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset and confidence on starting something new. After obtaining the degree, I started working in a software company in Tel Aviv as a technology evangelist because I wanted to put my newly acquired entrepreneurial mindset into practice. Today lots of Japanese companies visit Israel to learn Israeli approaches to innovation. When I moved to Israel, few people in Japan spoke about Israel or saw it as a key trading partner, and it was truly challenging for me to build business links between both countries. However, thanks to my experience in Israel, I learned a lot about the importance and potential upside of being the first to seize a new opportunity. I learned that you have to see beyond the impossibility of making something important happen, and then focus on taking actions to reach your objectives.

JM: You’re a bit of an entrepreneur as I understand it, but you’ve held positions at Daiwa Security and Thermo Fischer, acted as Chief Evangelist at EKO, and have been a professional mixed martial arts athlete. What have been the major milestones in your professional and academic career to date, and why go the Entrepreneurship route?

MH: It’s been an exciting personal journey, one where I followed my curiosity and explored new possibilities. It’s a bit like the concept of science in that I simply want to see whether my ideas can work or not, and it really excites me to keep trying new and different things. In general, I love to challenge accepted beliefs and ways of doing things. I believe that my role in society is to demonstrate that everybody can be creative and we all have the potential to make our ideas come to fruition. I think “entrepreneur” is not a job title nor way of being, but should be a mindset or simply your attitude towards life. I just don’t want to look back and feel like I didn’t try out all the ideas I was passionate about.

JM: What were the top 3 most memorable part of your master degree experience at IE, and how are you keeping in contact as an alumni?

MH: One of my most memorable experiences at IE was my final project, which I called the “Art Bible”.  It was a mixture of medieval art (painting), music (Gregorian chant), and literature (religious texts). Spain has a number of great museums like the Museo Nacional del Prado and lots of magnificent places of worship, and living in Spain really provided a lot of inspiration for the project. My classmates came from different religious background and faiths, and they supported my idea and gave me lots of insights for the project. It was truly an inspiring experience for me that we were able to talk and discuss so openly on topics such as nationality, religion, gender, and language – among others. Another second experience that was quite memorable for me was when I organized an event as the President of the IE Communication Club that featured Francisco Polo, then Country Manager of He started his presentation with his personal story and the challenges he faced, and more importantly, his journey as an entrepreneur. Today it’s not unusual to talk about LGBT inclusion policies and entrepreneurship in business, but it was early 2013, and 5 years ago it wasn’t so common to have such a frank discussion – especially from the perspective of Japanese business culture. The students who joined the event were able to have a truly open discussion, share lots of great ideas, and discuss personal matters, and people left absolutely inspired. Given a conservative business culture in Japan, this event was a eye-opening experience for me, one that truly showcased IE’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. A final experience I might note was when I organized an event that brought Guy Kawasaki to our Madrid campus, where we were able to have an up close and interactive session with this renowned speaker right here at IE.

Masaaki’s exhibit “Existence” at the Bauhaus Center Tel Aviv will take place on January 4th, 2018 and guests can attend from 18h00 onward. The Center is located at 77 Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv, Israel. Learn more about the Center on their web site here.

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