Tuesday, December 22, 2009

2009 in short

In 2009 Japan museums held several memorable exhibition. In Ueno Royal Museum 'Neoteny Japan - Takahashi Collection' brought together works owned by private collector Ryutaro Takahashi. Exhibition defined Japanese contemporary art in terms of neoteny - the retention of cute and juvenile characteristics in adult species. The Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography presented vividly colored portraits by Venice Biennale representative Miwa Yanagi while Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, run by renowned curator Yuko Hasegawa, held '+/- [the infinite between 0 and 1]' of Ryoji Ikeda's acclaimed digital sound installation. Established by collector Tashio Hara, the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art celebrated its 30th anniversary with 'Winter Garden: The Exploration of Micropop Imagination in Contemporary Japanese Art', a group show curated by art critic Midori Matsui that brought together young Japanese artists whose work exhibits a postmodern pop aesthetics.

Lyota Yagi, vinyl, 2006, installation
At yet another privately run museum Watari Museum of Contemporary Art (Watari-um), multimedia artist Shimabuku presented recent works. Taka Ishii Gallery displayed illuminated installations by Yukinori Maeda while neighboring ShugoArts held solo exhibition of black-and-white portratits by photographer Kazuna Taguchi followed by exhibition of Tomoko Yoneda's photographs relating to Bangladesh's independence from West Pakistan in 1971. Hiromiyoshii held solo exhibition of video artist Hiroharu Mori and snapshot photographer Hiromix. Radi-um von Roentgenwerke, run by veteran dealer Tsutomu Ikeuchi, exhibited Hideyuki Sawayanagi's portraits made of perforated metal sheets. and Taro Nasu presented an installation of botanical-themed works by artist-architect Jun Aoki. Gallery Koyanagi exhibited new animated videos by Tabaimo and photograps of Hiroshi Sugimoto who won the Japan Art Association's Praemium Imperiale award. Other notable spaces like Mizuma Art Gallery presented embroidery works by Satoru Aoyama. Ota Fine Arts held a solo show of guerilla multimedia artist Tsuyoshi Ozawa while blue-chip SCAI The Bathhouse presented new works by sci-fi conceptualist Mariko Mori.

Mariko Mori, Flat Stone, 2007, installation
At Arataniurano, Tatsu Nishi installed a slanting ceiling that forced viewers to the outer edge of the gallery's space. Another young up-and-coming gallery, Mujin-to Production featured the irreverent artist group Chim↑Pom. This year the group responded to cancellation of their show at Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art in 2008 after they wrote the word pika (flash) in white smoke in the sky over the Hiroshima city publishing a compilation of essays by critics and curators addressing the controversy. Tokyo metropolitan government funded Tokyo Wonder Site (TWS) presented an eye-catching installation of incinerated trash pouring down from the upper floor by Shinjin Ohmaki, who won Best Young Artist Award at ShContemporary Art Fair.

In Tokyo's neighboring metropolis Yokohama, the Yokohama Museum of Art held major exhibition for Teppei Kaneuji's multicolored plastic sculptures. North of the capital, 21st Century useum of Contemporary art Kanazawa held solo show of veteran artist Tadanori Yokoo. In Hiroshima, the Daiwa Press Viewing Room, a large showroom run by collector Tatsumi Sato, displayed sculpturally arranged photographs by Yuki Kimura while on the island of Naoshima in the Seto Inland Sea, a public bathhouse designed by Shinro Othake opened to the public.

Cities outside Tokyo hosted an increasing number of regional biennales and festivals: Yokohama: 'CREAM - International Festival for Arts and Media', Kyushu: Kitakyushu Biennale titled 'Migrants, Immigrants, emigrants, refugees, Exiles, Expatriates and Others' and presenting new media works by artists from local alternative space Gallery SOAP, Fukuoka: Fukuoka Asian Triennale and Nigata: Echigo-Tsumari Triennial.

photos: Mujin-to Production, SCAI The Bathhouse
source: after Ashley Rawlings, ArtAsiaPacific, Almanac 2010

Thursday, November 19, 2009

project room: WHO

It's very rare to find a book on Japanese contemporary art in English this is why when I learnt about WHO I was overjoyed. Especially that it features Hara Takafumi whom I always wanted to mention here.
WHO is the title of the art book series featuring contemporary Japanese artists. In easy-to-follow form of an interview it restrains from using art terms and besides the art works also presents artists' daily life as a part of their extraordinary perception of the world. The first issue is dedicated to Hara Pink Window Project which he has been running in various places including Japan, Germany, Singapore and Brazil. In each of them artist picks up a building and research on its history which servived in the memories of the locals to finally exhibit it in the windows of the building. Here is a small excerpt of the interview with Hara which was made by Roger McDonald, independent curator and founding member of Arts Initiative Tokyo.

RM: Why did you start the project?
HT: [...] I wanted to go out into real world. When I showed my works at gallery spaces, I could construct my world but only relate to people who came [to the gallery] and that's all. I had the need to relate myself with our society much closely and get out of the art world [...]

RM: Is that the first time for you to use windows as medium?
HT: No. I had an exhibition at a museum in Chiba in 1998. It was an installation work, and I had to cover all windows to darken the room. If I didn't do this exhibition, I might never done the projects using windows [...]

RM: What does it mean to combine other's words within your work?
HT: I think words are expression tools that everyone has [...]. Yet, words are in its nature in flux and disappear, so I have the feeling that I would like to keep them.

RM: There are always illustations with the words.
HT: [...] For me it looks like characters in fairy tale. [...] Like Aesopus Fables. They are so realistic in original version. [Althought] over the time, through editing, simplifying and replacing they have changed still when we read them, even if they're amusing, we are sure of some horror in them [...]. I like this effect and would like to get the similar feeling in my works.

all photos come from artist's web page

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Restaurant Wild Cat House

I spent weekend in Echigo-Tsumari, where I went to see what's been left from the Art TriennaleWas it for the gloomy weather or the fact that we got lost few times trying to find art works spanning multipy venuse in whole Nigata prefecture but it seemed like a big kid has scattered its toys around and forgot to pick them up. Upon returned I read Roger McDonald review of Triennale and found out about its director - Fram Kitagawa - who essentially welcomes all levels and types of creativity not being so concerned about the curating aspects. Now at least I know that it wasn't just a gloomy day .. 
Mio ShiraiRestaurant Wild Cat House, installation, 2000
Nevertheless, I found some art works that appealed to me despite the rain. Amongst them was Mio Shirai installation Restaurant Wild Cat House, which was a set for his video that I saw at some other occasion. It is an adaptation of Restaurant of Many Orders written by Kenji Miyazawa in 1921. The story follows two Japanese men kin of Western fashion who stumble upon a strange restaurant serving Western food. And while blindly following instructions posted on doors they almost end up being eaten by the large Wild Cat. In Shirai's context, it's easy to understand that Western food represents Western culture and art. And those blindly following it end up swallowed by it and never return to their oryginal selves. 
Mio Shirai, Restaurant Wild Cat House, installation, 2000

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

exhibition: CREAM

One of the most memorable piece of Yokohama International Media Festival CREAM was that of Lieko Shiga who showed a ten minute carefully edited slide sequence of still photographs. The fast-paced, jerky editing and monotone noise soundtrack created a mood of a horror.

Leiko Shiga, from CANARY series, 2007, c-print.

photo: Leiko Shiga

Read more: Roger McDonald review Lieko Shiga here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

film: Emperor Tomato Ketchup

Japan emerged from the catastrophe of World War II as one of the most pragmatic and materialist societies in the world, and amidst this consensus Emperor Tomato Ketchuperupted deliriously, along with a string of acts of violent political contestation by leftist and nationalist factions - hijackings, bank robberies and an attempted coup d'├ętat-cumpublic suicide - that were upending Japan's post-War ideology of parliamentary democracy, domestic peace and economic expansion. The film depicts the anarchic scenario of children taking over, told through a series of burlesque theatrical tableaux and a collage of voiceover and found audio documents. The sheer sensationalism of the political exploits, much like the parody depicted in Terayama's film, brought politics close to a visceral form of popular dramatics - an analogy Terayama explored in the text 'Preface to a Theory of City Streets' (1976), in which he wrote: 'Theatres are neither buildings nor facilities. They are ideological "places" in which dramatic encounters are created. Any place can become a theatre, and any theatre is merely a part of the scenery of everyday life until a drama is created there.' Continue reading.

Terayama Shuji has immense cultural standing in Japan. He was an acclaimed poet, playwright, film-maker, essayist and photographer, whose transgrassive themes gained him notoriety. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

project room: Koizumi Meiro

Meiro Koizumi, Defect in Vision, 2011, two-channel HD video installation, 12min.
Few years later in 2013 I see Meiro Koizumi works including the one described below in MoMA NY. Working in video and performance, until now Meiro  has built a compelling body of work that deals with power dynamics on scales from the familial to the national, and examines questions of political and psychological control. Implicating himself, his performers, and the viewer through choreographed emotional manipulations, Koizumi creates works that straddle the uncomfortable and indefinable line between cruelty and comedy. His first solo museum presentation in the United States, Projects 99 includes a selection of earlier projects, as well as Defect in Vision (2011), Meiro’s most ambitious and accomplished project to date. Probing the idea of blindness—both philosophical and physical—the piece is projected on two sides of a single screen, preventing the viewer from taking in both views at once. The action follows two performers who repeatedly enact a domestic scene set during World War II. While staged in the historical past, the scene’s portent of impending catastrophe has taken on a new relevance following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, in a work that is incisive, thought-provoking, and visually lush.

Upon my visit to Mori Art Museum I happened to come across Koizumi Meiro video installation My voice rich you (2009), which is a part of MAM project 009. It consists of two-part video, photography and a letter. In the first part of the video we see a man on the street talking to his mother on the phone. And although we don't hear the voice of the person on the other side of the line we can easily fill in the gaps in the dialogue. In the second part we can hear both sides and it turns out that actually the man talks to some customer service operator as if the person was his mother. And what seemed to be so familiar is now inconvenient and amusing in a way. The video is accompanied with the letter to his deceased mother written by the same man and the authentic photo which makes the work very personal and easy to identify with before we realize that in fact it is a play with social structures and our feelings. Here's the interview with the artist who is now working on his new piece titled Kamikaze Dog based on monologues spoken by kamikaze pilot in WW2 movies.

Friday, October 23, 2009

exhibition: on trash

Since 2007, Shinji Omaki has been developing Garbage Project trying to find out what exactly is garbage. Following his visits at the waste landfill repository in Tokyo and Omori Shell Mound he now shows new installation works in TWS. And once again he transforms oridinary space into exraordinary where one can experiance realms of his creations. Continue reading.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

exhibition: detour

Showing@MOMA Design Shop, a traveling exhibition organized by Moleskine which just got to Tokyo. On display are some Moleskine notebooks designed and customized by artists working in different fields. Amongst them few Japanese Toyoo Ito, Kengo Kuma, Naomi Kawase, Naoto Fukasawa, Tadanori Yokoo, Kazunari Hattorii, Naoki Yoshimoto, Shintaro Miyake, Erina Matsuki and more. Visitors are welcomed to flip through displayed notebooks' pages.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

exhibition: ShContemporary09

This year edition of ShContemporary09 hosted a special exhibition (curated by Mami Kataoka) to showcase works by some of the most significant artist who emerged from Asia during the past two decades as well as some of the most promising emerging artists. Among Japanese were: Aiko Miyanaga, Teppei Kaneuji, Takahiro Iwasaki and Yuichi Higashionna. The first two were already mentioned at different occasions so here are few words about latter both working with everyday objects.
Takahiro Iwasaki, Bookshelf, 2008, installation
Iwasaki lyrically transforms the every day objects into vessels of fantasy. What may seem at the first glance a clutter of strings and found objects become a Lilliputian world arranged with great precision.
Iwasaki studied at Hiroshima City University and Edinburgh Collage of Art. In 2005 selected for Bloomberg New Contemporaries. He's been exhibiting is Japan (Roppongi Crossing 2007 Future Beats in Japanese Contemporary Art@ Mori Art Museum in Tokyo), Scotland, Germany and UK (Barbican). Currently his work Reflection model is on show at 10. Biennale de Lyon.
Yuichi Higashionna, Untitled (Chandelier IV), 2004, installation
Higashionna’s work is about exploring domestic kitsch. My work frequently incorporates common, everyday things. Many of these things are what we call fanshii in Japanese. Fanshii things are said to be odd, kitsch, girlish and tacky he says.

Higashionna graduated from Tama Art University in Tokyo (1978). His works were exhibited in Japan, South Korea (Pusan Biennale), U.S., Canada, France and Germany. In 2008 awarded Bombay Sapphire Prize (the world's biggest award for artists, designers and architects working with glass).

tofu sculpture

Tatzu Nishi, The Aureole of Tofu Buddha and Soy Sauce - The Land of Perfect Bliss, 2009, c-print

Buddhist altar made from tofu blocks fitted with the pump sprinkling soy sauce and all these sitting in the fridge. This is artist response to budget cuts on monumental art work which he's been working on. Tatzu Nishi is know for redeploying outdoor sculptures in seemingly everyday settings altering scale and context of these objects. And so a bronze Christe appears in the bedroom, Chinese pavillion changes into the hotel room and the street lamp lands in the gallery office. The Aureole of Tofu Buddha and Soy Sauce - The Land of Perfect Bliss is part of his show in Arataniurano gallery.

photo: tokyoartbeat

Friday, September 4, 2009

Japan game

Playing games has been an essential aspect of human cultural history since Antiquity. In Japan, the global leader in entertainment electronics, the merger of everyday life, hobbies and computer games has progresses with particular intensity.
From 8th September Ars Electronica hosts Japan Media Arts Festival, an annual event from Tokyo first time in Europe. It focus on entertainment aspect in Japanese media art and present award winning game works.
Every evening there will be some game tournaments.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

big in Japan

The Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius (CAC) presents Big in Japan, an exhibition featuring Yayoi Kusama, Paramodel, Hiraki Sawa and Go Watanabe.
The curators produced the exhibition as a set of four solo-projects. Each of theme is thought as a distinctive artistic world and aspires to present contemporary Japanese culture and art.

Paramodel, Paramodelic – Graffiti 2009

photo: courtesy the artist and Mori Yu Gallery

Hiraki Sawa, Hako, 2007, video installation

photo: courtesy the artist and Ota Fine Arts

Watanabe Go, "face ("portrait") -8", 2006, digital print

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

between abstraction and figuration

Tomoo Gokita, Escape into reality, pigment print on etching paper, 2008

Born in Tokyo in 1969. Gokita had his first exhibition at Tokyo's Parco Gallery in 2000, with releasing his remarkable book 'Lingerie Wrestling'. At that time he was mostly making drawings and experimenting with painting, which led to development of his freeform b&w images. In 2006, Gokita had a solo show at ATM gallery NY and in the following year at the Honor Fraser Gallery L.A. He also participated in group shows at Berlin’s Peres Projects, as well as New York’s Dietch Projects. His reviews appeared in the New York Times on two separate occasions which instantly acclaimed him international status. Additionally, Gokita’s works have been shown at the New York Armory Show, Miami’s Nada Art Fair and London’s Frieze Art Fair. In 2008, Gokita had another solo exhibition at Taka Ishii Gallery.
Read here about Ashley Rawlings visit to artist's studio.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

exhibition: Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial

One of Japan's biggest contemporary art events held in the Echigo-Tsumari region. Organized by Fram Kitagawa from Tokyo's Art Front Gallery, and supported by Soichiro Fukutake from Naoshima Fukutake Art Museum Foundation. This year an extra 200 works will join the over 150 permanent pieces already on display throughout this mountainous rural region.
Chiharu Shiota, Memory House, 2009
Mukaiyama Tomoko, Wasted, 2009
Artist is a pianist based in Netherlands. For the Triennial she prepared an installation using 10.000 pieces of silk clothing.
Hideaki Idetsuki, Connect with the forest, 2006
A ring 16 meters in diameter was placed at a height of five meters, supported by the trees in the Kikyouhara Forest. The artist attempts to find a relationship between nature and human beings.

Yukiki Kasahara, Haruna Miyamori, Rice Talk, 2003
The work is tatami mat made of optical fiber which transmits haiku using Morse code and thus combine old and modern way of communication.

photos: www.echigo-tsumari.jp

Monday, July 20, 2009

six-legged wolves 'n flying daggers

On 18th July Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery opened a large-scale retrospective of Japan 'most exciting' painter - Tomoko Konoike. The exhibition shows Konoike's best-know works featuring her signature characters like six-legged wolves, ball-like creature called mimio, one-leg girls in red sneakers and flying daggers as well as recent installations.

Tomoko Konoike, Untitled, acrilic, pencil, conte on canvas, 2006

Tomoko Konoike, Knifer life, 2000-2001

Tomoko Konoike, The planet is covered by silvery sleep, 2006

photo: Atsushi Nakamichi (Nacasa&Partners) for Mizuma Gallery

Tomoko Konoike,, Mimio-Odyssey, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

exhibition: neoteny

Ryuataro Takahashi with Hiroki Tashiro sculpture Entenka 

Neoteny Japan: Contemporary Artists after 1990s from Takahashi Collection is a traveling exhibition showing 80 works from private collection of Ryutaro Takahashi, a psychiatrist who began acquiring the artworks in early 90s. and who managed to collect over 1,500 pieces of contemporary Japanese art up to date. For comparison Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo owns collection of 4,000 works which covers a period four times as long and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 5,000 pieces. But it is about comparison as Dr. Takahashi has major works by just about every recognized Japanese artist.

However the exhibition seems to concentrate on infantilisation of Japanese society and art as the title suggest* and present childlike sensibility, otaku motifs, introversion and excess with few exceptions like Makoto Aida's A Picture of an Air Raid on New York City (War Picture Returns), already a contemporary classic and few other. Read more

* the term neoteny refers to retention of juvenile physical characteristics well into maturity and well describes the recent infantilisation of Japanese society.

project room: Noriko Yamaguchi

Imaginary character created by Noriko Yamaguchi inspired by mobile phone phenomenon in Japan where cell phone serves as credit card, TV, MP3 player, GPS device, digital camera and PC. Keitai girl is a caricature of this non-personal way of communication. Her bodysuit covered with cell phones keypads suggests her craving for physical communication and sensation.

photo: www.mem-inc.jp/keitaigirl

Thursday, July 9, 2009

interview: Kukiko Nobori

On the occasion of her visit to Poland to represent  Japanese Pavilion during Alternative Biennale I talk to Kukiko Nobori, an independent researcher, about Japanese contemporary art and alternative art spaces.

MR: There's been this debate going on in ARTiT magazine about what is Japanese contemporary art.I would like to ask you the same question - what is Japanese contemporary art and how is it different? Is there anything like japanese-ness in art?
KN: As I have read articles and interviews, or talked with artists in Japan, it seems that some of them are rather conscious about the japanese-ness in their works, but some of them really do not care if they are from Japan and even reject to be categolize as such.
I think now it seems uncomfortable to claim the nationality in contemporary art.
MR: Coming to Japan one have an impression that there are top-notch Contemporary Art Centers/Museum at 'every corner' but not much alternative spaces. I was wondering why is it so, couldn't I just find them as they are so underground or there is no antiestablishment attitude whatsoever?KN: The structure of so-called Japanese contemporary art world is different from that in the West, so it is difficult to define what the 'alternatives' are.
However I think there are many activities organized by artists outside of 'establishments' and museums. The visibility of those activities are less than those in the major contemporary art centres or museums, but once you get involved, it's easy to follow, I think.
MR: It is said that exhibitions become media that reflect condition of contemporary society. What do the exhibitions made in Japan tell us about Japanese society?KN: It was an interesting phenomenon last year that an exhibition of Buddhist statues ('The National Treasure ASHURA and Masterpieces from Kohfukuji') in Tokyo got high attentions from wider audiences and it recorded 946,173 visitors. Some analyzes its big hit according to the way they showed ASHURA as a 'character'.

Who's hot in Japan right now?
KN: Tetsuya Umeda, Ilcommons (i'm not sure if he wants to be called an artist though), Yodogawa Technique

MR: 7 sins of Japanese contemporary art
KN: Complex attitude and feeling towards 'West', failure to communicate with general public, lack of criticism, lack of structural assistance.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

photo: hologram effect

Kazuna Taguchi, Look how long I've grown waiting for you, 2007

photo: Tokyo 4-3-4-506

Self-portraits that merely depict the artist. Born in Japan Chino Otsuka works and lives in London. The core of her photographic research is based on autobiographical experience. She uses self-portrait to explore themes of belonging, identity and memory. In her works she traces back and recreates the past. Tokyo 4-3-4-506 series takes place in an abandoned flat in a Tokyo housing estate.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Japan at 40. Art Basel

This is briefly how Japanese contemporary art looked like at Art Basel. Beneath the best of art dealers choice which this year were Tomio Koyama, Taka Ishii, SCAI the Bathhouse, Gallery Koyanagi and ShugoArts. 

Ei Arakawa, c/o Grand Openings, Grand Openingsat Bumbershoot, 2008, performance
Shintaro Miyake, A torture of forest, 2009, acrylic, color pencil, pencil on paper

Daido Moriyama, Hokkaido, 1978/2009, black and white print
Tatsuo Miyajima
, C.F.Lifestructurism - no.13, 2009, LED, IC, electric wire

Daisuke Ohba, UROBOROS(woods), 2008, acrylic on cotton

Noriko Ambe, Cutting Book Series with ED Ruscha "Artists who make pieces, Artists who do books", 2008,
Cuts on a book of "ED Ruscha"

Kohei Nawa, PixCell-Model-Leopard, 2008, mixed media

project room: Takashi Kuribayashi

I I were Japanese Pavilion commissioner I would consider showing ..
Takashi Kuribayashi, Sumpf land, 2008, installation
One of the most creative young artists who using animal motif explores concept of boundries and draws the viewer into different worlds. In his works he uses his experience as a diver. He participated in Singapore Biennale (2006).

Takashi Kuribayashi, Sumpf land, 2008, installation
photo: own archive and Towada Art Center

worst in show

Japanese Pavilion at Venice Biennale was awarded by Jerry Saltz Worst in Show. Here's the verdict: 'In the Japanese Pavilion, Miwa Yanagi exhibits a series of huge, god-awful photographs of grotesque naked women. In an accompanying text, a writer raves that these crappy pictures will bring great joy not only to the Japanese Pavilion but to the Venice Biennale as a whole...'

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

project room: Daisuke Ohba

Flipping thru Flashart I found review of Daisuke Ohba solo show at Scai The Bathhouse written by Satoru Nagoya which goes like this: you are beyond Japanese' means praise in the Japanese vernacular. Such a self-disparaging expression is still indispensable when we describe unrivaled talent on the Japanese art scene. And that's the case of painter Daisuke Ohba (b.1981). While many young Japanese painters cling to trivial private episodes as subjects and often reveal childish imperfection in technique, Ohba has adopted an approach with grandeur and maturity, hight above the Japanese standards.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Art Safari: Murakami

For those who haven't had enough of Murakami here is more..

in Ben Lewis TV series Art Safari in which he meets some of the most discussed contemporary artists and challenge their work with provoking questions.

In the episode dedicated to Takashi Murakami - Toying with Art, Lewis keeps asking critics, curators and collectors what are their theories about Murakami. Is it as superficial as it looks? He doesn't seem much convinced by their savant answers.

portraits macabre

He calls himself modern reincarnation of Hokusai. Daikichi Amano is the director, photographer, columnist and pornographer. He produces weird films and photos of mostly women entangled in octopus and other sea creatures all of which he eats afterwards to avoid wasteful animal cruelty. Supposedly the most exciting new visual artists working in Japan today. Itadakimasu!

photo: www.daikichiamano.com