Sunday, October 30, 2011

post-3/11 art

The events of March 11 left Japan shaken in almost every way. Hundreds of thousands Japanese lost their families and homes. The country known as the one of most technologically advanced was facing shortages of fuel, electricity and food due to three fold tragedy - earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident. Till then Japanese people often referred to their society as suffering from heiwa boke (lit. peace foolish) that long period of stability and prosperity made the country complacent.

Chim↑Pom, Kiss, video still, 2011
The first to react was always trouble-stirring artist group Chim↑Pom who surreptitiously added a panel of burning Fukushima nuclear plant to Taro Okamoto mural 'The myth of tomorrow' which depicts atomic bombs exploding over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

They also sneaked in to the nuclear plant facility to make a video that later appeared on the youtube in which alleged worker points out an accusatory finger at plant operator's (TEPCO). One of the most recent works entitled, K-I-S-S-I-N-G, focus our attention on social issues related to Fukushima nuclear power plant crisis. The video depicts two light bulbs, decorated with cartoonish faces of a man and a woman cuddling and courting. An allegory uses light bulbs to express the anxiety and loneliness people are suffering from after the earthquake and unprecedented growth of marriages. But light bulbs are also clear reference to energy issues and encouragement to public discourse about nuclear power.

Artists responded to the post-tsunami situation in a various way from participation in charity actions to workshops with people from tsunami affected areas. I found particularly interesting those which were socially and politically involved since I do not have much chances to see these kind of art in Japan.
Shimabuku, Stop and Think, installation for Yokohama Triennale 2011
Shimabuku, for the Yokohama Triennale installed a billboard along the shinkansen rail line which read Stop and think . The message was addressed to the people crossing the country on a high speed bullet trains to stop and consider their life styles and where the world is heading to in the context of recent events.
Tsubasa Kato, 11.3 PROJECT: The Light Houses, 2011
Another interesting project organized in tsunami hammered North was that of a young artist Tsubasa Kato who gathered around 300 locals to help him pull up a model of light house previously damaged the tsunami. Raised through a massive communal effort, the light house seemed to raise hopes for reconstruction.
Koki Tanaka, Painting to the Public (open-air), walking event including friends, painters, artist, people who received information through Twitter, from Meguro Museum of Art to Gallery Aoyama Meguro, Tokyo, March 2012
Least but not last the first of Koki Tanaka post-3/11 works, Painting to the Public (open-air) performed on the streets of Tokyo on March 24, 2012, roughly one year after the earthquake. Tanaka invited participants to join him and other artists on a walk through the Meguro area of Tokyo as they presented their paintings directly to the public. The walk symbolically began at the Meguro Museum of Art, which a year earlier had canceled its exhibition “Genbaku wo miru 1945–1970” (“Visualizing the Atomic Bomb 1945–1970”) in the immediate aftermath of the Tohoku earthquake. Walking with their paintings in hand or mounted to wooden boards like picket signs, the group of about 30 participants resembled a political protest—a connection Tanaka made explicit in his statement for the project. Conflating ideas of plein-air painting with the 1964 Anti-Art actions of artists Hiroshi Nakamura and Koichi Tateishi (known together as the Research Center for Art Tourism), Tanaka reimagines the act of presenting painting directly to the public—without the aid of electricity or artificial light—as a form of protest against the Japanese government’s sponsorship and continued use of nuclear power. Following the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear reactors, Japanese businesses were required to reduce electricity usage by 15 percent in order to relieve stress on the country’s crippled electrical infrastructure. For ecologically conscious individuals, small changes in their daily routine to conserve electricity quickly took on a political dimension—being “green” became synonymous with an antinuclear position. In a similar fashion, Tanaka’s performance transformed the public display of painting into a form of protest, exploring painting’s newly realized subversive potential in post-3/11 Japan. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

architecture: utopian modernity

Kisho Kurokawa Nakagin Capsule 1972
This fall is an architecture season in Tokyo with World Congress of Architects as a centerpiece and related exhibitions such as the one in Mori Art Museum which takes a look at the revolutionary architectural movement from 60s. The Metabolism movement was developed during the period of reconstruction in which war-torn Japan worked to move toward its period of rapid economic growth. Gathered around the iconic figure of Kenzo Tange the group of young architects including Masato Otaka, Fumihiko Maki, Kiyonori Kikutake, Arata Isozaki and Kisho Kurokawa engaged in heated debates over the ideal city, and planned a great deal of experimental architecture and cities based on ideas of lifestyles and communities for a new era. As their name suggests, the Metabolists responded to urgent problems like the sudden increase in population and expansion of cities by proposing large-scale architecture and urban planning that would continue to change in form organically as opposed to static urban conditions illustrated in Le Corbusier schemes. These ideas first surfaced in 1960 at the World Design Conference where the Metabolist group presented a manifesto entitled: Metabolism 1960: Proposals for a New Urbanism. It coincided directly with the Income Doubling Plan that the Hayato Ikeda cabinet implemented in 1960. This moment constituted, in the words of Rem Koolhaas — perhaps the most influential architect alive and an avid student of the Metabolists' ideas — a rare moment where government, bureaucrats and artistic architectural circles were connected in a single enterprise.

Kiyonori Kikutake Marine City 1963

Isozaki Arata Shibuya Project: City in the Air 1962
Assembling more than 500 items, the exhibition reveals visions of cities floating on water and spiraling into the air; towers bristling with plug-in capsules for dwelling, linked by huge tubes for services and movement; grand plans for cities and farms presented in models, sketches, plans, archive film footage and 3D animations.

photos: courtesy Mori Art Museum and Kikutake Kiyonori