Wednesday, May 23, 2012

history: voices of mono-ha

Nobuo Sekine, Phase-Mother Earth, 1968
Mono-ha refers to a group of artists who were active from the late 60s. to early 70.s using both natural and man-made materials in their works. The aim of Mono-ha artists was simply to bring mono-things in an unaltered state, which had previously been nothing more than components of artworks to the attention of the viewers. Usually translated rather awkwardly as school of things, which is misleading since Mono-ha works were as much about the space and the interdependent relationships between things and space surrounding them. The name Mono-ha is actually more of a label applied to the fairly loose group of artists. Ideologies were not necessarily shared by all members of Mono-ha, so it was not a coordinated movement as such. Roughly speaking, Mono-ha is thought of as centring around Nobuo Sekine, Lee Ufan, Katsuro Yoshida, Susumu Koshimizu, Koji Enokura, Kishio Suga, Noboru Takayama and Katsuhiko Narita. The emergence of Mono-ha has its roots in many social, political and cultural factors of the 60s. and to trace its origins in detail is a complicated matter. However, the moment that is most often viewed as Mono-ha’s starting point came in October 1968 with Sekine’s creation of the work Phase – Mother Earth in Kobe’s Sumarikyu Park for the First Open Air Contemporary Sculpture Exhibition. The work consisted of a hole dug into the ground, 2.7 metres deep and 2.2 metres in diameter, with the excavated earth compacted into a cylinder of exactly the same dimensions. continue reading.  

Kishio Suga, Limitless Situation (Window), 1970, installation view at the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto.
Although it marked a major turning point in Japanese postwar art history, the work of the Mono-ha artists remains surprisingly unknown. The exhibition Reconsidering Mono-ha held at the National Museum of Art, Osaka (2005) and What is Mono-ha, held at Beijing Tokyo Art Projects in 2007 were the last efforts to address Mono-ha’s role in the history of Japanese contemporary art. Recently Tomio Koyama Gallery in Tokyo has been trying to revive it presenting works of its prominent member, Kishio Suga. The exhibition is composed of photographs of archival outdoor installations and more recent works and it has been accompanied by the river-long interview with the artist. Outside Japan Hirshhorn Museum organized Requiem for the Sun: The art of Mono-ha, exhibition at Blum & Poe gallery in L.A. which follows Lee Ufan, probably the artist the most associated with the group and group retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum last summer. So it looks like Mono-ha is regaining its place in world art history next to American Minimalism and Italian Arte Povera.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

open secret

2011, August 28th. A worker points a finger at a monitoring live camera in Fukushima nuclear plant

Last August an unidentified worker at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant appeared on a live-to-air webcam pointing an accusatory finger directly at the camera. The video was then placed in internet and caused a lot of consternations as to the identity of a radiation-suite clad man and his message? Even Cabinet Office Parliamentary Secretary Yasuhiro Sonoda was drawn into the speculations. Recently the controversial video has been included in the first solo show of Kota Takeuchi hosted by XYZ collective in Setagaya, Tokyo triggering the assumptions that the finger pointing worker might have been the artist himself. There are few evidences behind, the 29-year-old Takeuchi appears to be about the same height and build as the suspect and he happened to work at the same nuclear plant at the same time as the video was shot. But he refuses to acknowledge it was he who did the pointing. Whether or not you write that it was me is your decision, and one for which you will be responsible, he said during an interview for Japan Times. Why would he want to do it? Granted he was not happy with the working conditions under which workers laboured in the power plant what he express in his daily blog from Fukushima but was it enough of a reason? Or was it something different? An homage to Vito Acconci’s Centers (1971) or was he interested in the way visual imagery in the public domain can sway communal consciousness?

Whether the mystery finger-pointer is the artist himself or not is still arguable. One thing is sure, the person in the video did a great job hiding his identity and that is what became a theme of the exhibition. Kota Takeuchi graduated from Tokyo University of the Arts, Department of Intermedia Art in 2008 and ever since he participated in few shows including 'Social Dive' in 3331 Arts Chiyoda and BANKART Studio NYK in Yokohama.