Art Radar looks at the fifth edition of Roppongi Crossing.
Since 2004, the Mori Art Museum has provided a survey of Japanese contemporary art every three years. Roppongi Crossing 2016 brings together the work of 20 artists who explore new relationships between the world and oneself.
“Roppongi Crossing 2016: My Body, Your Voice” opened in March 2016 and runs until 10 July at Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum. The exhibition offers a comprehensive survey of the Japanese contemporary art scene, with a special relevance to the last three years. Launched in 2004, the triennial series sees the collaboration of Mori Art Museum’s curators and invited guest curators who select the participating artists after discussion and dialogue.
The 5th Roppongi Crossing
The 2016 edition of Roppongi Crossing follows in the footsteps of the 2013 iteration, which introduced international guest curators working alongside a Mori Art Museum one. The fifth Roppongi Crossing, entitled “My Body, Your Voice”, is curated by Araki Natsumi (Curator, Mori Art Museum) with curators from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, including Kim Sunjung (Director of Samuso, Curator of Art Sonje Center, Seoul), Ozawa Keisuke (Curator, Arts Initiative Tokyo [AIT]) and Wu Dar-Kuen (Director of Taipei Artist Village). The 2016 curatorial team selected 20 artists who are representative of Japanese contemporary art production in recent years, and who in their own unique ways of seeing contemplate today’s society.
The exhibition is situated in an era now increasingly globalised, with a constant development in IT and the proliferation of social networking platforms. This backdrop is a fertile ground for people to communicate with the world as individuals and make their own unique voices and stories heard. It also provides opportunities for concealment and transformation of identities, as well as a change in the relationship between oneself and others.
Social values and ways of relating to one another have been reflecting this increasingly virtualised world, calling for a review of social frameworks and sets of values that have shifted away from traditional face-to-face communication and sharing of time and space. According to curator Araki Natsumi, social systems, power structures and gender roles all need to be re-looked at with attention to what is happening online.
The artists in Roppongi Crossing 2016 take on individual and personal stories based on their own research to uncover alternative histories, images on physical body and gender, as well as landscapes. Natsumi writes in the curatorial statement:
Artists capture the world of today in a sensitive way and based on their own research, shine a spotlight on individual events and stories, avoiding any reliance on traditional institutions or majority opinions. Alternative histories, images on physical body and gender, as well as landscapes that emerge from their artworks, may give different perspectives on the concept of identity and on relationships with others along with varying sets of values.
Who am “I”? How is my body connected to history and to other people? Feeling the sense of past and future, of oneself and other people crossing and intersecting through art, we will explore new relationships between the world and oneself.
The 20 artists and their works are arranged following five different themes within the larger triennial title of “My Body, Your Voice”. The five sections include “Relationships between Self and Others, between Body and Identity”, “Revisiting the Past”, “Alternative Stories Born out of Unique Perspectives”, “Exploration of the New Relationship between People and ‘Objects’”, and “Transforming Senses of Gender and Possible Future”.
In addition to the names profiled below, among the artists in the exhibition are (date and place of birth/place of work):
- Jay Chung (1976 in Wisconsin, US / Berlin) and Q Takeki Maeda (1977 in Aichi / Berlin)
- Fujii Hikaru (1976 in Tokyo / Tokyo)
- Jun Yang (1975 in Qingtian, China / Vienna, Taipei and/or Yokohama)
- Mohri Yuko (1980 in Kanagawa / Tokyo)
- Momose Aya (1988 in Tokyo / Tokyo)
- Nomura Kazuhiro (1958 in Kochi / Kanagawa)
- Sawa Hiraki (1977 in Ishikawa / London)
- Shimura Nobuhiro (1982 in Tokyo / Yamaguchi)
- Takayama Akira (1969 in Saitama / Saitama)
Self and Other, Body and Identity
In the first section, artists explore the role and nature of the physical body to define the self and identity, as well as their ways of crossing the boundaries between themselves and other people. Ishikawa Ryuichi’s (1984 in Okinawa / Okinawa) photographs display a closeness between the Okinawan subject and the artist that almost erases all boundaries between the two.
Katayama Mari (1987 in Saitama / Gunma and/or Tokyo) uses handmade, life-size dolls as her alter ego instead of relating to other real people. Katayama, as quoted in the press release, reveals that this time her “approach will be to reinterpret these works – which are like an extension of myself – in a way all of my own”.
Matsukawa Tomona (1987 in Aichi / Chiba) paints pictures with motifs of parts of the body or the belongings of people she has researched. Quoted in the press release, Matsukawa explains about the work:
Social networking allows us to connect easily with large numbers of people, simultaneously revealing the hidden emotional side of individuals. With both dressing up and transforming the body in dramatic ways through cosmetic surgery and the like now easier than ever, how are we to define ourselves and others? This new work offers portraits of women living or working in Roppongi as they emerge from “traces” that appear through interviews.
Revisiting the Past
The artists in the second section shed light on the past to reveal the connection to our lives today, such as Goto Yasuka (1982 in Hiroshima / Hiroshima) who paints comics-style scenes of wartime from her unique perspective based on stories told to her by her relatives. These images include depictions of her grandfather and great-uncle in their youth during the war. In the press release, she is quoted as saying:
As I began to unearth and portray stories buried in the past, I was seized by a desire to affirm everything: human fragility and the readiness to overcome it, and gradually became aware of the concept running through the works: a paean to humanity.
Sasa Shun (1986 in Miyagi / Miyagi and/or Tokyo) overlays himself onto past events and people. The artist is “fascinated by the idea of grasping from bodies and actions ways to connect with things not personally experienced” by himself. The new work, which has a flag motif, centres around the editor-in-chief of a magazine published from the war years down to the present day.
In the third section, artists re-interpret historical events or eras through their own unique perspectives, often drawn from personal histories as well as a touch of fiction and imagination. Kobayashi Erika (1978 in Tokyo / Tokyo) merges fiction and documentary, by observing history and society through the stories of individuals. Her work Sunrise encompasses the world’s first atomic weapon test, conducted at the Trinity Site in the US, and the life and times of her mother, Yoko.
Nile Koetting (1989 in Kanagawa / Berlin) focuses on the drama concealed in mainstream history. He explains about his work:
I got the idea for my work from learning that in the early 20th century, inventors totally unaware of each other’s existence were simultaneously inventing similar models of light bulb. In my mind, this conjured up a connection with myth. By researching these things, I hope to create a new landscape involving a single body in which history, environment and narrative intersect via an installation.
People and Objects
The artists in the fourth section create interactive and performative art that encourages us to see new relationships between ourselves and objects, urging us to observe our surroundings with new and fresh perspectives. Yamashiro Daisuke (1983 in Osaka / Aichi) presents a stage with objects as leading roles, elaborating on the theme of ‘personification/empathy’. The work follows his interest in “finding ways to imagine the pain, joy, sadness, and anger of others as my own”, a concern that emerged after the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 and the birth of his son.
Nishihara Nao (1976 in Hiroshima / Tokyo) aptly puts together installations made of strange objects that move like organisms, such as Bling Bling (2015). Quoted in the press release, he says:
Why the urge to move our bodies when we hear music? What is it that makes our bodies move of their own accord when we are happy? Why does the body seem to dance in response to the sight of a beautiful flower or a giant boulder? When we speak of the heart leaping, does the heart really leap? I created Bling Bling as a device to recreate and experience these phenomena. Contemplating how external stimuli are converted into motion within our bodies simultaneously makes us consider the boundaries of the self.
Gender in the Future
The artists in the fifth and last section of Roppongi Crossing 2016 look at how transformation in perception of gender and gender roles amidst myriad science discoveries and societal changes help us perceive and contemplate the possibilities of our future.
Hasegawa Ai (1979 in Shizuoka / Massachusetts, US) is interested in questioning preconceptions and common sense, to open up new ways of seeing. In (Im)possible Baby (2015) she explores the production of babies of same-sex couples that could potentially become a reality in the future with the development of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), as she reveals:
Advances in iPSC research may make it possible one day for two people of the same sex to produce a child. I wondered in this case “who would determine, and how, the pros and cons of using such a technology.” My work this time emerges from a desire to open that right to decide up to a large number of people.
Miyagi Futoshi (1981 in Okinawa / Tokyo) analyses images of homosexuality that appear in myths and music, and subsequently creates fantastic fictions, such as his single-channel video Flower Names (2015) from his ongoing “American Boyfriend” project launched in 2012, which encompasses politics and the US presence in Okinawa, as well as relations between males. Quoted by Mori Art Museum, Miyagi explains:
It developed into a series linking diverse elements from the story of the flower nymph Chloris (Flora) of Greek mythology, to Mozart’s opera Apollo et Hyacinthus, Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, Reynaldo Hahn’s À Chloris, and the existence of an organization that stages drag shows on US bases in Okinawa. As I assembled the work I contemplated not those relationships played out through the intermediary of borders, but the kind of relationality that would probably be hard to see if borders are put in place, as well as the relationality that may well exist beyond borders.
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
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