Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tokyo Art

The Mori Art Museum, located on top of a 54-story office/retail/residential/hotel tower in Tokyo, is one of the very few places in Japan to see contemporary art.  It has been open only since 2003 and does not have a permanent collection, but functions as a Kunsthalle to present revolving exhibits.  The show I saw last month was super!

Yoshioka Tokujin, according to the artist statement, likes “recreating undeterminate phenomena, such as light, snow, storms and wind, which do not have a distinct shape or color.”  To recreate snow, for instance, he built a room out of clear plastic and filled it halfway with feathers, then uses two electric fans to blow them about.  The fan comes on for 35 seconds, then goes off for a couple of minutes while the feathers gently settle into drifts.

Yoshioka Tokujin, Snow, 2010

He also makes huge slabs of optical glass that resemble blocks of water and produce magical refraction patterns as you look at or through them; one of these, at 4.5 meters long, is the world’s largest single piece of optical glass.

Yoshioka Tokujin, Water Block, 2002

Yoshioka Tokujin, Waterfall, 2005-6

Kuribayashi Takashi made two monumental installations depicting borders.  In the first, you enter a large room to find yourself below a low ceiling of warm-tinted translucent washi paper.  As you stoop to walk into the room, you notice and head for several holes in the ceiling; when you poke your head through the holes you realize that you’re now just above the floor of a forest made from white paper trees.  Why did the white-white paper seem so golden from below?  Who knew that the ground is only paper thin, and there’s a whole world down there where people can walk around and perhaps peek up at us?  

Kuribayashi Takashi, Forest from Forest, 2010

In the second, a mountain almost as tall as the ceiling has a small "water" surface at the top. The boundary between water and land seems arbitrary and almost irrelevant in this view.

Kuribayashi Takashi, Islands, 2010

As spectacular as these earlier pieces were, the best part of the show was the stop-action animation films made by an Indonesian artist group called Tromarama.  If you think it takes a lot of work to do clay-mation, you should see what these guys do!  For instance, they animated one film by carving 402 woodcuts into plywood, but one piece constituted many, many frames of the film – they would make one gouge, photograph it, make another gouge, photograph it, and repeat until the entire figure emerges from the black-painted wood background! 

Tromarama, still from Serigala Militia

They also did a film that used 12 kilograms of buttons and 1 kilo of beads, all painstakingly arranged into pictures and designs.  Another film used 210 pieces of batik on cotton, each about 6 x 18 inches.  (And we know how time-consuming it is to produce a batik to an exacting pattern!)

This is termite art at its most mesmerizing.

Tromarama, still from Zsa Zsa Zsu

Tromarama, stills from Extraneous


  1. Fabulous!!
    I just found your blog and I'll be back!
    I'm a "Follower" now. :)

  2. Oh my goodness...what wonderful art. What amazing and exciting creativity!