Monday, 12 January 2009

Neoteny Japan at Museum of Contemporary Art, Sapporo

There are two biggish modern art galleries in Sapporo: Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sapporo. The former is located near the city centre, about ten or fifteen minutes walk from the central shopping area and has a small collection space and a big space for touring exhibitions... most of which aren't all that interesting (and some of which aren't even modern art). It's ok but I've been mostly underwhelmed when I've gone there. I much prefer the Museum of Contemporary Art, but to get there you have to slog all the way out to the wilderness way south of Sapporo. It's in Geijutsu no Mori, the Art Park that you have to get a train, then a bus to reach and it takes bloody ages. Of course they have much more interesting exhibitions and while you're there you can check out the sculpture park which I posted about a while ago.

I'm glad Yuki and me decided to trek out there today though for the Neoteny Japan exhibition before it closed this month. I love modern art and this was post 1990 Japanese work taken from the Takahashi Collection. I don't know anything about this Takahashi fella other than he's a psychiatrist, but I like to imagine him as the Japanese Charles Saatchi, and his collection looks to be hella well stocked. Neoteny by the way refers to creatures keeping childish traits into adulthood, or (more creepily) animals becoming sexually mature while still in the larval or pre-pubescent stage. In fact a lot of this exhibition was creepy, but not in a bad way, and it certainly wasn't very primitive or childish either. I'm pretty sure the Neoteny referred to the Artists themselves reaching adulthood while something inside still retained a childish trait.

Of course there were works from Yoshitomo Nara and Takashi Murakami, but their work is so globally famous now I'm pretty sure I don't need to drop images in to give you an idea (they were heavily represented in the gift shop too, there was like a Nara, Murakami table that I'm not ashamed to say I shopped from). There was tons of other great art too, from some famous Japanese artists that were still only buzzing around the edges of my memory until today.

Tomoko Konoike had a big, gorgeously presented room exhibiting three of her works, a floor displayed video, a huge wall canvas and a giant, six-legged mirrorball wolf. She seems to work heavily with symbols - young girls, swords, bees, six-legged wolves - and those things get rolled together in all sorts of ways and across all sorts of mediums. It was great.

Makoto Aida, I'd already been reading about recently, and I wasn't surprised to see his big creepy salamander thing and naked pre-pubescent girls here. He's a kinda ADD modern art genius it seems, working with shocking violence and disturbing imagery and in a million different styles.

Motohiko Odani is someone else I'd come into contact with before, and his room here was a pretty impressive display of versatility. The picture above is taken from Rompers, which seems to be a universally acclaimed short video piece of his where a cute, creepy piece of music soundtracks a gharish, grotesque, technicolour paradise scene where puss/honey oozes from a hole in a tree and pink frogs with ears on their backs jump around a lurid green pool and everything moves in time to the music and it's more than a little disquieting. I was thinking that it would be nice to find the actual video to post here since it's only about two minutes long, but no dice. I'm always curious about modern video art and the way it's displayed in art galleries, if it's just a screen on a wall in a well lit room then it can't be being displayed for maximum effect... I just feel like some artists are embracing modern mass production to let people interact more with their art or actually own something, while others are avoiding what might be a logical step for them. However I'm sure as hell not going to criticise anyone for how their art is made available to the public, for all I care an artist could make a 5 million dollar movie and show it only to one person then burn the only print in existence. That would, in itself, be pretty amazing.

There was more, like Akira Yamaguchi's incredible fusions of old Japanese style painting with modern contents and some really fantastic paintings by someone who's name I can't read because it's on this paper in Kanji, but believe me she was really good. It was, as always, worth travelling a ludicrous way just to see one exhibition, and the Art Park looked beautiful in the snow too.

1 comment:

  1. this was actually one of my favorite things about japan , was this gallery and this exhibit. loved it. was super inspiring. i love japanese design and well, just everything japan has to offer. loved it . i wanna go back.

    nelson bc canada