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チェックと日本の現代美術界についての感想

Satoru Aoyama

2010年2月19日


I have a running discussion with Mizuma artist Satoru Aoyama about how to best represent “Young Japanese Art”, a topic we will no doubt pick up again when his work is deservedly featured in the upcoming Roppongi Crossing 3. Trained in London, at Goldsmiths College, in the immediate aftermath of its glory years as the source school of the “Young British Art” phenomenon, Aoyama is very conscious that he doesn’t see his art as especially “Japanese”, but always rather in dialogue with global trends and art history. “When I talk with Jim Lambie, I don’t talk to him as a Japanese artist talking to a Scottish artist, but as two artists operating internationally,” he says. Aoyama’s memory of London precisely is a place where everyone felt at home in a kind of post-national environment, something he sometimes misses in Tokyo.

I sympathise with this viewpoint intellectually, and it is of course important that any Japanese artist is not entrapped in the logic of representing nation and national culture first and foremost as their distinguishing mark. But, strategically, there is still a point to gatherings of “Young” or “Outstanding” “Japanese” Art (or art from Japan), such as 2008’s The Echo show in Yokohama, where Aoyama was a central figure. Moreover, the view from Japan – its peculiar place and time economically and socially in relation to global trends – makes a lot of its present day art and artists particularly interesting in a distinctive way. Aoyama, like many of his generation – the H.I.S. generation of cheap and easy international travel – went away. But he then chose, in his thirties, to return to Japan and Tokyo, to pursue his career there, rather than anywhere else. The social networks, trajectories and ambitions of his peer group – including artists such as Kohei Nawa and Kengo Kito – thus have a similar dynamic—which perhaps justifies the reference to a Young Japanese Art.



We will see a lot of this generation’s art at RX3. Aoyama will present further works from his “Glitter Pieces” series that have received warm previous attention in ART-iT, after shows at Mizuma Gallery. He will be working again with the curator Kenji Kubota, who has shown his work to striking effect in both Tokyo (at Akasaka Art Flower in 2008) and abroad (in Bangkok, at the recent Twist and Shout show). As at The Echo, Aoyama has adopted a dark room installation technique that adds drama to works that are sometimes understated in their quiet craft and small scale presentation. Again, the labour aspect is something well appreciated by Japanese collectors, but Aoyama is anything but loud in his approach. The often amazing embroideries accent meticulous detail and quality, and yet are never less than desirable objects in their own right.



What is really fascinating about his work is the combination of technique and conceptualism, an almost seamless combination of form and thought, that derives from the fact that labour itself is constantly foregrounded as a theme in the work. Aoyama works with a vintage Singer sewing machine, that recreates forgotten or discarded photographic images, posing them as a commentary on evolving picitorial representation itself. Labouring manually, and with an inefficient intensity that has long been eclipsed by other modes of faster production technology, Aoyama offers a slow art – like the joys of slow food. He also underlines the need for a sustainable production process, that reinvents possibilities for art and representation discarded by the forward, wasteful rush of technology. It is a brilliant concept, that translates equally well into the Richter like meditations on photographic images, as well as his older experiments with embroidered abstract works, that trick the eye first as paintings.

Aoyama’s world is certainly not “flat”, as Japanese art is supposed to be. As one of contemporary Japanese art’s most articulate thinkers, he has also stressed in various writings how his work breaks with the myth of genius and authorship—a commonplace point in art theory, and yet a revolutionary ethos among artists themselves, who still live and die by according to their egos, their value, and their strive for a place in a pantheon of great, timeless, breakthrough figures. The art world is, after all, constructed out of lists of top 10 sales, top 20 picks, top 100 artists – all of which are constantly changing. No-one wants to feel that their production might be in vain. But such demystifying talk can make figures in the art world uncomfortable. Fortunately, Aoyama mixes in just as much dry wit and observation in his writings—as any one familiar with his everyday diary pieces in his ART-iT blog will know and enjoy (by chance there is one two blogs below this one).



With admirable consistency, ten years into a solo career that is slowly but surely building, Aoyama continues to find new modes for exploring his core ideas and methods. He has recently completed a residency at Fuchu Art Museum, that consisted of working “live” behind a pane of glass for visitors to see the act of creation in situ. “It was an interesting experience,” he says. “But it was a pretty stressful experience as well. You know, people were always watching me making the work, but reading coffee, drinking books. It felt like being an animal in the cage,” he adds ruefully. But it was a productive time, that helped him “concentrate” his efforts towards the upcoming shows, as well as leading to an interesting reflection on the function of the museum itself. The Fuchu Museum has featured a series of interesting artists-at-work in the last couple of years, including Kyotaro Hakamata and Midori Mitamura. A key player in making this happen has been the young and ambitious curator Hajime Nariai, who works at the museum.

So what’s next? Aoyama has another solo show coming up in Tokyo at alpha M. curated by Mizuki Takahashi, and the Roppongi show will give him a big boost in terms of visability. In the past, curators and writers have been quicker to take an interest in his work than the collectors, but this is now changing. I, for one, am fascinated how a set of ideas first formulated hesistantly among mainly women students at textiles classes in the art classrooms of South London, now finds such an appropriate home within the new wave of art and artists that will be visible at the Mori Art Museum from late March. No surprise perhaps. Aoyama is one young Japanese artist who has been working with RX3’s central trans-genre question – “Can There Be Art?” – right from the start.



ADRIAN FAVELL
http://www.adrianfavell.com

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