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Makoto AZUMA: AMPG vol.25
Written by Satoshi KOGANEZAWA   
Published: December 24 2009

fig. 1 "Makoto Azuma, AMPG vol.25" at Mitsubishi-Jisho ARTIUM "SHIKI 1", the Image provided by Mitsubishi-Jisho ARTIUM, copy right(c) Makoto AZUMA, courtesy of Mitsubishi-Jisho ARTIUM

     In a stainless square frame hung by wire from the ceiling, a Japanese white pine tree is fixed by wire as if tied up. Three wires are connected to each side, twenty wires in total. This is "SHIKI 1" by Makoto Azuma [fig. 1]. At first glance, it looks cruel to hurt the pine tree; however, the floating gravity-defying pine tree with its roots exposed in the air seems to have amplified courage. The lighting has the effect of sharpening the display. He put only one light right above the artwork in a dim exhibition room, which results in the outline of "SHIKI 1" being reflected on the pure white floor. The well-balanced shadow is beautiful because it is illuminated from right above. At his first solo exhibition in three years at Mitsubishi Jisho Artium, "Makoto Azuma AMPG vol.25", from March 18, 2009 to May 25, 2009, he displayed this artwork for the first time in Japan since its release at Tribecca Issey Miyake in NY in 2005.

     This is a comprehensive exhibition of Azuma’s private gallery activities of twenty-four exhibitions up to the present exhibition of artworks using plants. The gallery was operated by Azuma himself for two years from April 2007 to March 2009 in Kiyosumi-Shirakawa. The period is divided into four segments in which the exhibited artworks are rotated: "SHIKI 1" and "SHIKI2" in the first period from March 18 to April 1, Botanical Sculpture #1 Assemblage" and "Botanical Sculpture #2 holding" in the second period from April 3 to April 20, "Concrete X Bulb" and "rolling" in the third period from April 22 to May 6. Then new artworks utilizing plants growing in Fukuma, his hometown, will be exhibited in the fourth period from May 8 to May 24. Azuma originally planned to display one artwork in each period, but finally decided to display two artworks. (Note: "SHIKI 1" is not presented at AMPG).

fig. 2 "Makoto Azuma, AMPG vol.25" at Mitsubishi-Jisho ARTIUM "SHIKI 2", the Image provided by Mitsubishi-Jisho ARTIUM, copy right(c) Makoto Azuma, courtesy of Mitsubishi-Jisho ARTIUM

     The exhibition composition is really simple. A partition in the center divides the space into two areas: "SHIKI 1" is displayed at the front, "SHIKI 2" at the back in the first period [fig. 2]. Small LCD monitors to display the twenty-four artworks presented at AMPG are hung on one wall at regular intervals, separated by the partition, and eight concept sheets are hung on the other wall. This composition makes efficient use of the simple rectangle Artium space which is not too large. Also, this neat composition is the best way to display his artworks.

     There is no need to mention that since "SHIKI 1" and "SHIKI 2" lock a frozen Japanese white pine tree into a special refrigerator, Azuma’s artworks depend on the condition of the material. Plants are living. No matter how much he likes something, he cannot keep using exactly the same thing, and even his favorites cannot be prevented from deteriorating as time goes by. His artworks are "flesh", therefore we face them as living entities, the same as us. Accordingly, the composition must be as minimalist as possible. The Japanese language is completely removed: the concept and caption of the artworks are written in English at AMPG, which must be his way of controlling noise. The Japanese language, containing various kinds of letters such as Chinese characters, hiragana, katakana and roman letters, might give a visually-chaotic impression. This miscellaneousness is an attraction of the Japanese language, but it is nothing but noise when one confronts it right in front of the artworks. Azuma might be concerned that we would concentrate too much on trying to understand the artwork if we read an explanation written in Japanese.

fig. 3 "Makoto Azuma, AMPG vol.25" at Mitsubishi-Jisho ARTIUM Opening reception and music live (March 19, 2009), the Image provided by Mitsubishi-Jisho ARTIUM, copy right(c) Makoto AZUMA, courtesy of Mitsubishi-Jisho ARTIUM

     On March 19 when the opening reception was held, Azuma expressed the sounds of "SHIKI 2" by a live show [fig. 3]. His artworks have a high affinity with music, especially rock music because he once played in a band. Hence, one of the main characteristics of his artworks is that he makes plants generate noise. The environment in which the artworks are displayed needs to be simple because they have noise. "Disturbing noise" might be misleading, but noise here means "disorder" which is produced by adding a man-made action to the usual aspect of plants. The degree of noise depends on the artworks; sometimes it ends up destroying the living organism. However, although it might sound egoistic, this tension moves me. Azuma’s artworks will not be stored forever. Living and dying are of equal importance in the artworks, and the exhibition and artworks repeat this feeling of temporariness. Here is the essence of Azuma’s artworks which keep flowing, without start nor end, as time goes by.
(Translated by Chisato Kushida)

Last Updated on June 12 2010

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