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Doro Doro, Doron - Asian Contemporary Art Featuring the Theme of Alien World
Written by Satoshi KOGANEZAWA   
Published: May 22 2009

     The exhibition entitled “Doro Doro, Doron - Asian Contemporary Art Featuring the Theme of Alien World” which was held at Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art (14/Mar/2009-10/May/2009) was an exhibition which literally introduced Asian (including Japanese) contemporary art under the theme of “alien world”. The exhibitors of this exhibition were the following 15 artists: Makoto Aida, Kazuhiko Hachiya, Izumi Kato, Sachiko Kazama, Toru Oyamada, Jose Legaspi, Kodai Nakahara, Yasuyuki Nishio, Eko Nugroho, Motohiko Odani, Qiu Anxiong, Makoto Sato, Masakatsu Takagi, Shigeo Toya, Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Most of them are Japanese artists and almost all are in what is called the junior or mid-level, in their twenties to fifties, apart from Shigeo Toya who was born in 1947.

     It is a welcome step that contemporary artists, who cannot be said to have achieved mass appeal yet, are introduced willingly in an exhibition held in a public facility. Most of the artists chosen for this exhibition make Tokyo their main base to present their works. Because of this, we can also recognize the significance of bringing together and introducing a set of their works in an exhibition site in Hiroshima. The number of works submitted to this exhibition is as follows: 10 tri-dimensional works and pictures by Nishio, 8 works by Kazama, and 5 works each by Odani and Kato. It is also significant that the organizer of this exhibition chose the new artist, Makoto Sato, as an exhibitor. Sato graduated from Kyoto University of Art and Design in March 2009 and is not well-known yet, but was included as a result of fieldwork conducted by the organizer. Indeed, Sato’s works show us the effectiveness of an ingenious method of display, such as holding drawings in the style of cut paper; a technique which was derived from fixing his pictures on the wall using pins, though his works were drawings created simply using pencils and ink. (Although much information is depicted in his pictures, he has succeeded in conveying his message accurately).

from the exhibition“Doro Doro, Doron - Asian Contemporary Art Featuring the Theme of Alien World” photo by Hiroki Yonekura, image provided by Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art

from the exhibition“Doro Doro, Doron - Asian Contemporary Art Featuring the Theme of Alien World” photo by Hiroki Yonekura, image provided by Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art

from the exhibition“Doro Doro, Doron - Asian Contemporary Art Featuring the Theme of Alien World” photo by Hiroki Yonekura, image provided by Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art

     The various types of works, such as two-dimensional works, photographs, video pictures, tri-dimensional works and installations, are displayed together with antiques, including “Inarimononokeroku Emaki”*1 which depicts an invasion of ghosts and “Yurei-ga (Picture of Ghosts)”, and historical and folklore materials, such as a long-nosed mask and “Okonesama”*2. Belief in such folklore was also depicted in “Toono Monogatari (Tale of Toono)” which was written by Kunio Yanagida. I suppose that the organizer of this exhibition uses this method of display as a way of seeing contemporary art from a historical viewpoint. However, judging from the results, this aim does not seem to have been accomplished completely. I feel that this exhibition only serves as a group show that features a set of rising artists (indeed, in the sense of “rising artists for commercial purposes”) who have been featured in various magazines, such as “Bijutsu-techo”, which does not exactly match the exhibition theme of “alien world”. Why? This is because there is an ambiguous relationship between contemporary artworks and antiques, or historical and folklore materials which are displayed together with such artworks.

     Needless to say, regarding some artworks, there is a clear relationship between them and the antiques or historical and folklore materials displayed with them. Considering that the video picture entitled “Homicevalo”*3 which was created by Takagi refers to “Umamusume Konintan” which is a tale of tragic love between a horse and a girl, and that this tale is about the faith in what we Japanese call “Oshirasama”*4, it may be effective to compare “Homicevalo” with “Okonesama” (Oshirasama) by displaying the latter in front of the former. However, it is only in these specific works that we can find an organic relationship between the contemporary artworks and ancient materials. In one of the sections entitled “Alchemizing”, there are heteromorphic paintings and sculptures which were created by Kato, a set of works entitled “Nihonretto Kaizokeikaku Ningen (People Who Reshuffle Japanese Islands)” which was made by Kazama, and, together with these works are displayed Devil’s mask and a picture entitled “Shimotsukenokuni Nasunohara Konmo Hakua Kyubi no Akko Taiji no Zu”*5 which was drawn by Kuniyoshi Utagawa. However, I must note that the concept under which the works are displayed in this section is extremely ambiguous. Considering that the aim of this exhibition is to show clearly the relationship between contemporary artworks and old-world materials, clay figures made in prehistoric times should be displayed next to Kato’s works, and films such as “Kamen Rider”, which use special effects need to be displayed together with Kazama’s works. This can also be said about the other exhibitors’ artworks, but I suppose that the concept of works created by Kato and Kazama cannot be crystallized easily by displaying a mask or Nishiki-e*6 together with contemporary artworks. There are two other exhibits that are very appealing in terms of their images of weakness. The first is a video entitled “Onigiri Kamen no Chiisasugiru Tabi (Onigiri Kamaen’s Too Small Travel)”*7 and the second is a doll, which is displayed next to the video screen, in the form of Onigiri Kamen, who is the main character of the video. The video is a film of Aida himself who traveled while disguised as “Onigiri Kamen”*8 . These two works made a deep impression on me, perhaps because the method of display was different from the others. Also, regarding “Yurei-ga (Picture of Ghosts)” which is displayed next to the series of Nishio’s works entitled “Yurei (Ghosts)”, its quality is low and it has no punch, though the concept of displaying these two works together is understandable. Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s video picture entitled “VAMPIRE”*9, which takes the story of finding a phantom bird which lives by sucking the blood of animals in the jungle, was so realistic that I could almost feel the animal touching my skin, but the relationship between “VAMPIRE” and the work entitled “Tsuchigumo Soshi”*10 which is displayed in front of it seemed unclear.

     Therefore, as stated above, I have to say that the theme of this exhibition entitled “alien world” is extremely arbitrary. If we display works or materials which are not classified into the field of modern art with contemporary works, we should choose works or materials that have the same quality as that of the contemporary artworks which are displayed with them. So why did the organizer of this exhibition not choose such high-quality works and materials? It was because the antiques and materials displayed in this exhibition serve only to provide an excuse for displaying contemporary artworks. Indeed, is it not extremely strange that Shigeru Mizuki*11, whose work exemplifies this theme of the “alien world”, was not chosen as an exhibitor of this exhibition? I do not ask such a trivial question as whether Mizuki’s works can be classified as contemporary artworks or not, nor is my aim to suggest such a classification (indeed, this aim would nonsense). What I want to say is that the organizer of this exhibition should have chosen Mizuki if this exhibition sincerely intended to represent the theme of the “alien world” as the framework of “visual expression”. Or, did Mizuki have to be excluded because the organizer considered the theme of the exhibition to be related more to the field of “contemporary art”?

     Would it not have been better if the organizer of this exhibition had announced honestly to the public, “We have chosen the exhibitors based on our personal preferences”? If fee-paying citizens had heard that announcement, they might have objected to the concept of this exhibition. However, I am more interested in an exhibition’s concept than the response to that concept from the public. For example, I look forward to visiting the project exhibition entitled “Artist File” which has been organized by the National Art Center, Tokyo since 2008 and is to have its second exhibition this year. In this exhibition, the organizer does not set the concept of the exhibition and takes personal responsibility for the selection of the exhibitors. The acting of “choosing exhibitors” is an extremely critical one since it can also be seen as “not choosing other exhibitors”. Therefore, this exhibition, “Doro Doro, Doron” gives me the impression that it aims to show the context and history of the exhibitors to justify how they relate to its concept. (Translated by Nozomi Nakayama)

Hotta Family version, three volumes, kept personally
Composed of 6 dolls of “Oshirasama”4, early in Showa Era, Toono City Museum
11min 00sec, 2008
A household god widely revered in the Tohoku district in Japan
Composed of three pictures, 38.0cm×26.6cm, National Museum of Japanese History
A picture drawn on brocaded cloth
DVD, 2005
Mixed media, changeable size, 2005
19min 00sec, DVD, 2007
39.0cm×116.0cm, 1799, National Museum of Japanese History
A comic artist/spectrology expert

Related Exhibition

"Doro Doro, Doron - Asian Contemporary Art Featuring the Theme of Alien World"
14/Mar/2009 - 10/May/2009
Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art

Last Updated on November 14 2010

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