News / Asia

New Exhibit of Japanese Art Seen as Foretoken of Disasters

Much of the art at the Japan Society exhibit 'Bye, Bye Kitty!!! Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art' bears an uncanny resemblance to images from the disaster that struck Japan, even though it was created long before, March 2011
Much of the art at the Japan Society exhibit 'Bye, Bye Kitty!!! Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art' bears an uncanny resemblance to images from the disaster that struck Japan, even though it was created long before, March 2011

Multimedia

Peter Fedynsky

A new art exhibit at the Japan Society in New York City opened just one week after the nation was hit by an earthquake, tsunami and a nuclear plant shutdown. While the exhibit was planned and the art was created long before those disasters, the tragedy seems to be coloring the view of visitors to the show, which continues through mid-June.

The Japan Society exhibit is billed as "Bye, Bye Kitty!!! Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art." The curators say the show challenges Japan’s love affair with cuteness.

The first image in the exhibit, called "Ash Colored Mountains," sets a serious tone. The work, by Makoto Aida, is reminiscent of a Chinese landscape and depicts the conformist Japanese salaryman, or white collar worker.

Gallery Director Joe Earle said some visitors see a parallel between this image and the piles of debris left by the tsunami. "This exhibition represents a more mature view, if you like, a more mature worldview, one which can take account of catastrophes like earthquakes, problems at nuclear plants and tsunamis."

Earle said neither the exhibit nor the artists anticipated the disasters.  

But Kent Bernard, a visitor to the show, said the art could be viewed differently because of recent events in Japan. "The things which you normally just do not see, except in artwork, we’re now seeing in real life. It sort of reminds you that some of the more fantastical things in art are outdone by nature."

Bernard points to "Vortex" by Tomoko Shioyasu. The artist sought to represent nature, particularly over time,  in such things as rocks, trees, water channels, and in cells. But "Vortex"  bears an uncanny resemblance to the whirlpool created by the recent tsunami.

Earle said much of the exhibit displays a sense of fragility and looming disaster. This is clear in Manabu Ikeda’s "History of Rise and Fall."

"Up in the top left hand corner, we have the contrails left by attacking jets or missiles from North Korea, an incident that actually happened during the long period Ikeda was producing this painting in 2006," said Earle.

The prospect of nuclear obliteration is coupled with images of mass executions, a demon lurking beneath roof tiles, people on a tightrope over a precipice, and a waterfall representing waste passed from one generation to another.  

Earle said the artist may be uncomfortable with an interpretation that includes radiation now escaping from Japan's nuclear plants because the painting predates the disaster.

At least one visitor from San Francisco, however, made the connection anyway. "That decay of humanity and decay of our environment, that may have been one that I more resonated with in terms of feeling like you’ve captured life and that it really does decay under you, and what you’re attached to may be very ephemeral."

As a New York Times reviewer put it, the anxiety depicted in the current exhibit stands out more in light of Japan’s real-life disaster.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid