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

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey 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.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid