"XXI Century man" Exhibition 3 Directed by Issey Miyake
This event has ended.
Eight years into the new millennium and the question arises: where are we headed, now that we live in the century once hailed as the future? This question is the springboard and theme for our third exhibition, starting on the first anniversary of 21_21 Design Sight's opening in 2007.
The exhibition title refers of course to the 21st century, and by "Man", to those of us living here, now. The title also expresses a desire to place our hope in the future.
The focus of this show is on the 21st century and its people as a means by which to explore ideas for building a better future for this century and beyond. Exhibition director Issey Miyake has done extensive research to prepare for the show, which includes a wide spectrum of Japanese and international creators, all of whom address today's many doubts and insecurities through their own individual form of creative expression.
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The exhibition theme was about the challenges posed to “man” (us living here in this world) eight years into the millennium. The question posed is where are we headed, now that we live in the century once hailed as the future? The theme is important, and its setting within a curiously architected design space had me naively hoping for an exhibition that brings together art, technology and design. What was here more than my naive hopes was a group art exhibition. Not a bad one, but neither grounded in the pragmatism that shows instruments of a better near future, nor an unbounded exploration of artistic dreams of a better world.
Forget about "the 21st century and its people as a means by which to explore ideas for building a better future for this century and beyond," as there is not much to see here that backs up this statement. Instead, this is a rather unfocused group exhibition with only a few common threads running between the works exhibited. Overall, the idea of re-using common or everyday materials seems eminent, but this in itself is hardly a groundbreaking theme.
The highlight of the show was without a doubt Koutarou Sekiguchi's "It’s departure at a bright night", an enormous tower of bizarre human figures, vehicles, and detritus beautifully cobbled together from paper and gum tape. Like many artists before him, Sekiguchi manages to show us the potential of "poor" materials through an injection of equal parts virtuosity and verve.
Compare this, then, to Miyake's contribution, also made of paper. A grandiose, over-funded folly, this work looks as if it took a whole creative team to produce, including laborers, lighting and sound designers. The end result feels oddly flat, like a stage set waiting for the action to begin. The lighting and sound feel like a Disney attraction; I couldn't shake away the feeling that the mannequin-like figures would start singing "It's a Small World". Miyake seems to miss the point of creating maximum effect with minimal resources. In fact, he does the opposite, throwing maximum resources into a work with seemingly very little substance.
The final blow was the Dyso vacuum cleaner figurative sculptures, which read as little more than a whimsical advertisement for the company. Placed at the end of the trajectory of the exhibition layout, this was a sad conclusion to a show whose few good works failed to save the whole.
Let's hope the "better future" MIyake speaks of includes more work like Sekiguchi's tower, a work which makes us realize how much is possible with the things we take for granted.