Our Posthuman Future: the Portraits of the Last Man in Postwar Japan

Eitoeiko

poster for Our Posthuman Future: the Portraits of the Last Man in Postwar Japan

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Works by younger generations of Japanese artists show a striking tendency to derive inspiration from manga, internet games, idols, and other subcultures rather than art history. Even after the Great East Japan Earthquake, young artists and art admirers are turning toward fictional beings unrelated to the politics or religions of reality to find their senses of emotion and meaning. This portrayal of fiction and characters reveals art in its classical forms.

Unlike the avant garde artists of the World War eras, who expressed despair at being unable to satirize or realistically portray the politics of their day, the human figures depicted by contemporary artists exude an air of euphoria. “Unconditional Happiness,” the literal translation of this exhibition’s Japanese title, is the internet slang term for this feeling of jubilation. It encompasses the concept of “moeshi,” or near death from the pangs of too much cuteness, and can be found in a multitude of works of art created in recent years, including songs by idols and Hatsune Miku and video clips of animals. We must ask ourselves, to what extent has “unconditional surrender” been transformed into “unconditional happiness?” Using post-war Japan as “lab” for testing this question, this exhibition examines the idea of “euphoria” as expressed in contemporary Japanese art, offering a comparison of works by artists such as Hiroshi Nakamura and Tamiji Kitagawa, who experienced war, and those by generations who have lived in a time of peace.

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