In a Grove
[Image: Takahiro Miyahara "missing matter (floating void)" (2019), Photo by Ichiro Mishima]
This event has ended.
A group show by Sen Takahashi, Kento Nito, and Takahiro Miyahara. “In a Grove,” the title of this exhibition, comes from “yabu no naka,” a Japanese idiom that refers to a situation in which the facts are unclear due to conflicting statements by concerned people. The idiom derives from an eponymous short story by Ryunosuke Akutagawa that centers around a thief’s attack on a husband and wife in medieval Japan. Eyewitnesses and the principals in this incident are each brought before the contemporary equivalent of a judge and tell their version of what happened, one after the other. As it turns out, each tells a different story, and it remains unclear to the end which of the stories is true. When people describe an impression or situation in words, a reality arises in our minds, but it would be very unlikely for all of us to have the same perception of it. To begin with, reality and memory are, by their nature, liable to end up fictionalized by verbalization.
Everyday, we use all sorts of devices to get and send large quantities of information. We are always in a hurry, and it would be well-nigh impossible for us to actually go to sites to confirm their sights, sounds, smells, and atmosphere with our own senses. Covid-19 has made us painfully aware of what a precious thing such actual experience is. In short, we are basically leading our lives with almost no knowledge of how things really are. Today, SNS provide us with all the detailed streaming footage we want on incidents and happenings. Meanwhile, roundup websites give us simple briefings on key developments, and lies pass for the truth in the flood of fake news. In this age, how can we get the excitement that comes with personal experience and feel the heat of shared enthusiasm? An average reality is constructed with an assemblage of anonymous memories, and the social system continues to operate indifferently on this basis. But what has contemporary society lost in exchange for all this convenience?
Through their respective works, the three artists Sen Takahashi, Kento Nito, and Takahiro Miyahara continue their efforts to truly sense and accurately apprehend the world. Takahashi is skeptical even about his own existence, and displays the uncertainties of things to viewers, taking himself, as he is, as his motif. His works prompt us to ask ourselves whether or not what we have been taught or told by others has become our truth, and to consider what the facts actually are and what we really believe. Nito is in an ongoing pursuit of “jikkan” (genuine feeling), which is hard to obtain in the current age, through firsthand experiences that sometimes go to extremes. He reconfirms emotions and sensations lost in the process of verbalization and “understanding,” by intense contact and communion with the world. His earnest attitude bordering on a crude honesty may be exactly the kind of way we need to engage with the world at present. Miyahara betrays all accepted outlooks on what is before our eyes and exposes our astounding inability to “really see” through his works. He confronts us with the fragility of the essence that is superficially available to us amid the processing of huge loads of data thanks to advances in information and communications technology.
Here in the summer of 2020, when Tokyo was supposed to be holding the Olympic Games, we seem to be “in a grove” ourselves. It is a good time for us to think about the sort of attitude we should take in facing up to the world, by pondering the works of these three artists.