Another Future

Kenji Yanobe’s “Levitation” exhibition at YAMAMOTO GENDAI.

poster for Kenji Yanobe

Kenji Yanobe "Levitation"

at Yamamoto Gendai
in the Tokyo: Others area
This event has ended - (2010-11-06 - 2010-12-04)

In Reviews by Cheri Pitchapa Supavatanakul 2010-11-30

It is most natural for our brain to register floating objects as something otherworldly based on our common knowledge and familiarity with the condition of gravity. When we see a floating sculpture created by the physical brilliancy of Yanobe Kenji with the mechanism of electric magnet, our fundamental response is therefore that the object in front of us is either terrifyingly futuristic or simply alien. However, it is incorrect to categorize this exhibition as a complete work of fantasy, for these artworks reflect Yanobe’s social concerns of our contemporary society despite their startling images of foreignness. “Levitation” at YAMAMOTO GENDAI is Yanobe’s proposition of his artistic perspective on an alternate future of our society.

Kenji Yanobe has always been engaged with social issues ever since earlier in his artistic career. Traces of his social concerns already started to show with his exploration of social anxiety during the early 1990s soon after he received his Masters degree from Kyoto City University of the Arts. This is reflected in his early artistic visualization of the themes of futuristic ruin and survival, which dealt with the idea of individuals contending with difficulties in contemporary society during the times of the aftermath from Cold War, Gulf War and nuclear incidents.

Kenji Yanobe, 'Levitation' (2010) Installation view

His perspective towards the relationship between the individuals and the society also changes with time and experience, when he finally shifted towards the theme of “revival.” His pacifist style however met its turning point with his largest artwork in 2009, ‘ULTRA-Black Sun’, which exuded an atmosphere of anxiety, marking a new artistic approach to follow. “Levitation” is undoubtedly a result from the mixture of his new aesthetic direction and his fundamental trigger of artistic creation as means to reflect society’s anxiety.

Kenji Yanobe, 'Levitation' (detail) (2010)
Electric magnet, steel, brass, tin and other media
H260 x W150 x D150cm UniqueThe “Levitation” series is composed of the main sculpture ‘Levitation’ and two small-scale sculptures, ‘Levitation Figure 1’ and ‘Levitation-Black Sun No. 1.’ The works are all mix media sculptures suspended in mid-air by electric magnet. The main sculpture ‘Levitation’ has a certain kind of otherworldly air due to its unnatural condition as a steel-based object floating in a box-like frame. The humanoid sculpture’s pose, closely resembling a Buddhist sitting position for meditation, also continue to pique our curiosity as to its possible implications of religious icons. The whole strangeness of the installation also ensues from the sensation acquired through our long observation on the metal sculpture floating in mid-air which is suddenly disrupted when the sculpture convulses in intervals of every several minutes. You are suddenly startled by the violent shaking from the previously peaceful sculpture, leaving a scarring sensation of anxiety and disturbance.

‘Levitation-Black Sun No. 1’ could be considered as a plastic and marble-based mini version of ‘Levitation’ that floats peacefully without any sudden convulsion. However, it is ‘Levitation-Black Sun No. 1’ that proves to be the more interesting piece of the two small-scale sculptures. with its nonstop orbiting manner that makes us wonder: “How did Yanobe do it?”

Apart from the “Levitation” series, three ‘Lamp Cat Black’ sculptures, multiple drawings and a documentary video ‘MYTHOS’ are also presented in the exhibition. Despite the otherworldly atmosphere of the levitating objects and feline sculptures with LED for eyes in astronaut suits, the overall composition could also be seen as futuristic rather than alien, thus reflecting Yanobe’s previous theme of “The Ruins of the Future.” However, unlike his earlier works, this exhibition follows the aesthetic direction of ‘ULTRA-Black Sun’ with his incorporation of ‘Levitation-Black Sun No. 1’ and the disturbance created by the interval convulse of ‘Levitation.’

Kenji Yanobe, 'Levitation — Black Sun No. 1' (detail) (2010)
Electric magnet, brass, plastic, marble and other media
H151 x W30 x D30cm (including acrylic case) Unique

The documentary video and drawings also provide us a broader perspective into Yanobe’s concept development. We can see his previous explorations with incorporating physics and technological science into his works with the use of light and image projection. It is apparent that this exhibition is a result from both his fascination in science and technology as well as his aspiration to understand and artistically interpret contemporary society by offering an aestheticized version of another future.

Cheri Pitchapa Supavatanakul

Cheri Pitchapa Supavatanakul. Born in 1988 in Bangkok, Cheri grew up in the Southeast Asian heat of tropical beaches among the smell of mangoes. Migrated to the cooler climate of Japan in 2007, she is currently finishing her final undergraduate year at Waseda University, where she focuses her studies on Asian contemporary art. Being a true Tokyoite and a night owl who lives on European time zone, her favorite style of enjoying the city is to blast indie music in her iPod while walking lazily around town, looking for new cafes, new CD shops, new young designer boutiques and new galleries in the late weekend afternoons. Her current obsessions include discovering new indie bands, rediscovering old jazz bands, filling up her bookshelf with art books, buying even more bookshelves, trying to eventually become a morning person and getting into graduate school. » See other writings

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