Last Updated:Dec 9, 2015

10 Things in Tokyo: November Round-Up

A short list of events and exhibitions happening in Tokyo and beyond this month.

“Cool Invitations 2” at XYZ Collective

The autumn rush of art events continues into November with blockbuster shows and festivals galore. Amongst all the hype of Yoko Ono and Takashi Murakami, Biennial this and Biennial that, there stands out a particular event which has continued in its commitment to breaking new ground in overlapping creative fields: “Festival/Tokyo”. With a stimulating line-up of performance, theater, dance, film, installation and talk events, this year’s festival centers around the theme of “Border Fusion”, melding genres, generations and territories of all kinds with expositions from Côte d’Ivoire in Gintersdorfer/Klaßen “Logobi 06” at Asahi Art Square,  an interactive interpretations of German classics by Korean performers with the Goethe-Institut Korea and Nolgong’s “Being Faust – Enter Mephisto” at Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre, and a spotlight on broader Asian ties in Asia Series Vol.2: Myanmar “Roundabout in Yangon”.  (MuPon)

Taking a closer look at the relationship between Japan and its complex history within Asia, in “The Return of Painter F” Tsuyoshi Ozawa examines the riddled legacy left by Japan in Indonesia through the post-war role of artists previously commissioned to depict the occupation and their influence upon the visual expression of the region. Interweaving his own interpretations and constructed fictions with unceasing wit and keen commentary upon the events of this period, he further contextualized the relations between the two countries against the backdrop of this global age.

The symbol of a global era is often distilled in the image of the Expo, and the Osaka Expo of 1970 was to exemplify the advancement of the international movement of modernism, bringing the world together beneath one roof – that of leading architect Kenzo Tange. It was the artist Taro Okamoto, however, who took it upon himself to burst through this icon of modern development and reclaim regional history through the imagery of the Jomon age, as represented by the Tower of the Sun. This towering figure stood up to the hegemony of modernism, but 45 years later, is it possible for us to take on this giant itself? As part of Confronting the Tower of the Sun! at the Taro Okamoto Memorial museum, a jury panel consisting of Taro Igarashi, Noi Sawaragi and Sou Fujimoto have hand-picked key proposals from over 150 entries attempting to confront the legacy of the Tower of the Sun.

Building on this critique of the so-called universal values of globalism, the leading contemporary art center Arts Maebashi in Gunma reassesses our link with the local and the possibilities of an economy that veers away from the constant demand for growth and consumption as part of Living Locally: Reconsidering Critical Regionalism. Drawing on the ideas of architect and critic Kenneth Frampton, as outlined in the essay “Towards a Critical Regionalism,” this exhibition of architectural design and art attempts to tap the potential for human civilization to re-assimilate itself not only in its coexistence with nature, but also in the ability of its structures to better reflect the specific culture and history of a local district.

This appeal towards a reflection upon the demands of the global economy is further echoed in discussions of the economy of time. The critical discussion collective CAMP has recently initiated a series of art dialogue events, in English! Their regular session “Mondays” attracted over 30 active participants earlier this month, and their next event on 23rd November will be a debate on the conditions of art and labor called “Thinking Over-Time”, with participants Brigitta Isabella, Jong Pairez and Yoshitaka Mouri.

Following on from this dissection of work values, a team of three artists comes together to mark the 10th anniversary of the alternative art space Loophole in an exhibition inspired by proletariat writer Yoshiki Hayama and his novel “Letter Found in a Cement-Barrel.” Published in 1926, this work was a lament of the insufferable conditions of menial workers combined with a celebration of the importance of their labor. In “Cement and Letter” artists Mariko Aoki, Miyuki Akiyama and Shoko Toda apply this critique to art and contemporary society.

Celebrations continue with the commemoration of 120 years since the birth of Keisuke Serizawa, a key figure in the Japanese craft revival of the Mingei movement who was designated a Living National Treasure during his lifetime. Upon his encounter with the traditional dyeing techniques of Okinawa, Serizawa produced a colorful array of textiles for kimonos, curtains and folding screens, whilst developing a wider spectrum of craft expressions inspired by the influence of Mingei leader Muneyoshi Yanagi, here unveiled amongst fifty works. Keisuke Serizawa 120th Anniversary Exhibition  (MuPon)

Perhaps many feel the cause to celebrate with the arrival of Gerhard Richter on our shores. His latest solo exhibition, aptly entitled “Painting”, in fact pushes the definition of the medium as he works upon the supports of glass and photo snapshots, driving through the gaps between one material and another and denying the stability of a singular state. Having recently visited the Seto Inland Sea region, he here incorporates photographs of its islands and surrounding waters into his painterly works.

Also known for his “Seascapes”, Hiroshi Sugimoto presents a show of great renown with his brooding photographs that seem to hum with low frequencies. On this occasion he lifts the curtain upon his deep insight into art history and Japanese aesthetics through a series of works depicting historic objects, spanning various eras, from his very own collection. These are further accompanied by his iconic works “Dioramas”, “Theaters” and “Seascapes”, this magician of the lens transforming simple spaces and environments into vestiges of time and deep emotion.
Hiroshi Sugimoto: Art and Leisure / Past and Present in Three Parts  (MuPon)

The magic of the image is brought to a climax in “Cool Invitations 2” by XYZ Collective. In a follow-up to last year’s successful benefit exhibition, again the very power of the image to draw us out towards the encounter of art is highlighted through a display of exhibition invitation cards which disturb our sense of reality and fiction, some being from actual events and others being purely imaginary. Artists, gallerists and curators contribute their fantasy shows, which exist nowhere beyond the surface of the card they are printed on, alongside the publicity materials of exhibitions which really took place. As visitors become confused as to the legitimacy of each invitation card, we are also prompted to think of our own dream exhibition and the ability of such shows to remain pure constructs of the mind.


Emma Ota

Emma Ota

First coming to Japan with the ambition of decoding the blackbox of Japanese media art, Emma soon realized there was more to life than programming and GPS and started out on an ongoing art adventure around South East Asia. Between flitting from one country to the next she has found time to work with various Tokyo based galleries and art centers, with a keen interest in alternative and artist run spaces, as well as running the art project dislocate. <a href="http//"></a>