Last Updated:Oct 28, 2016

10 Things in Tokyo: September-October 2016

A short list of events and exhibitions happening in Tokyo and beyond in September and October

“The Key in the Hand”, 2015, The 56th International Art Exhibition - la Biennale di Venezia, Venice/Italy, photo by Sunhi Mang

Yasumasa Morimura “Genesis I”

Veteran artist Yasumasa Morimura takes over the NADiff building in Ebisu with a reflection on his early pioneering career in the exploration of identity and historical narrative, featuring a solo exhibition of photographs and video from the mid 1980s to early 1990s at MEM, NADiff a/p/a/r/t and NADiff gallery. Works presented include “Barco Negro na messa”, a series of black and white photographs painstakingly composed in the artist’s studio, “Cometman”, his first video work which follows his figure, etched with a star shaven in the back of his head wandering around major sites of Kyoto, and a collection of other early forays into moving image. Here we may observe the early workings of a master in the making as he confounds the standards of gender, celebrity, artistic genius and fixed histories. The program is staggered over several stages and comes to a close on November 6th.


Haruna Morohoshi “Come and Go”

Having established her career in animation and showcasing her work in international film and animation festivals, Haruna Morohoshi has recently embarked on a new path in the contemporary art field, as heralded by her first solo exhibition last year “Deafhood+” held at Art Lab Akiba. On this occasion she returns to the same gallery to continue the second leg of her three-part series examining the past, present and future of Deafhood. Having been deaf since birth Morohoshi experiences deafness not as loss but as a unique culture which many of the hearing world have overlooked. Here she attempts to shift our perceptions of different sensory worlds which are not to be defined by our physicality but our cultural expression. She asks the viewer to move in and out freely between these worlds, and reasserts our individual power of choice. Through October 2nd.


Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz “The Right to Opacity”

Asakusa is a space which opened in the downtown area it is named after in October 2015 and has presented a run of highly thought-provoking, critically aware exhibitions ever since. Its latest show presents the work of Berlin-based duo Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz whose work dissects and excavates queer politics and seeks out to explore complex ways of being through staged video installations which reinterpret past histories and disclaim the dominance of our binary world. Framing the exhibition through the work of Martinique poet and writer Édouard Glissant, the curator here asserts a resistance to the constant pressure to define, categorize and make visible diverse identities and situations which in reality make up a “world that cannot be systematized”. You can also read recent articles by our TABlog writers on the history of the space, written by Rei Kagami, and the previous exhibition “Radical Democracy”, penned by Jong Pairez.  Exhibition through October 13th.


11th UNHCR Refugee Film Festival
While ceasefires continue to fail in Syria and conflicts/political and social struggles continue to bring millions of people into crisis, the plight of refugees across the world is more and more in the public consciousness. In Japan while over 7000 people applied for refugee status in 2015, only 27 were given official recognition and many who come here strive for years to obtain such permits which are few and far between. To raise awareness of not only the global struggles of refugees forced in exodus from their home-lands but also the situation in Japan, which sees rising numbers of people seeking asylum every year, Spiral presents the UNHCR Refugee Film Festival. Films include “The Man who Mends Women”, highlighting the use of rape as weapon in the ongoing militia war in DR Congo, “Sonita”, the story of a young woman who flees Afghanistan and breaks with social expectations in attempting to become a rapper, and “We Can Not Go There Now, My Dear”, following the anguish of Palestinians who once sought refuge in Syria following Israeli occupation and are now forced to leave their place of sanctuary again. In Tokyo October 8th-16th.


The Quay Brothers “Phantom Museums”
For over 30 years the Pennsylvania-born Quay Brothers have championed the Czech aesthetics of the likes of Jan Svankmajer and Jiri Trnka in a dark brooding world of finely choreographed stop-motion, live-action, and special effects. Inspired by the surreal dilemmas of Franz Kafka, they have created two feature length films of puppetry and dreamscapes:Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream People Call Human Life (1995) and The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes (2005), along with numerous animated shorts, music videos and film and theatrical collaborations, often designing sets for theater and dance, too. Chris Nolan’s short film “Quay Brothers” (2015) has brought the foreboding explorations of these twins to a further spotlight and here in this exhibition their career is surveyed throughout the past three decades. Through October 10th. 100 yen off admission with MuPon.


Nadja Solari “Nibble, Nibble, Gnaw”

Tokyo is currently observing the 100th anniversary of Dada, the early 20th century art movement responding to a senseless world with its own uninhibited brand of nonsense. Centennial events throughout the city include The Container’s Nibble, Nibble, Gnaw by Nadja Solari, whose mixed-media installations put a digital twist on the Dada tradition of sound poetry, an art form emphasizing the phonetic sounds of words over their meanings. Solari has frosted gingerbread cookies with text from bot-generated spam emails with subject lines like “KBuy iDrugz Herez.” Note that some of these phrases were actually sung out loud by the Houkakai Yodel Club at one of the most truly Dada happenings of this year’s program. Plenty will be left scratching their heads or rolling their eyes, but doesn’t yodeled spam email appeal more than a Donald Trump speech? Through October 3rd.


Hiroshi Sugimoto “Lost Human Genetic Archive”

Tokyo’s premier photography museum (once Syabi, now TOP) has reopened after two years with a Hiroshi Sugimoto exhibition that draws from the photography-focused conceptual artist’s earlier series and private collection. The bulk of the show is a Tokyo-specific reworking of Lost Human Genetic Archive, originally presented in Paris. This impressive menagerie of photographs and artifacts leads visitors through a post-apocalyptic world littered with clues to humanity’s self-destruction. Meanwhile, the second floor gives works from the series Abandoned Theater and Sea of Buddha – some of Sugimoto’s finest photography – the space to speak for itself. Through November 13th.


Doboku Civil Engineering –9/25

While civil engineering (“doboku” in Japanese) might seem boring or incomprehensible to the non-expert, this exhibition is anything but. Cutting-edge civil engineer Hiroshi Nishimura, responsible for projects including Nagasaki Station, directs this show about the public infrastructure we depend on. Featuring engaging displays fun and informative for both kids and adults, its offerings include a 3D model of the labyrinthine Shibuya station, videos of construction sites and the “music” they make, interactive light displays including a sandbox that morphs into a topographical map, and plastic curry sets modeling dam layouts. Guide materials in English and Japanese. Ends September 25th.


Chiharu Shiota “The Locked Room” –10/10

Chiharu Shiota creates enormous, breathtaking installations out of materials like string, shoes, and even beds. At Kanagawa Arts Theater in Yokohama, she has recreated her stunning 2015 Venice Biennale contribution The Locked Room, an expansive entanglement of red yarn, doors, and used keys from around the world suspended in a spectacular web that seems both contemporary and timeless, fragile and grand. Dance and music performances will be held in the same space as Shiota’s installation from September 23rd through October 19th. (Exhibition ends October 10th). 100 yen off admission with MuPon.


Le Bal – Hommage a’ Etsuro Ishihara –10/5

Zeit-Photo Salon, a pillar of the Japanese photography scene since in 1978, will close its doors in December following the sad passing of its owner Etsuro Ishihara earlier this year. As a memorial tribute, the gallery will hold the three-part exhibition “Le Bal” (Dance Party), inspired by Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9, a piece of music Ishihara loved. Part 1 – Maestoso (through October 5th) is subtitled according the musical composition and features a star-studded cast of works by luminaries such as Ihei Kimura, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Issei Suda, Yuki Onodera, Robert Doisneau, Robert Mapplethorpe, and others, tracing a history of not only Zeit-Foto but photography itself. Play on!


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>