Last Updated:Oct 21, 2014

Yokohama Triennale 2014

Highlights from the major art festival.

Wim Delvoye, 'Flatbed Trailer' (2007) Installation view, Yokohama Museum of Art.
Wim Delvoye, 'Flatbed Trailer' (2007) Installation view, Yokohama Museum of Art.
Photo: Nick West

In the “Yokohama Triennale 2014 – Art Fahrenheit 451: Sailing into the Sea of Oblivion,” there’s a tremendous amount to see. Occupying the two main venues—Yokohama Museum of Art and the Shinko Pier Exhibition Hall—the triennale extends to a further five smaller venues. Known as Creative City Core Area Bases, these include BankART Studio NYK, Zou-No-Hana Terrace, Steep Slope Studio, the Hatsuko/Hinode Area and the Yokohama Creativity Centre. If you’re intent on seeing everything, be warned: an all-area ticket could easily take all day to explore. Be sure to get there early and keep idle diversions to a minimum. An exhaustive exhibition awaits. No dawdling.

Dora Garcia, 'Fahrenheit 451' (2002). Stacks of reverse-printed novels are on display. Visitors are free to read and return them to the exhibit. Detail, Yokohama Museum of Art.
Dora Garcia, 'Fahrenheit 451' (2002). Stacks of reverse-printed novels are on display. Visitors are free to read and return them to the exhibit. Detail, Yokohama Museum of Art.
Photo: Nick West

Best known for producing self-portraits appropriated from Western masterpieces, it’s perhaps unsurprising that this year’s artistic director Yasumasa Morimura has chosen a theme hidden in a reference. Taking its subtitle from Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel, Fahrenheit 451 (1953), which depicted a society in the near future where books are burnt, the source novel took its title from the temperature at which paper auto-ignites. In Yokohama, Yasumasa’s chosen theme provides a general metaphor regarding humanity’s volatile, and potentially destructive, future.

Interpreted rather literally, the exhibition unfolds in chapters that seek to draw attention to specific sub-themes. A theme that resurfaces effectively is censorship. Of the unseen, Melvin Moti’s audio-video installation No Show (2004) recreates a tour of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg during the Second World War. The only image visible is of an empty room, but the tour guide’s vivid account of what was on display conveys a collection bought alive by memory and imagination.

Storytelling takes precedence in pieces by Taryn Simon, Akira Takayama and Port B too. Taryn Simon’s series A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII (2008–11) collates photography with text and source imagery. Tracing bloodlines and their related stories, this series took the artist all over the globe and four years to complete. Depicting multiple participants in each chapter, the presentation systematically displays portraits determined by blood relations. The results are often extraordinary, and sobering, not least because of the absences noted.

Collaborators Akira Takayama and Port B use the swell of the sea as a metaphor for change as they research “inner Asia” in the work Yokohama Commune (2014). Presented on six wall-mounted monitors are verbal accounts of people driven away from their home countries who have eventually found refuge in Japan. Told in their assumed language Japanese (with English subtitles), this work tells of their hardships and of their experience of Japan as their harbour.

In terms of medium, you might be hard pressed if you’re expecting the triennale to be flooded with painting. Even photography’s presence recedes a little, whereas sculpture, installation and video are well represented. As a general guide, larger works are mainly to be found at the hanger-like Shinko Pier Exhibition Hall. Here follows selected images of works included in the exhibition:

Edward & Nancy Reddin Kienholz, 'The Big Double Cross' (1987-89). Yokohama Museum of Art.
Edward & Nancy Reddin Kienholz, 'The Big Double Cross' (1987-89). Yokohama Museum of Art.
Photo: Nick West

Michael Radowitz, 'What dust will rise?' (2012) In this he used stone from Bamiyan, Afghanistan, the place known for the colossal Buddha destroyed by the Taliban, and created copies of books from a library in Kassel, Germany, which was bombed by the British in 1941. Installation view and detail, Yokohama Museum of Art.
Michael Radowitz, 'What dust will rise?' (2012) In this he used stone from Bamiyan, Afghanistan, the place known for the colossal Buddha destroyed by the Taliban, and created copies of books from a library in Kassel, Germany, which was bombed by the British in 1941. Installation view and detail, Yokohama Museum of Art.
Photo: Nick West

Michael Radowitz, 'What dust will rise?' (2012) Installation view and detail, Yokohama Museum of Art.
Michael Radowitz, 'What dust will rise?' (2012) Installation view and detail, Yokohama Museum of Art.
Photo: Nick West

Miwa Yanagi, 'Stage truck for the play 'The Wind of the Sun'' (2014). Installation view, Shinko Pier Exhibition Hall.
Miwa Yanagi, 'Stage truck for the play 'The Wind of the Sun'' (2014). Installation view, Shinko Pier Exhibition Hall.
Photo: Nick West

Danh Vo's 'We the people' (2011-13) Deconstructing icons. Two of the three scaled sections of the Statue of Liberty in copper on display. Installation view, Shinko Pier Exhibition Hall.
Danh Vo's 'We the people' (2011-13) Deconstructing icons. Two of the three scaled sections of the Statue of Liberty in copper on display. Installation view, Shinko Pier Exhibition Hall.
Photo: Nick West

Temporary Foundation, ’Turn Coat / Turn Court: Constitution – Constellation’ (2014) Hayashi Goh and Nakatsuka Hiroko’s “Court” series, presented at the Kyoto Independents exhibition in 1983-1985. At each trial, different cases will be deliberated in the midst of DJ or rapping performances. Detail, Yokohama Museum of Art.
Temporary Foundation, ’Turn Coat / Turn Court: Constitution – Constellation’ (2014) Hayashi Goh and Nakatsuka Hiroko’s “Court” series, presented at the Kyoto Independents exhibition in 1983-1985. At each trial, different cases will be deliberated in the midst of DJ or rapping performances. Detail, Yokohama Museum of Art.
Photo: Nick West

Gimhongsok, '8 Breaths' (2014) Installation view, Yokohama Museum of Art.
Gimhongsok, '8 Breaths' (2014) Installation view, Yokohama Museum of Art.
Photo: Nick West

Michael Landy, 'Art Bin' (2010) To participate, please apply. Yokohama Museum of Art.
Michael Landy, 'Art Bin' (2010) To participate, please apply. Yokohama Museum of Art.
Photo: Nick West

He Xiangyu, 'My Fantasy' (2013) In the basement of the Yokohama Creativity Centre lies this smaller than life hyper-realistic sculpture in a vitrine.
He Xiangyu, 'My Fantasy' (2013) In the basement of the Yokohama Creativity Centre lies this smaller than life hyper-realistic sculpture in a vitrine.
Photo: Nick West

Tie-in program over at BankART Studio NYK

Cai Guoqiang, from ‘The Story of Cai Guoqiang and Iwaki City’ (2014) Detail, BankART Studio NYK.
Cai Guoqiang, from ‘The Story of Cai Guoqiang and Iwaki City’ (2014) Detail, BankART Studio NYK.
Photo: Nick West

Tadashi Kawamata's installation of wooden pallets for most of this installation’s construction, with animated projections by Keisuke Takahashi (2014). Installation view, BankART Studio NYK.
Tadashi Kawamata's installation of wooden pallets for most of this installation’s construction, with animated projections by Keisuke Takahashi (2014). Installation view, BankART Studio NYK.
Photo: Nick West

Noriyuki Haraguchi, 'Oil Pool’ (2009) Installation view, BankART Studio NYK.
Noriyuki Haraguchi, 'Oil Pool’ (2009) Installation view, BankART Studio NYK.
Photo: Nick West

Yoshiaki Kaihatsu, ‘Politician's House' (2011-) is situated at the critical 20km mark from Fukushima nuclear power station. A photo of a photo, BankART Studio NYK.
Yoshiaki Kaihatsu, ‘Politician's House' (2011-) is situated at the critical 20km mark from Fukushima nuclear power station. A photo of a photo, BankART Studio NYK.
Photo: Nick West

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Nick West

Nick West

Originally from Brighton in the UK, Nick West first visited Japan to curate a solo show in Kyushu. Captivated by Japan’s bewildering calligraphy, its art history and the Mars-like surface of Mount Aso, he left London’s galleries for Tokyo in 2010. He currently teaches fine art and English in Shibuya, but spends his weekends stumbling across public art, loitering in galleries and scribbling notes whilst he researches a showcase of contemporary Japanese art at www.gensojapan.org. His blood group is A positive, so his personality traits include being earnest, creative, sensible, reserved, patient and responsible: most of which he denies.

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