"After the Goldrush: Japan's New Post-Bubble Art and Why it Matters"


This event has ended.

As part of the launch of THE ECHO at ZAIM – an alternative presentation of new young Japanese art during the Yokohama Triennale – we are pleased to announce a lecture and discussion about the show with UCLA professor Adrian Favell titled, After the Goldrush: Japan’s new post-bubble art and why it matters

International interest in Japanese contemporary art has focused on its ability to sell a commercial vision of Japanese popular culture – selling art as a kind of touristy celebration of the "cool Japan" promoted by the Japanese government and agencies – as well as reading it as the archetypal non-western precursor to the development arc of other Asian nations, notably China, now at the heart of the global contemporary art boom. The success of figures such as Takashi Murakami, Mariko Mori and Yoshitomo Nara, lay particularly in their winning combination of commercialism and national branding, all tailored to appeal to an orientalist conceptions of Japanese-ness prevalent amongst the western art loving public. It was a commercially successful strategy, but now copied and mass produced by an overwhelmingly larger wave of young Chinese artists, it has left Japanese contemporary art depressed in the shadow of its resurgent neighbour. Japan is no longer developing, and so – the thinking goes – Japan is no longer interesting.

But as the work of THE ECHO group at ZAIM shows, there is a strong case to read Japanese contemporary art and culture as being on a very different, even opposed, trajectory to China and the rest of developing Asia. Unlike these nations, Japan is definitively post-development, post-bubble: it has finished absorbing the lessons of American and European modernity, and now sits as an alternative to both the West and the (Chinese) East; it has more in common with the declining, decadent welfare states of Europe than the growth and power obsessed USA; and its current crisis of confidence, therefore, is much better guide to the uncertainties and fragilities of the 21st century than the rampant, unsustainable visions of globalization that drove the 80s and 90s.

The 60s generation of Murakami and company, stuck in a bubble mentality, look very dated in this respect. Among the more recent generation af younger artists now emerging on the international stage – who are all around 30, and who matured in a post-bubble world – several distinct trends are clear. They have broken with the
throwaway, plastic, mass-produced aesthetics and commercialism of the otaku generation, and they have also rejected its nationalist anxieties about cultural identity. Theirs is a global, connected, networked generation, at ease with East and West, and no longer so overawed by New York, London, Berlin – or Beijing. Well travelled, one by one they are returning to their source, but with an new emphasis on a sustainable, material, renovative, non-reproducible aesthetic; engaging in an exploration of techniques and methodologies inspired by new technology, that does not submit to the mass production of pop culture; feeling their way towards beauty rather than junk.
They point to a Japan coming to terms with its post-development, post-bubble crisis; a position that might guide post-national future transformations rather than just following global trends. All this is in sharp contrast with the new Chinese stars of global art, where the emphasis is still on chasing on Western commercial tastes – and global capital.

Favell will present his view of THE ECHO as a guide to the work of these brilliant new artists, and their emerging vision. The talk in English will be simultaneously translated into Japanese, and be followed by an open session of question, answers and discussion.



2008-09-17 from 19:00 to 21:00


Adrian Favell



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