Turned Upside-Down, It’s a Forest
Meruro Washida, commissioned by The Japan Foundation
The concept behind the exhibition of Takahiro Iwasaki starts from the fact that the city of Venice is built on millions of wooden piles in the water. (If you want to know more about this, you can read my post ‘The love-hate relationship of Venice with water’.) The title of his exhibition refers to the saying that Venice would become a forest if it were turned upside-down. This statement is also true for his works of art. They should not only be looked at from the top but also from below. Iwasaki will therefore create different points of perspective, such as a view through a hole in the ceiling of the first floor of the pavilion. This will encourage the visitors to take different positions to fully admire his art.
The exhibition will show the Itsukushima Shrine in Hiroshima, which looks different depending on the tides. The shrine appears to be floating at high tide, but when the tide is low, it is approachable by foot from the island. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Takahiro Iwasaki often uses everyday objects as materials for his works. He combines different elements to create a new figurative representation. For example, he makes a stack of dust cloths look like the mountains of nature, and books appear like buildings. The different perspectives and the change in the way we perceive things is a recurrent element in his work. His exhibition should entice the visitors of the Art Biennale to become aware of the fragility of things, the flow of the passage of time, and the trompe-l’oeil effect of changing perception.
Japan was one of the 9 national participations which immediately caught my attention, as you can read in ‘What to expect from the Art Biennale 2017’.
Takahiro Iwasaki was born in Hiroshima Prefecture in 1975, and currently lives and works in the same prefecture. He received his Ph.D., Art from the Graduate School of Arts, Hiroshima City University, and completed the M.F.A. program at the Edinburgh College of Art. Iwasaki held a solo exhibition at the Asia Society in New York in 2015, and solo exhibitions at the Kurobe City Art Museum and the Oyama City Kurumaya Art Museum in the same year. He has also participated in international exhibitions including the 10th Lyon Biennale (2009), Yokohama Triennale (2011), 7th Asia Pacific Triennale (2012), 2013 Asian Art Biennale (National Taiwan Museum of the Arts), 8th Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale (2014), as well as numerous group exhibitions including the Roppongi Crossing 2007 – Future Beats in Japanese Contemporary Art (Mori Art Museum, 2007), Happiness in Everyday Life (Contemporary Art center, Mito Art Tower, 2008), trans×form (Aomori Contemporary Art Center, 2013), and Nissan Art Award 2015 (BankART Studio NYK).
“The city of Venice is built on an infinite number of stakes driven into the lagoon, and this is why there is a saying that Venice would become a forest if it were turned upside-down. The title of the exhibition incorporates the idea of viewing the works not only from the top but also from below, here in Venice, and the suggestion of seeing Japan not only from land but also from the sea.”
Meruro Washida, curator
The Pavilion of Japan is located in Giardini and dates from 1956. Takamasa Yoshizaka, a student of Le Corbusier, designed the unique structure which was a forerunner of post-war Japanese Modernist architecture. In 2014, the pavilion was completely renovated by Toyo Ito. The original appearance was recovered, in particular by the restoration of the garden and the introduction of natural light from the roof.
Viva Arte Viva
Japan will also be represented at the ‘Viva Arte Viva exhibition’ of Christine Macel by 5 artists: Takesada Matsutani, Shimabuku, Kishio Suga, Koki Tanaka and The Play.
Takesada Matsutani is a Japanese, contemporary, mixed-media artist. He represents the so-called second generation of Gutai artists, one of the most dynamic avant-garde movements of the post-war period. Discover his work in the video he made for the Artists Practices Project.
Shimabuku makes art about the little things in life: cooking, fruit and vegetables, fishing and cardboard boxes have all been subjects in his performances, films and interactive works. Discover his work in the video he made for the Artists Practices Project.
Kishio Suga is a Japanese sculptor and installation artist. He is one of the key members of the Mono-ha group. The experimental nature of his oeuvre often presents a landscape of organic and industrial elements—iron, zinc, wood, stone, and paraffin—materials which he finds on site. He already showed his work at the Venice Art Biennale in 1978. Discover his work in the video he made for the Artists Practices Project.
Koki Tanaka mainly produces video and installation, many of which are developed site-specifically. He often deals with everyday commodities and surroundings, and recently has put more focus on everyday people’s behavior, in order to create a visual sphere that challenges the mundane and the rational embedded in the minds of the viewers. He represented Japan at the Venice Art Biennale 2013. Discover his work in the video he made for the Artists Practices Project.
The Play is a Kansai-based art collective, with constantly changing members, that has been staging art happenings since 1967. Its projects have always involved unusual events staged in natural surroundings, such as riding a giant styrofoam raft down a river, taking sheep on a road trip, building a tower out of logs on top of a mountain, and simply waiting for lightning to strike. Discover his work in the video they made for the Artists Practices Project.
Review by The Venice Insider
A visit to the Japanese pavilion is only complete if you visit both parts of the exhibition. The best way is to start in the usual exhibition area on the ground floor. Here you can admire the gorgeous upside-down buildings, meticulously carved in wood by Takahiro Iwasaki. The upside-down effect refers to a reflection of the temple or shrine in the water. He also created several miniscule cranes and other construction equipment from very thin wire.
In the middle of one of the installations, you will notice a big hole in the ground surrounded by blankets. That’s where the second part of the visit will bring you. Exit the building to crawl underneath the floor of the building and peep through the hole. Pay attention that you don’t hit your head as the ceiling is very low. You will be just in front of the small cranes so you can admire them at close range. The whole pavilion breathes patience and attention for detail.
Don’t forget to take the leaflet at the entrance, which gives you more explanation about each work. The Japanese pavilion is one of my favourites and is therefore one of the 8 pavilions you cannot miss at the Art Biennale 2017.
Katia – The Venice Insider
If you want to know more about the Art Biennale 2017 and the other national participations, this overview page is a good starting point. If you want to be informed about new pavilions being added to the site, you can subscribe to The Venice Insider biweekly newsletter.
(Picture in banner: Reflection Model (Itsukushima) 2013-14 – Collection of National Gallery of Victoria – Installation view at Aomori Contemporary Art Centre, Aomori Public University ©Takahiro Iwasaki, Courtesy of ARATANIURANO)
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