“Thought is free” wrote Shakespeare in Twelfth Night. But not every thought can be expressed freely. And it’s this interface between public and private statements, feelings, and emotions that forms the context for a new exhibition of contemporary Japanese art: Japan Unlimited in the MuseumsQuartier.
- Features a variety of media and prominent Japanese artists like Makoto Aida and Yoshiko Shimada
- Changing contributions through artists-in-residence, too
- Runs Sept 26 – Nov 24
- Free entry, with all information in German and English
- See also: The MuseumsQuartier
Straddling the line
Back in 1869, Japan and the Austro-Hungarian Empire established formal diplomatic relations with the signing of a treaty. Fast forward to 2019 and we have the 150th anniversary of the event. Excuse enough for Vienna to explore some of Japan’s many contributions to art and culture.
One example is the new Japan Unlimited exhibition at the MuseumsQuartier, curated by Marcello Farabegoli. The MQ is, perhaps, the top location for modern art in the city, so it’s no surprise to learn that the exhibition primarily features contemporary works, drawn from a range of mostly Japanese artists.
The context is the role played by Honne and Tatemae in Japan. The former refers to an individual’s true feelings and emotions, the latter to those displayed for public consumption, which in turn often reflect the expectations and pressures of society.
Needless to say, the inherent tension in the distinction between those concepts provides a rich environment for Japan Unlimited to tackle such issues as conformity, independence, boundaries, censorship, and sociopolitical change.
The works of several prominent artists feature. For example:
- The Japan times once described Yoshiko Shimada as the country’s “premier feminist and antiwar artist”. The exhibition includes a doctored reconstruction of a photo of Emperor Hirohito and General MacArthur from the post-WWII US occupation of Japan, produced in collaboration with BuBu de la Madeleine
- The artist collective, Chim ↑ Pom, whose metaphorical work, Super Rat, for instance, features a stuffed (poison-resistant) rat painted as a Pokemon figure towering over a ruined cityscape. Excellent!
- Makoto Aida works in various media, including painting and sculpture, but here you’ll find his performance art video installation, where he masquerades as a Prime Minister of Japan and alludes to issues of nationalism
- In the latest iteration of Midori Mitamura‘s Art & Breakfast project, the artist presents her improvised installations that evolve through interaction with her surrounds and conversations with visitors
- Momoyo Torimitsu‘s Business as Habitual animation examines the authenticity of Tepco senior management’s response to the disaster at Fukoshima
The exhibits cover a variety of media, from deceptive woodcut landscapes to films and 3D abstract installations. I found myself particularly drawn to Hana Usui‘s series protesting the death sentence and Naoko Yoshimoto‘s Melting Cave, where an emboidered protective suit bleeds as an echo of Fukushima and its aftermath.
The palette of displays changes through time as various Japanese artists participating in the Q21’s artists-in-residence programme contribute new works. A series of events accompanies the exhibition, too.
Dates and tickets
Japan Unlimited runs from Thursday, September 26th to Sunday, November 24th. The Q21 tract opens Tuesdays to Sundays, 1pm to 4pm and 4.30pm to 8pm.
The exhibition is free to view.
How to get to Japan Unlimited
Follow the directions to reach the Museumsquartier. Go to the frei_raum Q21 exhibition space, located at the far end of the tract that branches off left from the main entrance (as you face it from outside).
You can also reach Q21 directly by entering the MQ complex, for example, at the entrance opposite the U2 subway station.
Address: Q21 exhibition space, Museumsplatz 1/5, 1070 Vienna