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"Catastrophe and the Power of Art" at the Mori Art Museum

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"Catastrophe and the Power of Art" at the Mori Art Museum
Installation view (detail) of Ai Weiwei’s “Odyssey” (2016/2018) Digital Print. From “Catastrophe and the Power of Art.” Photo Courtesy of: @katyaop

The Mori Art Museum opened its most recent exhibition earlier this month entitled “Catastrophe and Power of Art.” The works on view focus on the significant challenges that have impacted the world on a global scale--with a particular focus on events that have taken place over the last two decades. 

The artists on view have found ways in their work to respond to past and current crisis on domestic and international scales including but not limited to issues surrounding refugees, recovering from natural disasters, among others. Through the utilization of multimedia approaches, the artists all seek to challenge, make sense of, or provide a statement on current events. Kondo Kenichi is the curator. He selected timely, relevant, and pignonet works that ask the viewer to consider their relationship to the current crises, and whether or not there is anything actionable individually or collectively that could be done. There is no shortage of assistance needed.

Installation view (detail) of Ai Weiwei’s “Odyssey”. Digital Print. From “Catastrophe and the Power of Art.” (2016/2018). Photo Courtesy of: @ginnybraun

Installation view (detail) of Ai Weiwei’s “Odyssey”. Digital Print. From “Catastrophe and the Power of Art.” (2016/2018). Photo Courtesy of: @ginnybraun

The exhibition includes a wide range of artists working in a variety of disciplines such as installation, photography, digital prints, painting, and more. Helmut Stallaerts, Swoon, Gillian Wearing, Eva and Franco Mattes, Miyamoto Ryuji, Fujii Hikaru, Hatakeyama Naoya, Mona Hatoum, Thomas Hirschhorn, Isaac Julien, Hiwa K, Kato Tsubasa, Georges Rousse, and more are some of the artists included in 'Catastrophe and the Power of Art'. 

Installation view of Yoko Ono’s “Add Color Painting (Refugee Boat)” Mixed media installation. (1960/2016). Photo Courtesy of: @rossellaraffi

What this implies, is that no matter if an audience member physically puts a message on the wall, or just stands in the space and observes others doing it, both persons level of engagement puts them in a context where they must consider and respond.

Yoko Ono’s 'Add Color Painting (Refugee Boat)' (1960/2016) is an interactive installation work. In the large gallery space, there is a centrally located wooden boat while the rest of the room is left open as a canvas. Surrounding the boat structure are the blue-hued drawings, texts, and messages left by the viewers in the gallery space. The walls from floor to ceiling, as well as the wooden boat, are covered with these texts and images. The boat and walls covered in blue texts, ranging in viscosity, opacity and legibility evokes: the weight of thoughts, the undertaking of the unknown, a conflicting observation of feeling both a sense of connectivity and abandonment at once. It feels chaotic, as it is impossible to navigate all of the messages left by the viewers which is surely parallel to issues surrounding the refugee crisis. Some messages are erased from others writing on top of them, while the messages on the floor in some spots are trailed and reduced by the foot traffic of the audiences. What this implies, is that no matter if an audience member physically puts a message on the wall, or just stands in the space and observes others doing it, both persons level of engagement puts them in a context where they must consider and respond. They must contemplate the vacant refugee boat. By taking part in making the image through active or passive engagement, one must consider the intent of Ono. The collaborative quality of the blue pigmented messaging coming from the audience asks them to actively participate in the image, leave messages behind for future viewers to engage with, and asks them to actively position themselves to think about their own life and relationship to the refugee crisis.

Installation view of Yoko Ono’s “Add Color Painting (Refugee Boat)” Mixed media installation. (1960/2016). Photo Courtesy of: @yingchangcouk

In the work he clearly states “No One is Illegal” and “Open the Border.”

Ai Weiwei’s 'Odyssey' (2016/2018) is a large-scale wall-mounted digital print work installed from floor to ceiling. The scale is large in contrast to the small details imbedded in the narrative of the characters which reads like a scroll. The images are depicting various realities of the refugee experience. Scenes of persons sitting tightly together on a small raft packed with passengers during the night, trenches containing clothed and partially clothed persons alongside a tall barbed wire fence demarcating a clear separation of spaces, as well as scenes of destruction of both buildings and walls, cars full of men each armed with guns, and processions of persons walking with all their belongings through the night are some of the haunting depictions of everyday life as a refugee. The work is clearly about the immense crisis that has been occurring internationally. Weiwei positions these issues as a humanitarian problem, not just about the issues centred around the refugees leaving-- but in direct relation to how the rest of the world either accepts of negates responsibility in helping the victims despite having the resources, space, and ability to assist. In the work, he clearly states “No One is Illegal” and “Open the Border.”

Installation view of Isaac Julien’s three-screen installation of "Playtime" (2014). From “Catastrophe and the Power of Art.” Photo Courtesy of: @librosdelacicada

An additional work on view includes that of the artist Tsubasa Kato’s “The Lighthouses–11.3 Project” (2011). This is a sculptural work that incorporates community involvement to release the piece as intended. The result of the participation of five hundred participants is something that could not have been achieved by Kato’s hands alone; a model of a lighthouse that was destroyed in Fukushima was raised utilizing a traditional structure raising technique. A message that could be taken from the actions that resulted in the realization of the structure is that it takes a community willing to participate, interact, and communicate with one another to rebuild and build parts of society, physically or conceptually, so that the future can be progressed towards together. The orchestration of the volunteers shows that through collective power, ideas that manifest on monumental scales are possible.

Communal raising of Tsubasa Kato’s The Lighthouses—11.3 Project, 2011, Iwaki, Japan. From “Catastrophe and the Power of Art.” Photo: Miyajima Kei.

"Catastrophe and the Power of Art" is the Roppongi Hills and Mori Art Museum 15th Anniversary Exhibition.
It will be on view from October 6, 2018 until January 20, 2019.
For more information, click here


Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.



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