16th Art Division Critiques

A Precise Process and a Delicate Approach to Length

The installation that was chosen to receive the Grand Prize was an ambitious effort with an abundance of unpredictable and experimental elements. Each of the dozen or so people in the a cappella choir was furnished with a device that allowed them to freely control the angle and direction of their bodies, thereby accentuating their performance. The shock and novelty of the notion of altering the fixed positions of such a group, which would normally stand in a straight line, coupled with the meticulous craftsmanship of the devices, gave the work in its finished form a degree of perfection that set it apart from the other submissions. The idea of arranging the standing figures in a radial pattern and adding mobility to their positional relationship could only have attained concrete form through careful and extensive preparation, and the precision of this process is central to the impact of the work. It is for these reasons that it deserves the highest honor in the Art Division of the Japan Media Arts Festival.
This is the third year I have served on the jury, and every year I am aware of the degree of sensitivity employed in determining the length of each work. The viewer has only a limited period of time available, and the works, which require a certain amount of time to appreciate, must be produced with an explosive impact; it is the delicacy of this balance that concerns me. Of course, it would be illogical to simply say that shorter works are better. What I look for is the ability to judge what would be an excessive length.

On the other hand, it was disappointing to see the lack of vitality in the still-image works submitted. In the digital photography field in particular, I did not encounter anything that seemed fresh. This may be more a problem of how we define these categories; perhaps it would be better to place such works in a Graphics Division. Whatever the reason, I would like to see works of this genre exhibit a more effective crystallization of the energy involved in stopping the movement of reality.
I was, however, deeply impressed by a series of family photos taken as if with an ultra-telescopic lens from a satellite. The images themselves were beautiful, but what struck me was the wondrous sense of reality they brought, with their lack of perspective and their clarity of space, to our view of present-day human beings. The fact that only the children occasionally gazed up toward the camera, which should have been invisible to them, was intriguing.

HARA Kenya
Graphic Designer
Born in Okayama Prefecture in 1958, HARA is a professor at Musashino Art University and representative of the Nippon Design Center. He is concerned with designing "circumstances" as much as "things." Since 2002 he has been a member of the Advisory Board of MUJI, where he is in charge of art direction. Through exhibitions and other projects designed from an original perspective, including RE-DESIGN and HAPTIC, he explores design possibilities latent in the everyday and in human sense perceptions. Recent works include commercial product designs for companies such as AGF, JT and KENZO, the Matsuya Ginza renewal project, Mori Building VI, and design direction for the Daikanyama Tsutaya Book Store. His books include Design no Design (Design of Design, Iwanami Shoten, 2003), and Nihon no Design (Design of Japan, Iwanami Shoten, 2011).