23rd Art Division Critiques

The Mechanism of Meaninglessness

In the Guidelines for the Teaching of High School Education, Japanese language classes have been separated into "Japanese Language (Logic)" and "Japanese Language (Literature)." The Aichi Triennale's state-sponsored grant was taken away after it opened. Graffiti by possible Banksy was torn off a wall and is now exhibited at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building. This is the kind of era we are living in. I began my service on the jury under these circumstances, but I felt that the artists' submitted works resuscitated me in a way, because they were entered merely from a basic, genuine desire to be seen or heard. Unfortunately, my experience was that very few pieces really moved me. Many seemed to be rehashing what I'd already seen elsewhere, or extensions of what we've viewed before. Some jury members lamented that the works were lacking in any strong message. I feel, however, that this missing purpose can be recognized as the very message of our current times. Issues and views that exceed human perception, that are so complicated that they cannot be explained in a few words, that are made up of data so detailed they allow little space for human analysis--all of these can be seen to symbolize the issue of human exclusion in contemporary times. What appears to be so massive that it defies summary is fitting to reflect a "post-human" world. There were a few works this year that embody this notion. Two Hundred and Seventy, a piece in which 270 rubbish bags slowly expand and contract was memorable in this regard. Art, by nature, goes beyond existing convention, and dislikes being confined within boundaries. It concerns having to carry within one's gut something that cannot be controlled. This plight will remain unchanged, and it allows no exception for media art. But within it we can find so much: life, beauty and literature, or even death and lies. At the time when this Japan Media Arts Festival was collecting art submissions, Pierre HUYGHE was exhibiting work addressing the unsettling and incalculable nature of life at the Okayama Art Summit. There, one was able to witness contemporary themes echoing concepts like internal observation and autopoiesis. I am left wondering if we will be able to see such developing features in media art next year.

Researcher of Complex Systems Sciences and Professor, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tokyo
Born in 1961 in Nagano Prefecture. Doctor of science (physics) and researcher on complex systems and artificial life. Professor, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the University of Tokyo.