Art + Culture

毒山 凡太朗の卓越したアート実践は日本の社会経済の歴史を深く考えさせる Exceptional Artistic Practice By DOKUYAMA Bontaro Inspires Deep Thoughts On Japanese Socio-Economic History

毒山 凡太朗 DOKUYAMA Bontaro ‘経済産業省第四分館 The 4th branch, Ministry and Economy, Trade and Industry’ 2016, video installation, detail

DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山 凡太朗 catapulted in a relatively short time into the stratosphere of the Japanese contemporary art scene.
His actual works shown in the Mori Art Museum under the banner of “Roppongi Crossing 2019: Connexions” (1) and in the Gallery αM, directed by MOT (Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo) curator YABUMAE Tomoko 藪前知子 in the context of “Plans for Tokyo 2019” starting with “Vol.1: Bontaro Dokuyama” (2) cry out for historical-metaphorical comparisons, as the art works display an intense involvement with the post-colonial and economy growth experiences, seen from different angles.
Unconsciously, for obvious reasons, I noticed that my personal life relates to Dokuyama’s practice, who is investigating the human existence within a reality that seems to be full of unresolved problems. I would vaguely call his artistic attitude “protest-art”, issue-specific, say-no-to-power-and-say-it-loud art.
The art of protest comes in many forms, and there’s every reason for it today to keep coming, even it is difficult to compose one universal symbolic analysis, or trying to understand the total complexity of a problematic topic.
In the last decades, the notion of forgiveness and reconciliation helped to nurture a young generation which wants to look forward and not back. I do endorse that kind of spirit, especially seen from my Japanese-German-Italian background.

Myself, who reflected in the 90’s on the forceful separation of populations, via the body of works (incl. books) “Korea – Divided Country” and “Berlin, a winter’s tale after the wall” (text: Wim Wenders), is actually sitting in the transfer lobby of Inchon Airport, watching local news about the Kwangju incident/massacre called “5・18”, still being uninvestigated in South Korean history. Personal flash backs 1987-2019.
During Dokuyama’s last year’s solo exhibition “Public archive” at the gallery AOYAMA | MEGURO, which I’m affiliated with, he did let the visitors interact with the issue of “comfort women”, internationally known since the 1990’s. (3)
From my German experience, I have to strongly emphasize, that sincere apologies and honest attitudes are healing wounds.
In this regard, I guess Dokuyama probably wants to halt dementia regarding historical facts in his own country, ultimately finding the appropriate attitude for reconciliation. (However, as the Japanese Emperor Emeritus Akihito had been pressed to apologize, too, we wonder at what point the political context should begin and where to draw the line, because of actual peaceful, diplomatic relationships between two countries. (4))
Another recent body of work consists of a simple shouting “War is over!” at several locations in Okinawa which reminds us, amongst many other tragic disasters, that the U.S. military bases should be abolished on that island.

In the actual Mori Art Museum’s “Roppongi Crossing”, which is filled with plenty of picture worlds of the transitory, Dokuyama’s video work “My anthem” (2019) is surely standing out.

1:05 min.

55 sec.

49 sec.

Interviews with an older generation of Taiwanese, who were born as “Japanese”, encapsulated a lived narrative shaped by the effects of colonialism and two wars. With astonishment we hear Taiwanese elderly say, that under the specter of Japanese colonialism (1895 – 1945), ‘everything’ was better than under “Chinese rule”.

DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山凡太朗 「君之代―斉唱―」”My anthem” 2019、 一コマ
DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山凡太朗 「君之代―斉唱―」”My anthem” 2019、 一コマ
DOKUYAMA Bontaro ”My anthem” 2019 (video work)
DOKUYAMA Bontaro ”My anthem” 2019 (video work)

Precarious food for thought about feelings/memories of ambivalence; ultimately rejected for having unseemly political overtones.
Further on, we shouldn’t forget that Japan remains the only country in the world, which defeated Russia (Japanese-Russian War 日露戦争 1904-5). That “glory” resulted in continuing the long history of “expansionist wars” in Asia (compare with “Ottoman Empire” オスマン帝国 or “Genghis Khan Empire” チンギス・カン帝国), and by adopting the strategies of “military colonialism” from European countries, Japan started to become a military power, too, forcibly recruiting Taiwanese and Korean soldiers.

40 sec.

Dokuyama, fortunately, transformed the documentary character of his investigative reportage into an art work by cleverly bridging the past with the present in a witty, humourous way. We see contemporary Japanese children in school uniforms singing the National Anthem.

DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山凡太朗 「君之代―斉唱―」”My anthem” 2019
DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山凡太朗 「君之代―斉唱―」”My anthem” 2019 (video work)

Having dressed his protagonists from Taiwan with similar school uniforms, the installation transmits a comical, surrealistic atmosphere, in which we wonder if we should laugh or feel scared. This kind of magic, which can’t be controlled, rarely happens in contemporary art. Therefore I regard Dokuyama’s work “My anthem” as a masterpiece.
How and why did Dokuyama arrive to this moment in 2019, being able to execute such an extraordinary work of art-historical value? Because he has no ‘classical’ art education. (Which, in my opinion, should be completely abolished. Especially in the U.S.A., where young “wanna-be-artists” live under a huge amount of art-university-related debts, focus primarily on the speculative, contemporary art market in New York City and try to “brand” themselves as fucking cool, bad-ass- Instagram artists.)

Dokuyama, born in 1984, started his artistic practice after witnessing the disastrous change to his hometown of Fukushima brought about by the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011, and the meltdown of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear Power Plant (“3・11”).
He had been “baptized” by colleague KAZAMA Sachiko 風間サチコ (5) as “a fresh born artist” to be named DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山 凡太朗. (My interpretation: a cheerful bold guy called ‘a mountain full of poison’.)
Just 3 weeks ago, extremely popular and successful, Mujin-to Production’s gallery artist, KAZAMA Sachiko 風間サチコ had been handed over the prestigious “Tokyo Contemporary Art Award” by Tokyo Governor KOIKE Yuriko 小池 百合子. (6)
For us art lovers, a rare, highly interesting notion of social commentary in REALPOLITIK, where we can get a big laugh! The Governor of Tokyo, with her mandate, is obliged to positively ‘represent’ the Tokyo Olympic 2020, – but as an irony of fate, she is promoting an artist who creates anti-Olympiad works, like the spectacular “Dislympia 2680” (2018). (7) Exquisite!
And the arty entertainment (with a deadly serious context) doesn’t stop here. The next poisoning “bon-bon au bon goût” for the French speaking Governor of Tokyo comes from KAZAMA’s ‘disciple’ “Bon”-taro.
In a highly cynical way he created a new video work called “Innocent Tale of the sky” 2019, actually shown in the Gallery αM. Because of the coming Olympics, Tokyo is under the siege of general contractors ゼネコン, famous for price-fixing agreements, and their cozy relationship with bureaucrats from the Tokyo government. (8)
The protagonist is continuously shouting in front of newly build skyscrapers: “still too much blue sky”. “You should construct the buildings much taller, higher, higher!”. C’est très bon!

57 sec.

This exhibition resonates a notion of helplessness, as the world very soon wants to be entertained by the Olympiad, which Prime Minister ABE Shinzo promoted in 2013 in front of the International Olympic Committee members with the famous sentence: “Let me assure you, the situation is under control”.
In this context, ‘Japanese Contemporary Art Transparency Prize’ JCATP-recipient SHIMABAYASHI Hideyuki 島林秀行 (9) initially planed to use “The situation is under control” for his legendary, curatorial practice “Unclear nuclear” at the gallery URANO.
Interestingly, Dokuyama and myself, separately, were engaged in anti-nuke demonstrations in front of the Parliament. I did choose PM Abe’s ‘slogan’ for my show earlier than Shimabayashi, and focused not on the past, but the future of Japan’s society by exhibiting, a.o., the German “ATOMKRAFT? NEIN DANKE” influence on Japanese anti-nuke movement. (10)
In those days, I didn’t know that Dokuyama himself was involved with the, by Japanese organizers defined name, “Occupy Kasumigaseki Anti-nuclear Tent Museum” (経産省前テントひろば 反原発美術館). (11)
In the tent I happily found the same “ATOMKRAFT? NEIN DANKE” stickers, which in my youth I put on my school bag, car etc.. I donated some money in the tent and exhibited some photographic impressions during my show. Astonishingly, Dokuyama succeeded in getting his legal residence address 本籍 as Chiyoda-ku, 1-1, the tiny space at the ground of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, in the center of Tokyo. Wow, unbelievable.

DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山 凡太朗「経済産業省第四分館」 The 4th branch, Ministry and Economy, Trade and Industry, 2016, installation, detail
DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山 凡太朗「経済産業省第四分館」 The 4th branch, Ministry and Economy, Trade and Industry, 2016, installation, detail

With these two exhibitions at the Mori Art Museum and the Gallery αM, Dokuyama succeeded in showing us that contemporary art is particularly effective at unpacking the present-day specter of “precarious situations”, by revealing complexity, ambiguity and conflicting emotions in a way that more traditional media often do not.
The next opportunity to see Dokuyama’s work will be at the Aichi Triennale あいちトリエンナーレ, beginning on August 1st. An exciting, contemporary art filled period in the region around Nagoya city, which surely lets the visitor experience joy, contemplation or participation through high-grade, site-specific artistic installations.
In the meantime, socially engaged artist KAZAMA Sachiko will hopefully surprise us again with new thought-provoking works in the Gallery αM, as Part 2 of “Plans for TOKYO 2019”. (13)
Fascinating Tokyo’s art scene at its best! Stay tuned! :-)

仁川広域市 Inchon, 令和元年5月14日 Japanese Imperial Era Reiwa 1, May 14th
亜 真里男 Mario A

脚注 footnotes

(1) 非常に見応えのある「六本木クロッシング2019展:つないでみる」@ 森美術館
Very Impressive “Roppongi Crossing 2019: Connexions” Exhibition @ Mori Art Museum
https://art-culture.world/articles/roppongi-crossing-2019-connexions-mori-art-museum-森美術館/

(2) Gallery αM
東京計画2019 vol.1 毒山凡太朗
Plans for TOKYO 2019 vol.1 Bontaro DOKUYAMA
http://gallery-alpham.com/exhibition/2019_1/

47 min.

αMプロジェクト2019『東京計画2019』
ゲストキュレーター:藪前知子(東京都現代美術館学芸員)

vol.1 毒山凡太朗:2019年4月6日(土)~5月18日(土)(特別休廊:4/28-5/6)
vol.2 風間サチコ:2019年6月1日(土)~7月13日(土)
vol.3 Urban Research Group:2019年7月27日(土)~9月14日(土)(夏季休廊:8/11-19)
vol.4 ミルク倉庫+ココナッツ:2019年9月28日(土)~11日9日(土)
vol.5 中島晴矢:2019年11月30日(土)~2020年1月18日(土)(冬季休廊:12/26-1/6)
「東京計画2019」
藪前知子(東京都現代美術館学芸員)
http://gallery-alpham.com/exhibition/

(3)
DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山 凡太朗:Public archive @ AOYAMA | MEGURO
http://aoyamameguro.com/artists/bontaro-dokuyama-public-archive/

(4)
NHK:韓国の国会議長「総理大臣か天皇陛下が謝罪を」
Bloomberg: South Korea Lawmaker Seeks Imperial Apology for Japan Sex Slaves
https://art-culture.world/articles/bloomberg-south-korea-lawmaker-seeks-imperial-apology-for-japan-sex-slaves/

(5)
風間サチコ 展 @ 無人島プロダクション
KAZAMA Sachiko exhibition @ Mujin-to Production
https://art-culture.world/articles/kazama-sachiko-exhibition-mujin-to-production/

(6)
中堅作家を次なるステージへ。Tokyo Contemporary Art Awardの長期的支援とは?
https://bijutsutecho.com/magazine/special/promotion/19778

(7)
優作「ディスリンピック2680」@ 風間サチコ展・「原爆の図 丸木美術館」
KAZAMA Sachiko’s Excellent “Dislympia 2680” @ Hiroshima Panels – Maruki Museum
https://art-culture.world/articles/kazama-sachiko-dislympia-2680-hiroshima-panels-maruki-museum/

(8)
東京オリンピック2020年:借金を増やす
Tokyo Olympics 2020: run up more into debts
https://art-culture.world/articles/tokyo-olympics-2020-run-up-more-into-debts/

(9)
「日本現代アート透明賞」(省略:JCATP) Japanese Contemporary Art Transparency Prize (JCATP)
https://jcatp.com/recipients/shimabayashi-hideyuki/

(10)
2012年8月17日、国会前「ATOMKRAFT? NEIN DANKE」(原子力?おことわり)」+国民の声
https://marioa.com/works/2012817atomkraft-nein-danke-3/
記憶喪失にならないように「The situation is under control」個展
https://marioa.com/blog/the-situation-is-under-control-4/#more-854

(11)
経産省前テントひろば 反原発美術館(Occupy Kasumigaseki Anti-nuclear Tent Museum)
https://www.facebook.com/antinuketent2015/

Kan Naoto

(courtesy ‘Occupy Kasumigaseki Anti-nuclear Tent Museum’ Facebook page)
5:00 min.

(12)
Aichi Triennale あいちトリエンナーレ 2019/8/1 – 10/14
http://aichitriennale.jp/en/index.html

(13)
東京計画2019 vol.2 風間サチコ
Plans for TOKYO 2019 vol.2 Sachiko KAZAMA
2019年6月1日(土)~ 7月13日(土)
http://gallery-alpham.com/exhibition/2019_2/


Visual part about DOKUYAMA Bontaro’s works at the Mori Art Museum and Gallery αM

森美術館 Mori Art Museum:

from DOKUYAMA Bontaro ”My anthem” 2019 (video work)
from DOKUYAMA Bontaro ”My anthem” 2019 (video work)
DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山凡太朗 ”My anthem” 2019 (video work)
DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山凡太朗 ”My anthem” 2019 (video work)
Part of My anthem installation by Dokuyama
Part of ‘My anthem’ installation by Dokuyama
Explanation board by DOKUYAMA @ Mori Art Museum 森美術館
Explanation board by DOKUYAMA @ Mori Art Museum 森美術館
DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山凡太朗 「あっち」”Over there” 2015
DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山凡太朗 「あっち」”Over there” 2015
DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山凡太朗 「あっち」”Over there” 2015, detail 1
DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山凡太朗 「あっち」”Over there” 2015, detail 1
DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山凡太朗 「あっち」”Over there” 2015, detail 2
DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山凡太朗 「あっち」”Over there” 2015, detail 2
DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山凡太朗 「あっち」”Over there” 2015, detail 3
DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山凡太朗 「あっち」”Over there” 2015, detail 3

Gallery αM :

DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山 凡太朗「経済産業省第四分館」 The 4th branch, Ministry and Economy, Trade and Industry, 2016, installation
DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山 凡太朗「経済産業省第四分館」 The 4th branch, Ministry and Economy, Trade and Industry, 2016, installation
video work, 18 min
video work, 18 min
Donation box
Donation box
DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山 凡太朗「経済産業省第四分館」 The 4th branch, Ministry and Economy, Trade and Industry, 2016, installation, anti-nuke + political banners
DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山 凡太朗「経済産業省第四分館」 The 4th branch, Ministry and Economy, Trade and Industry, 2016, installation, anti-nuke + political banners
DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山 凡太朗
DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山 凡太朗 DOKUYAMA Bontaro 毒山 凡太朗
毒山 凡太朗
DOKUYAMA Bontaro, solo exhibition view
DOKUYAMA Bontaro, solo exhibition view
RENT TOKYO 2019, installation
“RENT TOKYO” 2019, installation
RENT TOKYO detail
“RENT TOKYO” detail
RENT TOKYO 2019
あどけない空の話 Innocent Tale of the sky 2019 3 min. video
“あどけない空の話 Innocent Tale of the sky” 2019, 3 min. video
あどけない空の話 Innocent Tale of the sky
“千年 たっても Even after 1000 years” 2015, 2.30 min video
“千年 たっても Even after 1000 years” 2015, 2:30 min video
“TOKYO Drawing 2019” 2019, mixed media installation, Imperial Palace compound is in the center
“TOKYO Drawing 2019” 2019, mixed media installation (Imperial Palace compound is in the center, white)
“TOKYO Drawing 2019” 2019, mixed media installation, detail
“TOKYO Drawing 2019” 2019, mixed media installation, detail
“TOKYO Drawing 2019”

今日のおまけ today’s bonus

毒山 凡太朗 DOKUYAMA Bontaro on the left、左側、Heisei 平成28年4月29日
毒山 凡太朗 DOKUYAMA Bontaro on the left、左側、Heisei 平成28年4月29日