japanese art, design and culture

Posts from — March 2013

Eggshell Art by Nosigner

Back in 2008, fascinated by their translucency and strength, Nosigner began experimenting with egg shells in various capacities.

Hatch is a planter made from real egg shells. Mimicking the way eggs nurture the young, greenery feeds off of the nutrition found in egg shells. And because the egg shells are biodegradable, they can be planted in the wild once the plant outgrows its nest.

hatch_1150_02all photos by HATTA | click to enlarge

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Rebirth is a lighting product made from real egg shells. Despite their inherent fragility, egg shells can disperse weight amongst themselves, allowing for large, complex structures to be built. The resulting forms appear to be autonomous in its beauty, much like the naturally-occurring shapes found in nature.


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Surrounded by artificiality in this day and age, there exists a strong desire to touch life, nature and other “real” things so as to reaffirm our existence. Titled “Rebirth,” this light was, quite literally, born from life itself. The egg shells possess remnants of life, which are sure to create a relationship that goes beyond just human and object.


March 31, 2013   Comments Off

Recruit Rhapsody by Maho Yoshida

Recruit Rhapsody by Maho Yoshida (1)

In Japan, March is a time of new leaves, both in a figurative and literal sense. Cherry blossoms are blooming and students are graduating. And despite all the joyous celebrations brought on by warmer weather and new opportunities, it can also be a stressful season for those who have yet to line up a job.

Tokyo University of the Arts student Maho Yoshida beautifully illustrates all the anxieties of shu-katsu, an abbreviated term for job hunting. In the 7 and a half minute video the protagonist, which seems to be Yoshida herself, is peacefully enjoying school life when she begins to notice that her friends are behaving oddly. Before realizing it, she is suddenly swept up in the whirlpool that is, “Japanese ceremonial job hunting.”

There’s no dialogue so you don’t have to understand Japanese to appreciate this animated gem.

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[spoiler alert] Ok, I lied. You do have to know a bit of Japanese. In the final scene she gets a message on her phone that reads “rejected.”

Source: @Kya7y

March 28, 2013   1 Comment

The miniature worlds of Maico Akiba



Maico Akiba, whose series, “100 years later,” we previously featured, has another project simply titled SEKAI, or “world.” In it, she imagines miniature ecosystems growing on the backs of other animals. There are people but also remnants of civilization like electric poles or shops often overrun by weeds and vines. It’s almost like a reverse-Noah’s Arc.

In 2012 the series was commercialized in the form of cell phone straps. But I like the detail-heavy originals better.







March 28, 2013   1 Comment

Mari Kamei cuts everyday objects into fine threads

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Kyoto-based artist Mari Kamei, who I’m going to go ahead and dub the “human shredder,” loves to cut. Whether it’s milk cartons, paper cups, biscuit boxes or cake boxes, if it’s shredable Kamei will shred it. “I’m not trying to create paper cut-outs. It’s more about the action of cutting,” said Kamei in an interview filmed for her upcoming show at AS2 Gallery in Kyoto.

Using a spiral cutting process, Kamei carefully shreds each object, often opting to preserve small portions of each to reveal their previous form. There is something wonderfully crude about her method, which – much like the gesture drawings students do in drawing 101 – focuses on the action rather than the end product.

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March 27, 2013   Comments Off

Clipnest turns your paper clips into a bird’s nest

clipnest (4)photos by Kohei Yonezawa | click to enlarge

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Product designer Ryosuke Harashima created this tactile wooden egg embedded with a magnet. When you dip the egg into your carton of paperclips it comes out looking like and egg sitting in a nest. Gorgeous and clever!

The eggs were hand-made out of Keyaki wood in Yamanaka, Japan by wood turning craftsmen.

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March 26, 2013   1 Comment

A Warehouse Renovation in Yoro by Airhouse

Warehouse Renovation in Yoro by Airhouse (2)“Before” | photo courtesy Keiichi Kiriyama

Warehouse Renovation in Yoro by Airhouse (5)“After” | Photos by Toshiyuki Yano | click to enlarge

One man’s castle is another man’s garbage. Or at least that’s the way it goes in Japan’s housing market where a postwar “Scrap and build” policy has resulted in average home lifespans of just 30 years. Only about 13% of all housing sales are pre-owned homes, compared with about 78% in the U.S.

But now an aging population and an imbalance between homes and families has made the government jump ship, reversing their policy and offering incentives for home renovations. And thanks to a popular TV show called “Before After,” the general public seems to be warming up to the idea of renovation as well. But it certainly helps when a beautiful example comes along and helps you visualize the potential of, say, a derelict warehouse.

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Keiichi Kiriyama is a young architect who worked under Makoto Tanijiri and went on to establish his own studio – aptly titled Airhouse – in 2009. In 2012 he renovated a warehouse in the suburban district of Yoro (Gifu prefecture), not too far from the industrial city of Nagoya. Previously used to house farming equipment, Kiriyama injected a dose of calm by inserting a large loft that houses a bedroom and 2 bathrooms.

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The loft space above for the kids overlooks the entire home. A major focal point is the kitchen which was designed specifically for the food-loving couple.

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source: submission

March 26, 2013   Comments Off

ARAI Junichi: Tradition and Creation

Junichi Arai’s retrospective exhibition at the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery presents 60 years of his work as an experimental textile designer. Perhaps most well-known for his collaboration with fashion icon Issey Miyake, Arai’s work is Avant-garde yet stunning.

exhibition part 1all photos by KIOKU Keizo courtesy the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery

Kaleidoscope IV

Multi-colored metallic fabrics are suspended and lit so that they seem to be moving like flames or bursting volcanoes. Major works are suspended from the ceiling and visitors are encouraged to meander through and inspect them at all angles. As I snaked my way through the shimmering fabrics I noticed I could see other visitors but they couldn’t see me, like a gold plated one-way mirror.

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The exhibition also presents videos of Arai explaining his methodologies, which combine handcraft weaving and dying techniques with cutting-edge technology. Some of the most interesting pieces were the shibori style textiles where the metallic-coated threads were melted and removed in some parts of the cloth to leave behind sheer, metal-tinged translucent surfaces.

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Arai continues to work and experiment with new technologies, and constructed new pieces specifically for this show. I actually caught a glimpse of him while visiting the exhibition and though he is small in stature, he has plenty to say. The exhibition  ARAI Junichi: Tradition and Creation closes this Sunday, March 24th. Click here for videos of the exhibition and Arai’s own description of his work (in Japanese).

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March 25, 2013   Comments Off

An Adventure Through Roppongi Art Night 2013

Roppongi Art Night is just one night out of the whole year, time you’d normally spend dreaming under the covers in your own bed, but what if instead Art night found people all in one big bed telling each other their dream?

- Katsuhiko Hibino, Art Director of the 4th edition of Roppongi Art Night

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For me, it was the 1st time attending and I didn’t know what to expect. I arrived after sunset in the beating heart of Roppongi among Japanese and foreigners, ready to enjoy the night in one of the many surrounding bars and clubs. Roppongi may be the red-light district of Tokyo, but it’s also a budding center of art and design with the National Art center and Tokyo Midtown, home to the Suntory museum, Design Hub, the Mori museum, PechaKucha refuge, and more. These sites have proved to be valuable spaces for fostering a design-centric community, inspiring artists, designers and thinkers.

Despite all it had going for it, I still wasn’t sure about what I would discover. But I pushed forward as my curiosity about sneaking into a museum at night overcame my fear of disappointment. I stepped in.

Design Ah! special installation“Ah” by Kotaro Sekiguchi made with newspaper and duct tape. An installation in conjunction with the “Design Ah! Exhibition”. Unless otherwise noted, all photos by Justine

Roppongi Art Night Design ahphoto by flickr user robochick

I was far from disappointed! Invested, transformed, vibrating; I hardly recognized the place and its smooth flow of people mixing with artists, musicians and performers. I quickly gave up following the map and agenda offered to me at the information station. There was too much to see, too much to listen, too much to read. Katsuhiko Hibino – artist and director of Roppongi Art Night – succeeded in constructing an uninterrupted network of experiences, one leading to the other. So I set myself loose in a random itinerary and I never felt lost.

hundred of boots“Shimura Nobuhiro molded one hundred candles from old boots mostly from local residents of Mine, Yamaguchi. The installation uses ordinary materials and imagery to evoke an atmosphere of sedimented time layered with memories of other non-urban lives.”

Recently, art has been splitting in two directions: one way presumes “white cube” museums will show the same exhibitions under the same conditions worldwide, art that remains unaffected by time and place; the other way is site-specific art, where places exert a positive pull on the works and each different encounter becomes important, the exact opposite to what museum try to do. -  Katsuhiko Hibino

Roppongi Art Night was just the right illustration of this second kind of art. A kind of art where the spectator is completely integrated. The body is involved and the soul is transformed. Look! Listen! Take! Think! Cry! Dance! Laugh! Here were all the injunctions reaching my head, heart and body.

the white building washingEarly in 2012, Iwai Masaru stayed in the derelict “The White building” in Phnom Penh, Cambodia while shooting a documentary about cleaning the building together with local residents. Projected in three large screens, the white building washing astounds the viewer with its stark realism and ineffable videographic beauty.

The night gathered a breathtaking array of art and performances. Exhibitions, theater, live painting, concerts, knitting in the park… The night resonated with sounds of “great -sugoi!,” “wonderful – subarashii!” and “cute – kawaii!” coming from an excited crowd delighted by the surprises found in their way.

Roppongi Art Night Hibiki Lounge 1A mandala of “Hibiki” whisky bottles at the Hibiki Art Lounge | photo by flickr user Ryosuke Takeoka

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Souffleurs - whispering poetic resistanceBased on the principle that people convey messages from mouth to ear, Les Souffleurs commandis poétiques was formed by the French actor Olivier Comte in 2001 with his “Declaration of Whispering”. This is an art performance of whispering poetry and philosophy  using a long tube called a nightingale. It is an artistic activity to share discovery or inspiration hidden in our daily life with others. Japan-France joint “Souffleurs” is performed in collaboration with Tokyo Theater Company KAZE.

This installation of a watch or compass arrow pointed to the sky, under which entertaining concerts took place, was a great embodiment of the theme of this night: TRIP. “Witness today’s transformation into tomorrow.” I don’t know about transformation but what I do know is this night filled us all with energy to face tomorrow.

the tripping arrowWithin the space created by Mishima Akiyoshi, the huge arrow will transform  - like a balloon about to make a journey, the hand of a tie piece to mark the passage of time, or a needle of a compass indicating the direction of the trip.

Arigato Katsuhiko-san.

March 25, 2013   Comments Off

Saeri Kiritani Wins 2013 Portrait Competition with Sculpture Made From 100 Pounds of Rice

Saeri-Kiritani-Japanese-Sculptureimages courtesy of Paul Roberts

Artists know that a portrait can communicate much more than a likeness. Personal identity, cultural differences, illusory moments can be captured through portraits. Portraits are created in a dizzying variety of media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, video and other time-based media, even images based on individual DNA.

- Introduction to the National Portrait Gallery’s 2013 portrait competition


In what is being called the largest artwork ever made out of rice, Saeri Kiritani, a NY-based artist who originally hails from Kanazawa, has been named one of the winners of the National Portrait Gallery’s 2013 portrait competition. Titled, 100 pounds of rice, Kiritani glued together over 1 million grains of rice to create a 5-foot high portrait of herself. Even the hair is made from rice noodles.

We are what we eat, expressed Kiritani, in a statement describing her work. “I grew up in Japan, where rice was the biggest part of my diet. It still is. You could say that the cells of my body are made mostly from rice!”

Kiritani’s sculpture, along with 48 other entries, will be on display at the National Portrait Gallery for an entire year until Feb. 23, 2014.


You can check out our other food-related articles right here.

Source: Junk Culture | AsianArtBlog

March 21, 2013   1 Comment

100 Years Later by Maico Akiba

maico akiba 100 years later (1)all images courtesy maico akiba

While we’re on the topic of corrosion, I want to showcase the work of Maico Akiba: illustrator, sculptor and frequent collaborator with Yusuke Kagari. When she’s not illustrating children’s books she spends her time on an ongoing project called 100 Years Later, in which she uses her painting skills to apply what she refers to as a coat of “aging paint.”

The concept is pretty straightforward – imagining what everyday items might look like in 100 years. In an apocalyptic kind of way. The realness of her paints are mind-boggling.

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March 20, 2013   Comments Off