Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan
20th Anniversary Exhibition
Contemporary Art through School Subjects
Learning Art and the World Together
19 April ~ 24 September 2023
Since the 1990s, when the development of contemporary art began to be considered from multiple perspectives in different parts of the world, we have been seeing that contemporary art today goes far beyond the framework of arts and crafts and fine art in the school classroom. It is a composite field with connections to all subjects, including language and literature, mathematics, science, and social studies. In each of these disciplines, researchers are exploring the “unknowns” of the world, delving into history, and making new discoveries and inventions from the past to the future in order to enrich our perception of the world. The stance adopted by contemporary artists that seek to go beyond our preconceptions in a creative way is also connected to this exploration of these unknowns. In this sense, the contemporary art museum is something akin to a “classroom of the world” where we can encounter and learn about these unknown worlds.
WORLD CLASSROOM: Contemporary Art through School Subjects, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Mori Art Museum, is an attempt for us to encounter a world we have never seen or known from a wide variety of perspectives, using the subjects we learn at school as a gateway to contemporary art. Even though this exhibition is divided into such sections as “Language and Literature,” “Social Studies,” “Philosophy,” “Mathematics,” “Science,” “Music,” “Phys. Ed.,” and “Transdisciplinary,” each work, in fact, crosses over multiple subjects and domains. While over half of the approximately 150 exhibited works will be drawn from the Mori Art Museum Collection for the first time ever, there will also be newly-commissioned artworks for this exhibition – altogether creating a “classroom of the world,” place of learning with works by 54 artists/artist groups.
PHILOSOPHY: The field of philosophy, which explores the universal meaning of the world and life has long had a very close relationship with artistic expression. Philosophers have pursued the fundamental principles that govern human birth, life, and death, while artists have also confronted these essential notions and created various forms of artistic expression. In the 20th century, the notion of “putting art back in the service of the mind,” advocated by Marcel Duchamp in the field of contemporary art, and which operates on the viewer’s thoughts rather than at the level of visual beauty, emphasized the importance of the ideological and philosophical aspects of art and has had a profound influence on the art that came after. Artistic expression is not limited to Western philosophy, which has had a great influence on modern society: it is also a place where various ideas, beliefs, and cultural values from around the world including Eastern thought intermingle. Works of art dealing with themes such as existence, time, nature, the afterlife, faith, and salvation demonstrate how each artist observes, perceives, and expresses the essence of this world.
Charwei Tsai takes Buddhist philosophy as her subject matter, expressing the diversity of religious beliefs and evanescence of the world through familiar motifs such as food, plants, and flowers. While Miyajima Tatsuo also expresses a Buddhist view of life and death, through the minimalist expression of numbers projected onto digital counters, an industrial product, he gives form to the lives of people that are born and die. Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook’s performances where she gives lectures to the dead, according to her, represent her own process of understanding death.
Lee Ufan’s paintings and sculptures visualize a state of exquisite thinking through elements stripped down to an absolute extreme, creating a contemplative space imbued with a unique sensation of tension and stillness. Nara Yoshitomo’s paintings evoke a warm presence within stillness. Perhaps it is the way the expressions on the faces of the children depicted in his paintings represent a kind of essential innocence and delicateness we all contain that attracts so many people.
Kataoka Mami (Director, Mori Art Museum)
Kumakura Haruko (Assistant Curator, Mori Art Museum)
Kondo Kenichi (Senior Curator, Mori Art Museum)
Tsubaki Reiko (Curator, Mori Art Museum)
Tokuyama Hirokazu (Associate Curator, Mori Art Museum)
Yahagi Manabu (Assistant Curator, Mori Art Museum)
Martin Germann (Adjunct Curator, Mori Art Museum)