I am a curator of Japanese art at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, not a curator of contemporary art. When I have spoken to contemporary art curators about Mono-ha, they instantly compare Mono-ha with other art forms, Minimalism, James Turrell, or Arte Povera, for example. Since we are here in front of an audience that is mixed with many non-Japan specialists, how would you convey to all present the specific defining qualities of Mono-ha and how these differ from superficially similar approaches to art elsewhere? What was essential to Mono-ha?
In a word, Mono-ha is about the aesthetics of relationality. We combine neutral materials and express the relationship with a space or a site in such a way as to create a sense of presence. A sense of ephemerality is very strong in our work, as opposed to Arte Povera, Earthworks, or Minimal Art. Additionally, our work is not a mere art-historical protest against the institution of art. Our work operates like a shift-and-slip that does not immediately engage history but instead creates unusual scenery with considerable impact. In this sense, our approach definitely differs from other artistic isms.
Too many answers will only confuse people; I think Lee’s response is sufficient.
If ephemerality, time-specific gesture, and site-specific construction of the work are key to the understanding of Mono-ha, is the work for all intents and purposes a thing of the past? What is it that remains relevant to each of you?
I have heard that hundreds of millions of human cells die and are reborn every day. In me, too, cells die and are reborn, accumulating in my gut. For instance, here [End Page 235] in Los Angeles [for the current exhibition at Blum and Poe], we made works initially created forty-years ago. It’s like cells being reborn. It’s a fresh act for us each time.
The end result, including the final form and physical existence of the work, is not the work for us. This is very important to remember. Rather, the work concerns all the relationships, thoughts, and senses that led to the very expression of the work. In this respect, while the works remain, they are constantly renewed. Unfortunately, when Yoshida Katsurō and Narita Katsuhiko died, their work became physicalized. They turned into things.
I am in complete opposition to what Koshimizu has just said. In his view, mono disappear in the end, but I do not believe that mono ever disappear. Human beings do not narrate meaning, using words to establish mono. Rather, the presence of mono itself draws forth words or actions from human beings. This is essentially how it should be. Therefore, we do not create something with mono and add meaning, but because mono exist there bearing a sense of eternity, humans are moved by them.
I think our ideas are not so different.
I would like to make a comment. What Suga and Koshimizu are saying differs slightly, but their core concerns are not so different. In other words, what Koshimizu is saying is that a performance or an action by a “Happener” stops there [when the artist dies]. Therefore, re-creation or re-enactment entails a different meaning. It is in this sense, I believe, that Koshimizu says that only things are left behind. When Suga says things remain eternally, he means that which is fundamental or the world itself does not so easily disappear. They are thinking along similar lines. What must be noted is that in the case of Suga, the world appears and disappears in his bodily relationship with things, as emphasized through an aspect of a Happening or a physical act of his. Ultimately, I believe that the difference here is a matter of expression, in essence they are the same.
What is the meaning of Mono-ha now? I am not talking about the objects but in the contemporary present.
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