Contemporary Art Center/Gallery, ART TOWER MITO

Mito Arts Foundation
1-6-8 Goken-cho, Mito-shi, Ibaraki-ken, 310-0063 Japan
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"The Door into Summer: The Age of Micropop"
Feb. 3 (Sat) to May 6 (Sun), 2007 (closed Mondays*)

* The exhibition will be open on Feb. 12 and Apr. 30, which are both national holidays, though they fall on Mondays. Instead, the following days -- Feb. 13 (Tue) and May 1 (Tue) -- will be closed.

Right: NARA Yoshitomo
Courtesy:Tomio Koyama Gallery/Marianne Boesky Gallery
Left: SUGITO Hiroshi
Courtesy:Tomio Koyama Gallery
Installation view at Contmporary Art Center, Art Tower Mito
The Door into Summer: The Age of Micropop 2007

Installation view at Contmporary Art Center, Art Tower Mito
The Door into Summer: The Age of Micropop 2007
Courtesy: Tomio Koyama Gallery

MORI Chihiro
Installation view at Contmporary Art Center, Art Tower Mito
The Door into Summer: The Age of Micropop 2007
Courtesy:Kodama Gallery

Installation view at Contmporary Art Center, Art Tower Mito
The Door into Summer: The Age of Micropop 2007
Courtesy: hiromi yoshii

Installation view at Contmporary Art Center, Art Tower Mito
The Door into Summer: The Age of Micropop 2007
Courtesy: Tanaka Koki and Aoyama | Meguro
HANDA Masanori
Installation view at Contmporary Art Center, Art Tower Mito
The Door into Summer: The Age of Micropop 2007
Courtesy: Kodama Gallery

Midori Matsui* has spent the last decade or so, from 1995 to 2006, tracking the emergence of so-called "Micropop*" expressions in the art scene and the actual venues in which it is practiced. She has employed literary analytical methods -- her field of specialty -- to arrive at the concept of "Micropop" through the process of reflectively thinking about the new styles of expression created by artists (authors), and their confrontation with art critics, discovering a new genre of works that hitherto had not existed (or recognized as such).

The upcoming group exhibition at Art Tower Mito (ATM) presents the works of artists who have played a central role in Matsui's development of the concept of "Micropop." It also features the works of those young artists whose works suggest that they will be responsible for the further development of the genre, when the future is viewed from Micropop's perspective.

ATM's exhibition has gathered together more than 250 works, old and new, by 15 Japanese artists on the Micropop scene: tableaux and drawings by Nara Yoshitomo, Sugito Hiroshi, Ochiai Tam, Arima Kaoru, Aoki Ryoko, Aya Takano, Mori Chihiro, Mahomi Kunikata; photographs by SHIMABUKU and Noguchi Rika; installations by Handa Masanori and K.K.; and video works by Tanaka Koki, Oki Hiroyuki, and Izumi Taro. The exhibition highlights their artistic creativity, with each artist producing a unique style of creative work while sharing something in common with the others. It also attempts to demonstrate the points of similarity between their artistic expressions and the lifestyles and sensibilities of young people in general, also considering their possible influence on future generations.

Micropop can be defined as a "small-scale, avant-garde" approach or attitude that attempts to create a new aesthetic consciousness and norms of behavior through the combination of fragments of information gleaned through one's own experience, in an age where history has come to be viewed in relative terms, and in which those spiritual statements that once served as the source or stronghold of various values have lost their authority. That approach can be described as a "small-scale attempt at survival" that aims to acquire a solid sense of being "alive" in the turbulent global era of today, in which people, information and things move around the world at an unprecedented speed and scale, and where faraway events can impact the basic foundations of one's own lifestyle, forcing each person to form the basis for his or her own judgment in response to a situation that is always changing fluidly.

By bringing together all these works -- each a "small-scale attempts at survival" -- and presenting them under one roof, "The Door into Summer: The Age of Micropop" exhibition at ATM allows viewers to personally experience, in a visual sense, the trends of the current era's aspects. At the same time, it provides an opportunity and venue for the broad recognition and discussion of the new values and view of art represented by a type of expression that has tended to be seen as peripheral heretofore.

* MATSUI, Midori (art critic)
After studying British and American literature at Sophia University and graduate school of the University of Tokyo, Matsui got her Ph.D. from Princeton University in comparative literature. She started her career researching modern poems of British and American literature as an associate professor at Tohoku University (Sendai, Japan), but quit that position and became an independent art critic around 1994-95. As a representative art critic of Japan, she has energetically introduced the Japanese art scene to foreign audiences, having published many essays about the currents of contemporary Japanese art in foreign academic journals, essay collections, and exhibition catalogs.

* Micropop
In his book, "Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature," the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze outlines a new model for art in the new age. He refers to the type of imaginativeness that transcends the limits of existing forms of expression -- those of major languages that one is forced to use -- recombining them through original deviations (wanderings), rephrasing, and codes of expression, to develop a new kind of expression.

* "The Door into Summer"
Taken from the title of a novel by the American science-fiction writer, Robert A. Heinlein. The optimistic world view that flows throughout that work is underscored by a consciousness that reality is not necessarily a single, limited world, but rather a fluid thing that changes through the choices made at every moment, full of infinite possibilities but at the same time fraught with the crisis of its own destruction.

NARA Yoshitomo
"The little star dweller"
Photo: Yoshitaka Uchida,
Nomadic Studio
Courtesy: Tomio Koyama Gallery/
Marianne Boesky Gallery

Nara Yoshitomo (b. 1959, Aomori Prefecture)
1987 Graduated from graduate school of Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music
1988-1993 Enrolled in Staatliche Kunstakademie Dusseldorf, Germany
1995 "In the Deepest Puddle," SCAI THE BATHHOUSE, Tokyo
2001-2002 "I don't mind, if you forget me," Yokohama Museum of Art, Kanagawa
2006 "A to Z," Yoshii Brick Brewhouse, Aomori

SUGITO Hiroshi
"the dark, mirror"
Photo: Yoshitaka Uchida,
Nomadic Studio
Collection: The Sculpture Garden Museum VANGI MUSEO
Courtesy: Tomio Koyama Gallery

Sugito Hiroshi (b. 1970, Aichi Prefecture)
1992 Graduated in Japanese painting from Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music
1999 "MOT Annual 1999 - Modest Radicalism," Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo
2003 "under the shadow," Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo
2006 "April Song," The Sculpture Garden Museum VANGI MUSEO, Shizuoka

"eternal soup and sudden clarity"
Courtesy: Tomio Koyama Gallery

Ochiai Tam (b. 1967, Kanagawa Prefecture)
1993 Graduated in art from New York University
1995 Criterium 16, Art Tower Mito
1999 "Madeleine," Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo
2004 "Fiction? -- Painting in the Age of the Virtual," Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo


Arima Kaoru (b. 1969, Aichi Prefecture)
1990 Graduated in product design from junior college division, Nagoya Zokei University of Art & Design
1998-99 "let's Go to the Living Room," Watari-um (The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art), Tokyo
2004 "54th Carnegie International," Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
2006 "Man Who Dwells in Kiwamari House V," Art Drug Center, Aichi

AOKI Ryoko
"Flower Range"
Courtesy: Kodama Gallery

Aoki Ryoko (b. 1973, Hyogo Prefecture)
1999 Received master's degree in visual design from graduate school of Kyoto City University of Arts
1998 "Donaiyanen! / Contemporary Japanese Art - So What?" Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts, Paris
2001 "Hana Yashiki (Flowered House)," Kodama Gallery, Tokyo
2002 Criterium 51, Art Tower Mito
2005 "Hammer Projects: Ryoko Aoki," Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center at UCLA, Los Angeles

"Toward Eternity"
(c)2000 Aya Takano/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd.
All Rights Reserved.

Takano Aya (b. 1976, Saitama Prefecture)
2000 Graduated in art from Tama Art University
2000-2001 "Superflat," Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
2006 "City Dog," Shibuya Parco, Nagoya Parco
2006 "Aya Takano," Musee d'art contemporain Lyon
2007 Solo exhibition, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Miami

"Sweater Surprise"
(c)2004 Mahomi Kunikata/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd.
All Rights Reserved.

Kunikata Mahomi (b. 1979, Kanagawa Prefecture)
2000 Graduated in graphic design from Nippon Design College, majoring in illustration
2000 "Geijutsu Dojo (art training hall) Exhibition" LAPNET (Laforet Art & Planning Network) SHIP, Tokyo
2004 "Tokyo Girls Bravo 2," NADiff
2005 "Little Boy: The Arts of Japan's Exploding Subculture," Japan Society, New York
2006 "March of the Absent Friends," Reflex New Art Gallery, Amsterdam

Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere"
Courtesy: Shimabuku+Shugoarts,
Tokyo+Air de Paris, Paris

SHIMABUKU Michihiro (b. 1969, Hyogo Prefecture)
1990 Graduated from Osaka College of Art (affiliated with Osaka University of Arts)
1992 Graduated from San Francisco Art Institute
1999 "I'm Traveling with a 165-m Mermaid," Dazibao, Montreal
2003 "Watching the River Flow," Shugoarts, Tokyo
2006 "How to live together," 27th Sao Paulo Biennale

"The Sun" 2005-2006
Courtesy: Noguchi Rika and
Gallery Koyanagi

Noguchi Rika (b. 1971, Saitama Prefecture)
1994 Graduated in photography from the Nihon University College of Art
1995 Dropped out of graduate school of the Nihon University College of Art
1995 "To Dive," Gallery Rafu, Saitama
1997 "A Prime," P3 art and environment, Tokyo
1999 "Private Room II," Art Tower Mito
2004-2005 "I Dreamt of Flying," Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo / D'Amelio Terras, New York

HANDA Masanori
"Entrance of the World Frontier Expo"
Courtesy: Kodama Gallery

Handa Masanori (b. 1979, Kanagawa Prefecture)
2003 Graduated from fine arts school of Tokyo National University of Fine Arts & Music
2004 Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale 2004, Niigata
2006 Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale 2006, Niigata

MORI Chihiro
"smell of insomnia (transparentcity)"
Courtesy: Kodama Gallery

Mori Chihiro (b. 1978, Osaka)
2003 Graduated in oil painting from the fine arts department of Kyoto City University of Arts
2005 Received master's degree in oil painting (art research department) from Kyoto City University of Arts
2003 "EXHIBITION!!!" appel, Tokyo
2004 Kodama Gallery Project 6 "Left room of the heart is one - room," Kodama Gallery, Tokyo
2006 "Finger Pickles," Kodama Gallery, Osaka

"A Salad Ball meets Water Falls" 2004
DVD/2min. 26sec.
Courtesy: Tanaka Koki and AOYAMA|MEGURO

Tanaka Koki (b. 1975, Tochigi Prefecture)
2000 Graduated in painting from Tokyo Zokei University
2005 Received master's degree in art research from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts & Music Graduate School
2002 "Screen Memories," Art Tower Mito
2004 "Tanaka Koki: Plastic Bags, Beer, Cavier and Pigeons, etc.," The Museum of Modern Art, Gunma
2005 "Cause Is Effect,h NADiff, void+, AOYAMA|MEGURO, Tokyo


K.K. (personal details not released)
2003 Received Jurors' Special Prize, Kirin Art Award 2003

OKI Hiroyuki
DVD/50 min.
(c)2006 Hiroyuki OKI
Produced by FOU production

Oki Hiroyuki (b. 1964, Tokyo)
1988 Graduated in architecture from the University of Tokyo School of Engineering
1989 Graduated from Image Forum Institute of Moving Image affiliated with Image Forum
1999 "ART/DOMESTIC -- Temperature of the Time," Setagaya Art Museum
2004 "Roppongi Crossing: New Visions in Contemporary Japanese Art 2004," Mori Museum of Art, Tokyo

"Curos Cave"
2005 Courtesy: hiromi yoshii

Izumi Taro (b. 1976, Nara Prefecture)
2000 Graduated in painting from the art department of the Tama Art University
2002 Received master's degree from the art department of the Tama Art University Graduate School
2002 "Bargen (Fictitious)," Peppers Loft Gallery
2005 "GENIUS EPISODE 1&2," Hiromi Yoshii Five
2006 Fukutake House in Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale 2006

Exhibition Details

Name: "The Door into Summer: The Age of Micropop"
Dates: Feb. 3 (Sat) to May 6 (Sun), 2007
Times: 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (no admission after 5:30 p.m.)
Closed: Mondays*
* The exhibition will be open on Feb. 12 and Apr. 30, which are both national holidays, though they fall on Mondays. Instead, the following days - Feb. 13 (Tue) and May 1 (Tue) - will be closed.
Venue: Contemporary Art Gallery, Art Tower Mito (ATM)
Admission: ¥800 General
¥600 Advance Purchase, Groups (20 or more)
Free Students through 9th grade, Seniors 65 and older, Persons with certified disabilities
Ticket purchase: Ticket Counter, ATM Entrance Hall

Until March 31, 2007, they may also be bought at JR East Midori-no-madoguchi ticket windows and JR View Plaza offices.
*One-year Free Pass: One-year passes are also available for purchase at the ATM Entrance Hall Ticket Counter. The H.T.P. (High-teen Pass) for young people aged 15 to 19 costs ¥1,000, and the Adult Pass for adults aged 20 to 64 can be bought for ¥2,500.
Organizer: Mito Arts Foundation
Sponsors: Asahi Breweries, Ltd.
Cooperation: SOUM Corporation
Planning: Midori Matsui (art critic)
Tsukasa Mori (senior curator, Art Tower Mito Contemporary Art Center)

"The Age of Micropop: The Door into Summer," a new book by Midori Matsui
To be published in spring 2007 (parco publishing)

Through the cooperation of parco publishing, a book describing Midori Matsui's new concept of the "Age of Micropop" will be released in the spring of 2007. It will present a comprehensive view of the concept of Micropop at the same time that ATM's exhibition allows viewers an experiential understanding of the artworks. In this way, the parallel presentation of the topic by two media types - publishing and exhibition - gives the world an added understanding of Micropop.

"What Is Micropop?"

by Midori Matsui (art critic)

The term "Micropop" is used to describe the attitude or approach to life that creates an unique and original path of living or aesthetics by combining fragments gathered from various places, without relying on institutional morals or major ideologies.

It refers to the stance taken by people who have been relegated to a "minor" position vis-a-vis the major culture that surrounds them, in the same manner as immigrants and children do. Those people - forced to function within the major culture without having sufficient tools to do so - make do with what they have, trying to fill in the gaps through leaps of imagination, thereby coming up with a peculiar amalgam or composite. The process of developing such a strange culture bears close resemblance to the way that children or immigrants, ignorant of the grammar of the major tongue and deficient in terms of vocabulary, come up with their own new language characterized by neologisms and deviant grammatical constructs.

Micropop also focuses its attention upon those places inside the city that people have forgotten, as well as upon obsolete, time-worn things. By adding something to those things and places - that is, often the minor act of inserting them within a new chain of relationships, or the setting up of a new site for gathering - Micropop evokes their hidden meaning, creating the impetus for the fostering of a new consciousness of community.

The idea of Micropop was inspired by the concept of "minor literature" as proposed by the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. It referred originally to the modernist novels written by such authors as Kafka, Joyce, Becket. Those authors, writing in languages that were not their mother tongues, created new compounds/composites within the gaps left by those major languages, linking lofty ideas and themes with vulgar actions and expressions, thereby developing new structures of discourse. Deleuze's analysis went beyond the categories of literary criticism, treating the methods adopted by those novels and the stance supporting them as a model for cultural creation in general. He saw it as a process of creation that takes place under fluid circumstances in an age when many people live away from their home countries, in which the consciousness of smaller regional cultures is forced to transform itself under the broad influence of the world's major cultures.

To sum up, the concepts of "Micropop" and "pop" emerge from the confusion of the cultural set of values known as "post-modern." The term "pop" is another expression that Deleuze used to demonstrate the stance or position of "minor" creation (it is "pop" with a small "p," and not directly related to American Pop Art). Instead of referring to major styles of popular culture, it demonstrates the basic posture that encourages the emergence of a consciousness or awareness of new forms of culture peculiar to a certain place. It expresses the stance of those people who live in a big city while not belonging to any particular institution or system; instead, such people glean their information from various sources, enjoying both high culture and popular culture, and treating them as equals. The sensibility of "minor pop" takes the manufactured objects of popular culture and reads into them allegorical symbolism of human dreams and desires, finding philosophical meaning in the "insignificant" events of everyday life as well as hints for action leading toward freedom.

In that sense, Micropop is also micro-political, as it involves the efforts individuals make to remove themselves from the framework of institutional thinking and the influence of modern capitalism and standardization, and to develop a posture of discovering the creation of an original sensation/perception and acquiring the venue of creation, while responding to the substantive conditions of "the here and now." That effort is the demonstration by the individual of the statement, carried to extremes, of his/her voluntary ability to determine or decide. While responding to the mutability of things and thoughts in the post-modern era, that posture does not accept or approve of the concept that everything can be reduced to a simulation of a play of symbols/representations, or that reality can be surpassed by copies.

Accordingly, the stance adopted by Micropop can be seen as one of resistance toward the thrust toward totality that is being made by global capitalism and information networks. It sprouts amidst cultural crisis, for example, in those societies caught up in the vortex of vast structural change, or beset by disaster, or haunted by a sense of stagnation/frustration.

Japan, from the mid-1990s to the end of the decade, experienced precisely such an age of cultural crisis. The massive Kobe earthquake and the sarin-gas subway attacks of 1995 only amplified and intensified people's anxiety toward the future. In addition to that, the prolonged economic recession lured young people away from a pursuit of material success and toward a search for spiritual meaning in their daily lives. The standardization of lifestyles and reification of cultural expressions encouraged them to create a narrow space where they could experience their own original sensations and perceptions. The means by which they accomplished that included recombining the relations between familiar things, gathering together "useless" fragments to create new compounds and amalgams, and reviving the meaning of forgotten places and things.

Those efforts, in turn, gave birth to new art forms and activities. The childlike creativity and curiosity of these "minor people" transformed their so-called "drawbacks" -- i.e., their lack of funds, technology, and social status, and most importantly, their deviation from the norms of "adult" society - into their forte. The expressions of this new art thinks up new ways to use abandoned things, such as old legends and empty spaces, creating venues for communication. They include drawings that relay the action of intervention and the process of association, or which support the formation of individual affinity, as well as video artworks that use collections of fragments that float to the surface and create a complete picture of a living being or personal character, in order to depict the continued and complicated nature of the everyday.

Micropop represents an attitude that expresses the efforts of individuals, in the final stage of post-modern culture, to find a way to survive. It is a mode of resistance to a process of growing inhumanity that began in the 1960s, and which now seems to have reached its extreme limits. By treating the disadvantageous conditions of those in a "minor" position as the unique foundation for a creative method, the people of Micropop have broadened the possibilities of renewing our sensation, and giving rebirth to the values of the world in which humans live.

Related Events

Opening Talk "What Is Micropop?"
Lecturer: Midori Matsui (art critic)
Date/time: Feb. 3 (Sat), 2007, 2:00-3:00 p.m. (doors open at 1:30 p.m.)
Venue: Workshop, Art Tower Mito Contemporary Art Gallery
Capacity: 80 people (first-come, first-served)
Fee: Included in exhibition admission.

Weekend Gallery Talk
"Gallery Talkers," docents from the Contemporary Art Center (CAC), will lead you through the exhibition and give you their insight.
Dates: Feb. 17 (Sat) to May 6 (Sun), 2007
Time: Every weekend from 2:30 to 3:10 p.m. (approx. 40 mins.)
Fee: Included in the exhibition admission.
* Note: May be canceled on certain days owing to unforeseen circumstances.

Koko-sei (High Schooler) Week 2007
Period: Feb. 21 (Wed) to March 21 (Wed), 2007
Qualifications: High school students (of any age), or anyone else aged 15 to 18*
* Please show student ID or another form of identification. There is no age restriction for students registered at a high school.
The "Koko-sei (High Schooler) Week" is actually a one-month-long period in late winter every year allowing high-school students free admission to the ATM Contemporary Art Gallery. During the same period, a small cafe and exchange corner run mainly by high-school and college students will open inside the gallery, from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m., for use by any visitor to the exhibition.

Walk with Your Child through the Contemporary Art Gallery
Dates: March 2 and 16 (both Fri), 2007
Times: 9:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.
Capacity: 5 parent/child pairs (first-come, first-served; apply by telephone)
Qualifications: Preschool children and their parents/guardians
Fee: None (exhibition admission fee must be paid)
Application deadline: 3 days before the event each time

Gallery Talk by Curator
The ATM curator who planned the exhibition will give a talk.
Date/time: March 10 (Sat), 2007, 2:00-3:00 p.m.
Lecturer: Tsukasa Mori (senior curator, Art Tower Mito Contemporary Art Center)
* Fee included in the exhibition admission.

ATM Contemporary Art Gallery's
Pass for Adults
© Hiroko Ichihara
A pass has been designed for adults aged 20 and older, letting the holder make an unlimited number of visits to the Contemporary Art Gallery's exhibitions for one year from the date of purchase.
The price is ¥2,500 The artwork on the pass has been designed by Hiroko Ichihara, an artist who incorporates words in her works. The logo on the pass reads: "Contemporary art -- as easy as pie." The pass is on sale at the ticket counter in Art Tower Mito.

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Translated by Paul T. Narum
(official names of exhibitions and artworks are furnished by the artists and planners themselves)

Copyright ©2007 MITO ARTS FOUNDATION. All Rights Reserved. Created by TK.
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