We have arrived at a critical point in history when the impact that human activities are having on the planet—from extreme weather conditions to environmental pollution—is a matter of intense debate around the world, leading to calls for governmental responses both politically and economically. Against a backdrop of such increasing social awareness, this exhibition features works of contemporary art created out of interests in plants and fieldwork, through which it explores the way humans have developed alongside the environment. It considers the connections between humans and nature as seen in drawings, photography, video works, installations, and more by five artists and one group who focus their practices on botanical history and the nonhuman.
The exhibition also features a program of related events where participants can imagine and share their visions of future relationships between humankind and the environment. With workshops and a reference room about adapting to climate change, the exhibition creates opportunities for visitors to learn through dialogue and hands-on experience while thinking on an individual basis about global problems and social coexistence.
●A contemporary art exhibition examining the connections between humankind and the environment through the works of five artists and one group all active in Japan and internationally
●Featuring a unique selection of around forty artworks, including posthumous works, new works, and works shown in Japan for the first time
Visitors can view works by the overseas artists Law Yuk-mui, mixrice, and Uriel Orlow on show in Japan for the first time as well as a new work by Yoichi Kamimura, who has attracted attention in both the visual art and music fields, and a posthumous piece by the late Lois Weinberger. In addition, an installation by Keiji Tsuyuguchi reconfigures two of his major series in an entirely new way.
●“The way a society deals with its plants tells us a lot about itself”: What emerges from the gap between nature and second nature?
Since World War Two, the coexistence of humankind and the environment has been a source of constant exploration in society, likewise inspiring many artists in their practices. In Japan, the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 also proved a major turning point in terms of how artists thought about the environment. It remains the case, though, that large-scale development and the unsustainable use of resources continues worldwide and is leading to global warming.
●The exhibition takes the relationship between humankind and its environment—a universal theme that is inseparable from human activity—and delves deep into it, particularly through works of art created since the 1990s. In these works are reflected perspectives critical of the contradictions and distortions in society that exist as so-called “second nature,” from social injustices to historical amnesia, and the power structures that appear at the borders between human civilization and the natural world. These perspectives may be regarded as poetic and political attempts by artists to present problems, made possible precisely because, as Weinberger once put it, “the way a society deals with its plants tells us a lot about itself.”
●Developing side by side with the unknown: Fieldwork in artistic practice
A subtheme of the exhibition is fieldwork in artistic practices. Emphasizing the process of creating the work rather than the predicted goal, this method homes in on the multilayered circumstances of the subject through participation, observation, and description, not only documenting the situation but also what is more difficult to describe in an account like emotions and the aspects that change over time, capturing this within the final work in order to stir the imagination of the viewer. These artworks can also serve a function during debates as useful examples of approaches conscious of the problematic nature of representation and the potential for artistic practice to foster a hierarchical relationship between the artist and the subject.
Some of the exhibits can be viewed as artistic expression adopting an approach whereby the artist places himself or herself in an environment, and then unfamiliar environmental elements infiltrate the process of creating the work. The environmental and marginal perspectives bestowed by the artist’s physical sensations (or their disappearance) dwelling in the artwork surely provide us with hints for re-questioning the relationship between humankind and the nature.
●“The best gardeners are those who abandon the garden”: Lois Weinberger’s posthumous work on display in the Art Tower Mito plaza
Lois Weinberger sadly passed away in April 2020. The exhibition includes his posthumous work Wild Enclosure (2020), which was especially conceived for the plaza at Art Tower Mito.
●A new installation by Yoichi Kamimura exploring ecology across the conventional boundaries between humankind and nature
The exhibition presents Breath You, a new sound installation by Yoichi Kamimura, who conducts field recordings as what he calls “meditative hunting” and creates work that investigates the ambiguous relationship humans have with the natural environment.
●The future of humankind and the environment: Thinking about global problems in terms of familiar environments and everyday realizations in a reference room planned in partnership with the Global and Local Environment Co-creation Institute
As an endeavor by the Global and Local Environment Co-creation Institute and Art Tower Mito to link specialist research on the environment with the direct concerns of citizens, the exhibition features displays of resources and materials related to climate and environmental change as well as online programs collecting information on the local environment from the general public.
Video documentation of the exhibition
Born 1947 in Stams, Tyrol, Austria. Based in Vienna, Austria, where he died in 2020.
Starting to create art from the 1970s and employing nature as his central medium, Lois Weinberger exhibited his work internationally. Positioning his art as a practice of what he called “against the aesthetics of the Pure and the True, against the ordering forces,” his creative source was consistently ruderal species, the plants that live in environments heavily disturbed by human activity. With his work he contributed significantly to the recent discussion on art and nature since the early 1990s. Das über die Planzen/ist eins mit Ihnen, the railway track plant installation he made for of documenta X, was chosen by Artnews in 2020 as one of the 20 best environmentalist artworks of the past fifty years.
The exhibition includes Wild Enclosure (2020), a three-meter-square outdoor installation especially envisioned for the plaza at Art Tower Mito. The indoor exhibits trace the artist’s focus on plants through the works he made based on his practice in the field.
Major solo exhibitions: Lois Weinberger “Visible Nature / Invisible Nature” (Watari-um, The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art, 2019), Lois Weinberger|Gift (S.M.A.K, Ghent, 2014), Lois Weinberger (MUMOK, Museum of Modern Art Ludwig Foundation, 2000)
Major group exhibitions: documenta 14 (Kassel and Athen, 2017), Venice Biennale (as a collaboration with Franziska Weinberger, Austrian Pavilion, 2009), Empty Garden (Watari-um, The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art, 1999), documeta X (Kassel, 1997), Biennial Sao Paulo, 1991
Artist’s website: http://www.loisweinberger.net/
Born 1950 in Tokushima prefecture. Based in Hokkaido.
From the end of the 1990s, Keiji Tsuyuguchi started creating photography with an emphasis on the landscape and history of Hokkaido. “The photographer arrived late to the incident,” believes Tsuyuguchi, who has attempted to capture the changes that occur in an environment by placing himself within it and repeatedly visiting a location with the aid of historical documents and reference materials, rather than reproducing the results of an incident. This exhibition spotlights the “divergence,” “distortion,” and “disruption” that continually occur somewhere through Tsuyuguchi’s major series Natural History and Place Names.
Major solo exhibition: Natural History (nap gallery, Tokyo, 2019), On Natural History - Hokkaido, Fukushima, Tokushima (CAI01, Sapporo, 2014), Place Names (LIGHT WORKS, Yokohama, 2002)
Major group exhibition: Azamino Contemporary vol.9 Uncertain Landscape (Yokohama Civic Art Gallery Azamino [Gallery 1 and 2], 2018), Sapporo International Art Festival (2014), Snowscape Moere 7, Reproducing Landscapes (Moerenuma Park, Sapporo, 2012), Non-sect Radical, Contemporary Photography III (Yokohama Museum of Art, 2004)
Artist’s website: http://www.fremen.biz/
Born 1982 in Hong Kong, where she remains based.
With a focus on the landscape and geography of Hong Kong, her home country and a place where various races and cultures intersect, Law Yuk-mui creatures richly poetic works reflecting that history and rapid social change.
Pastiche (2019) is a video work that layers complex and vividly emotional connections among humans and plants over the geopolitical identity of Hong Kong. At the climax, where emotional shifts of sorrow, joy, and love are expressed through gesture, sound, and song, words by the artist and quotations from plays and poetry form a montage, creating an effect that oscillates between the visual and the linguistic.
Major solo exhibitions: From Whence the Waves Came (Art Basel Hong Kong, commissioned by Parasite, 2018), Victoria East (Videotage, Cattle Depot Artist Village, Hong Kong, 2017)
Major group exhibitions: medialogue: Pastiche (Hong Kong Visual Arts Center, 2019-2020), The 23rd ifva Festival, Media Art Category Finalist Exhibition, (Pao Gallery, Hong Kong Art Center, 2017-2018)
Artist’s website: www.lawyukmui.com/
mixrice (Cho Jieun, Kim Jungwon, Ko Gyeol)
Formed in 2002. Based in Seoul, South Korea.
Examining the changes that occur due to migration as well as its traces and evoked memories, mixrice collaborates with communities or individuals in very specific circumstances to create work across a range of media, from photography to video, text, animation, and more.
The Vine Chronicle (2016) is a body of video, photographic, print, and graffiti works, following the trajectories of trees transplanted when the land at their original locations was redeveloped. It hints at the issue of development that disregards sustainability to interfere with not only the roots, trunks, and branches of plants or trees, but also the natural and social environments that encompass humankind.
Major solo exhibition: Migrating Flavours (Eastside Projects, Birmingham, UK, 2018), Traversal project – mixrice report: welcome, my friend! (Artspace Pool, Seoul, 2010), A Dish Antenna (Alternative space Poo, Seoul, 2009)
Major group exhibition: Migration – Speaking Nearby (Asia Cultural Center, Gwangju, 2019), Korean Art Prize (National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, 2016), Culture City of East Asia 2017 Kyoto
Artist’s website: http://mixrice.org/
In June 2020, it was reported that former mixrice member Yang Chul-mo was accused of sexual harassment in the form of inappropriate remarks made to female colleagues at a workplace where Yang was then serving as director in a personal capacity. Yang was subsequently dismissed from mixrice, which is continuing its activities with new members.
The Mito Arts Foundation, the organizer of the “Michikusa: Walks with the Unknown” exhibition, does not condone harassment in any shape or form, and is currently working to assess the situation with the present members of mixrice, which has stated that the group will strive to resolve the incident and for systematic improvement to prevent sexual violence in the art world and cultural sector.
Born 1973, in Zurich, Switzerland. Based in London and Lisbon.
Through exhaustive archival research and on-site fieldwork as part of the creative process, Uriel Orlow turns his attention to things neglected by history or art, making work that evokes memory through space. The exhibition introduces five works from the body of work Theatrum Botanicum made between 2015 and 2018. These works decipher South Africa’s historical and contemporary entanglements with Europe from the perspective of plants exporing trade of goods and exchange of knowledge during apartheid and into the present.
His recent project Learning from Artemisia (2019) surveys the history of the titular plant, which is cultivated as antimalarial medicine, opening up new possibilities for artistic intervention in history in the form of constructing sustainable relationships of cooperation between an artist and local women’s cooperative in Congo.
Major solo exhibitions: Learning from Artemisia (La Loge, Brussels, 2020)、Soil Affinities Les (Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers, Paris, 2018)、Mafavuke’s Trial and Other Plant Stories (The Showroom, London, 2016)
Major group exhibitions: Lubumbashi Biennale (2019), Manifesta 12, Palermo (2018), the 13th Sharjah Biennale (2017). He presented a collaborative work with Mikhail Karikis at the 2nd Aichi Triennale, Nagoya (2013).
Artist’s website: https://urielorlow.net/
Born in 1982, in Chiba Prefecture, where he remains based.
Yoichi Kamimura searches for ways to perceive the landscape through the visual or auditory senses, and approaches environments around the world via field recordings and, based on the materials and concepts he attains there, creates installations, paintings, sound performances, sound art, and more. Interpreting field recording as what he calls “meditative hunting,” he examines the ambiguous relationship between humankind and nature by the means of that act.
For this exhibition, the artist has made a new installation Breathe You that fills the entire space with a meditative soundscape comprising various environmental noises produced by drift ice, the cries of marine life, and a mixture of human breathing or whistling that recreates the now rarely heard phenomenon of “singing” drift ice.*
*This natural phenomenon occurs when air is pushed out through the gaps in drift ice and makes a sound like human whistling. Due to the decreasing amount of drift ice in the sea, there are today few opportunities to hear this “singing.”
Major solo exhibition: emergencies! 039 (NTT InterCommunication Center, Tokyo, 2019), Temporary Ground (Marueido Japan, Tokyo, 2019, Criterium 82 (Contemporary Art Gallery, Art Tower Mito, 2011)
Major group exhibition: The Drowned World Anchor (Spiral Hall, 2019, Ubiquitous Views (Aomori Contemporary Art Centre, Aomori, 2016)
Artist’s website: http://www.yoichikamimura.com/