Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Futoshi Miyagi's "Island of Shattered Glass: In the Bondage of Quicksilver Daydreams"

The title is schmaltzy, and so is the show. No amount of art criticism (i.e. promotion), no amount of talk of the fleeting nature of memory, of the cultural implications of forgetting (never spelled out), can rescue this small exhibition from its enormous self-indulgence. The work, which uses the Japanese myth about Nirai Kanai (an island from which all things depart and return), lacks development and formal interest. From the exhibition blurb:

While Robert Smithson used broken glass for Atlantis, Miyagi’s Atlantis consists of thin strips of shredded “chigiries” portraying moments in the artist’s childhood diffused by layers of memory and fantasy. Miyagi violently shreds his “chigiries” after completion, so that the island of “Nirai Kanai” takes shape on the gallery’s floor from shredded memories. However, the original “chigiries” are preserved albeit distanced by their photographic documentation and abstraction in faded black and white prints, which hover around Miyagi’s island. In this way, Miyagi’s work also addresses inaccessibility in regards to geographic distance and time privileging what is vaguely forgotten over what is clearly remembered and the cultural implications of forgetting.


Suspicious abstractions. What you see in the middle of the one exhibition room is a strip of white cloth lying on the floor, with one end suspended from the ceiling. On the cloth are shredded pieces of paper in the shape of a long island. This centerpiece is hardly compelling.

Two photographs look somewhat interesting. In one, the drawn walls and floor of a Japanese-styled room are covered by small overlapping torn pieces of paper. In the other, the paper pieces form a wallet, and the photograph of a couple in it. This use of paper not only reminds me of the paper-thin delicacy of Japanese architecture and design, but also of Western pointillist technique. It is a method that may yield intriguing results.

When I searched for Nirai Kanai @ Wiki, I was directed to Ryukyuan religion, which focuses on ancestor worship. Sky, Earth and Sea are the Ultimate Ancestors since from them all life came. More immediate ancestors are those who lived between the present day and the twenty-fifth generation into the past, a time period called the Present Age.

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