The Japan Pavilion at the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia
May 11 – November 24, 2019
The Japan Pavilion at the Giardini (Venice, Italy)

Artists: Motoyuki Shitamichi (artist) + Taro Yasuno (composer) + Toshiaki Ishikura (anthropologist) + Fuminori Nousaku (architect)
Curator: Hiroyuki Hattori

A long time ago, sun and moon descended to earth and laid a single egg. A snake came and swallowed the egg, and so sun and moon visited earth once more to leave behind three eggs that they hid: one inside earth, one inside stone, and one inside bamboo. The eggs soon hatched, and born were the ancestors of three islands. Once grown up, they each built a small boat and travelled to different islands: one in the East, one in the West, and one in the North. The tribes of these islands visited each other by boat, and despite occasional fights, they overcame pestilence and poor harvests to live in peace for a long time. Each island passed down its own language, its own music, its own traditions, its own festivals. They each possessed the power to speak with the animals: the earth tribe spoke with the worms and the insects, the stone tribe with the snakes, and the bamboo tribe with the birds.

Continue to the exhibition

Questioning Ecologies of Co-Existence through
Converging Collaborative Resonances and Dissonances

Through collaborative expression between an artist, composer, anthropologist, and architect, the “Cosmo-Eggs” project reconsiders the nature of the world we inhabit and presents an experimental platform to imagine a possible ecology of co-existence between humans and non-humans.
The Japanese archipelago, a region afflicted by frequent natural disasters, experienced a modernistic distortion in the form of a nuclear meltdown following the large tsunami of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, as capitalism (in the form of ever-accelerating global corporate activities) seizes the entire planet, debate has flared up regarding the arrival of the so-called “Anthropocene,” a geological era named for the profound influence of humanity’s rapid expansion on earth’s geology and ecosystems. How are we to think of the massive impact on earth’s environment caused by the human species which—seen in perspective—inhabits only the thin surface layer of the planet?

The starting point of this project is Motoyuki Shitamichi’s series of Tsunami Boulder, which he documented for several years after encountering them on the Okinawan island chains of Miyako and Yaeyama. Tsunami boulders are large stones carried ashore from the depths of the sea by the power of tsunamis. They exist in close proximity to places of human everyday life; plants flourish on and around them, and migrating bird colonies use them as places to rest and nest. Each of these boulders provides a platform for an ecology of co-existence between human and non-human life.
Music composer Taro Yasuno’s Zombie Music, an automatic performance piece in which recorder flutes are played without the use of human breath, sounds similar to bird-song. Large balloons, protruding into the exhibition space from the pavilion’s pilotis, take over the function of human lungs and provide the air necessary to play the recorder flutes. The resulting musical piece, titled COMPOSITION FOR COSMO-EGGS “Singing Bird Generator,” complements the Tsunami Boulder videos playing in the exhibition space.

The project’s title “Cosmo-Eggs” is rooted in a motif present in many mythological stories from around the world. Both eggs and stones—as round objects—figuratively represent a cycle, a recurring period, and eggs—with their brittle shells—express the ambiguous relationship between creation and destruction. Anthropologist Toshiaki Ishikura, who specializes in folkloristic mythologies, wrote a new mythological story which references common tsunami-related mythological stories told in Taiwan, the Ryukyu islands and other places in Asia, and questions the relationship between humans and non-humans.
The Japan Pavilion, designed by Takamasa Yoshizaka in 1956 and reminiscent of Le Corbusier’s “Museum of Unlimited Growth” (1931), combines a square layout with a skylight window at its center, a hole in the floor directly below it, and four columns arranged in a spiral layout around the periphery. With careful thought, architect Fuminori Nousaku’s design connects each of these distinct, dissimilar artworks with each other and establishes a responsive relationship between them and the architecture, forming an integral experience of the space.

The Tsunami Boulder videos each loop at their own distinct intervals while the COMPOSITION FOR COSMO-EGGS “Singing Bird Generator” piece continues to change and evolve as a result of its automatization processes. Within the exhibition space, with its numerous co-existing and intermingling stories, no same moment ever visits twice. The visitors experience a succession of unique instants created by the overlapping combinations of video, music and words within the space of the pavilion.
There will be times when music and video resonate to a surprising degree, and even moments when the entire space will seem to vibrate in unison. Conversely, there will also be moments of complete dissonance between each individual element. Visitors will not only encounter harmonization and pleasant fusions, but also occasionally be faced with harsh conflict.

As these distinct creative works, produced by collaborators with differing skills and expertise, are free to converge as they are, the exhibition itself takes on a role similar to the tsunami boulders and their symbiotic ecologies. Through its acts of true collaboration, “Cosmo-Eggs” enables a space of continuous creative evolution beyond the limits of simple resonance, and questions fundamental ecologies of co-existence and symbiosis.

— Hiroyuki Hattori

[trans. R.Z]

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Commissioner: The Japan Foundation
With special support from: Ishibashi Foundation
Supported from: Window Research Institute, gigei10
In cooperation with: Canon Marketing Japan Inc., Canon Europe Ltd., Daiko Electric Co., Ltd.

Project team members:
Motoyuki Shitamichi [Artist]
Taro Yasuno [Composer]
Toshiaki Ishikura [Anthropologist]
Fuminori Nousaku [Architect]
Hiroyuki Hattori [Curator]

The Japan Foundation [Coordinators]
Yukihiro Ohira, Jun Takeshita, Hiroyuki Sato, Maria Cristina Gasperini

Harumi Muto [Local coordinator]

Yoshihisa Tanaka [Graphic designer]

HIGURE 17-15 cas [Production design and installation coordinate]
Toshihiko Arimoto, Mami Suda, Tsuguhiro Komazaki, Noriko Takeichi,
Chigusa Sasao, Masashi Murakami, Yuji Doi, Satoshi Toraiwa

nomena [Engineer: Processing of recorder flutes]
Shohei Takei, Taichi Inoue

Aerotech Co., Ltd. [Balloon production]
Okimitsu Osone, Takayuki Isogai

Yuichi Matsumoto [Programmer: zombie music network "ZMN"]

Kei Benger [Translator]
Robert Zetzsche [Translator: Cosmo-Eggs by Toshiaki Ishikura]

ArchiBIMIng [Photo and video documentation]
Kenichi Hagihara, Daisuke Yamashiro