Yuko Hasegawa


The encounters in the 21st Century

Polyphony – Emerging Resonances

Venue : the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa



Artists :
Mona Hatou, Michael Lin, Issei Miyake, James Turrell, Masaki Fujihata, Sarah Sze, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Anish Kapoor, Mathieu Briand, Wolfgang Tilmans, Matthew Ritchie, Ernesto Neto, Ana Maria Tavares , Olafur Eliasson,Motoi Yamamoto, A-POC, Yayoi Deki, Yuji Dofane, Hiroshi Fuji, Kazuo Kawasaki, Jun Nguyen Hatsushiba, Yoshihiro Suda, Yang Fudong, Kenji Yanobe, Koh Yokoyama, and others

In the face of the trends toward homogenization, reality surpassing imagination, liquidity, and pluralism, it is no easy matter to discuss the art of based on the individual.

In 2001, I created the term egofugal to express a new form of subjectivity that, while preserving individuality, possesses an active centrifugal force that connects with the world of the other, the backdrop for which was a shift from what I called a system of “3M” to one of “3C”—that is, a shift from man, money, and materialism, which had dominated the twentieth century, to consciousness, co-existence, and collective intelligence, which would enable us to survive in the twenty-first century. The image of centrifugality I envisioned was also like a fugue, with its series of leading and following phrases. It was, in other words, a game of tag, a force continuously fleeing from the ego at the core of the self and seeking to open itself to the outside. It was a kind of semitransparent membrane, an interface that, while preserving the exterior membrane of the self, shared a field of consciousness. In discussing this idea, I spoke largely of relationship, networks, a state of nothingness transcending the ego, and an animistic supra-humanity.
Polyphony is an metaphor referring to a the sympathetic vibrations and reverberations produced when a series of egofugal entities with distinct vectors, sharing the same magnetic field, are juxtaposed. In cultural anthropology, polyphony is employed as a metaphor for the coexistence of multiple cultures. It refers to a state in which different voices exist simultaneously yet are related to each other and create a sympathetic resonance or vibration. There is no center or core melody. The resonance and sympathetic vibrations are heralds of the emergence of a new culture. The abruptly beginning new oscillations produced from the encounter of heterogeneous elements resemble the fluctuations posited by chaos theory.
The important point is that the new structures always manifest themselves as unstable results. In other words, they are produced by fluctuations. Usually when fluctuations occur, the system attempts to self-correct and return to its former, undisturbed state, but when a new structure is formed, the fluctuations actually increase in frequency.
As Pregogine has asserted, a polyphonic phase must occur as a transitional period before a new structure is established.
Polyphony is not a harmonic chorus but an unstable state characterized by tremendous noise that produces as yet unknown forms. At the same time, to resonate in a polyphonic state, each voice must be clear, strong, unique, and distinct.
Various “isms” and styles comparable to Minimalism and Pop are no longer likely to appear. Today the styles of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s are all aligned along the horizon of the present and singing in their own distinct voices, resonating against each other.
Of the many discussions by writers concerning the modes of expression and systems of values of the new millennium, Italo Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millennium offers many insights into the visual arts. Calvino writes of the difficulty, in our present condition, in which so much visual information overlaps, creating a veritable garbage heap of memory, of distinguishing and recalling the form of any single object.

This, he says, is destroying our power of imagination, observation, and thought, and we need to employ language with great precision to rouse the powers of thought and imagination to accurately perceive the structure of visual images and imprint them precisely and vividly in our memories. Precise and scrupulous powers of observation are required to achieve even the most intangible and nebulous form of beauty. In addition, Calvino advocated such values as lightness, quickness, diversity, and consistency.
Visual art possesses a more open-ended vocabulary than verbal expression, expressed by a richer multiplicity of media. With our heads filled with garbage heaps of visual memories, we need modes of expression that enter our minds clearly and at a deep level, just as in literature. From the 1990s, there has been an explosion in the expressive modes of contemporary art. Our cultural core has become multiple, and the standards of Modernism, based on the modern concept of the self, have begun to disintegrate. New modes of expression seemed to appear spontaneously, like new species, born in the midst of this confusion.
In that forest of pluralism, we are looking for the dominant criteria with which to evaluate the visual art of the new millennium. What follows is a memo written in that forest, referring to Calvino’s memo calling for lightness, quickness, and diversity.

"Polyphony" Yuko Hasegawa (Excerpts from the catalog text)