Yuko Hasegawa


Neo Tropicalia

Dialogue with the Future

Venue : Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT),Yerba Buena Center

Japan(Tokyo),USA(San Francisco)


Organization : Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo/Embassy of Brazil in Tokyo, Nikkei Inc.

Co-curator : Sachiko Namba

Artists :
Lina Bo Bardi, Ruy Ohtake (2nd generation)*, assume vivid astro focus(avaf), Arthur Bispo do Rosário, Lygia Clark, Rogério Degaki (3rd generation)*, Lucia Koch, André Komatsu (3rd generation)*, Leonilson, Rubens Mano, Marepe, Cildo Meireles, Beatriz Milhazes, Giulianno Montijo, Vik Muniz, Ernesto Neto, Rivane Neuenschwander, Tomie Ohtake (1st generation)*, Hélio Oiticica, osgemeos, Lygia Pape, Mira Schendel, Ana Maria Tavares, Erika Verzutti, Isabela Capeto, Ronaldo Fraga, Jum Nakao (3rd generation)*.(*Japanese Brazilian)

Although Brazil and Japan are at opposite ends of the world, they share a close relationship. There are 1.5 million Japanese Brazilians living in Brazil the largest Japanese migrant community in the world and there are 300,000 Brazilians, including temporary workers, living in Japan. Although structural modernization started relatively late in Brazil, both Brazil and Japan are located in peripheral, marginal regions. The cultures of both countries evolved under the influence of modernism while still being rooted in its traditional climate and history. Also common to both countries is hybridism and an extensive ability to embrace other cultures. Brazil has the largest number of coexisting ethnic groups in the world. From the beginning, Brazil was a nation marked by blending of races while continuing to incorporate other cultures from outside. It has the world's most firmly established racial democracy informed by racial hybridism, and "Brazilian culture can arguably be defined as simply representing an overcoming of the distance that lay between the cultural legacy of Europe and the Northern Hemisphere and the non-white culture of the Southern Hemisphere." Japan, meanwhile, an island nation surrounded by the ocean and almost completely racially homogeneous, actively embraced different cultures and, through a unique process, "Japanized" these cultures. A factor stimulating the evolution of a "national" culture, that included film and publishing, was the existence of a population that automatically formed a ready market.

In addition to traits common to both countries, such as a highly honed sensitivity and cultural acceptance, is an orientation towards continuous change that remains unrestricted by the framework of Western modernism. In the case of Japan, this "orientation towards the future" first emerged in 1970, in the hybrid of tradition and high technology of Expo 70 in Osaka. In the case of Brazil, this orientation became evident with the appearance of the futuristic Utopian city as represented by Brasilia, the capital completed in 1960. Of interest is the fact that during the 80s, when post modernism was on the rise, Japan, against a background of consumer society, was considered in cultural terms as the strongest manifestation of post-modernism. Although postmodern thought had been introduced into Brazil at an early stage, a robust form of it that can be described as a uniquely Brazilian ultra-modernism prevailed for years in architecture, amongst other disciplines.
However, in the transcending of the differences between these formats of Japan and Brazil lies the commonality of possibilities for the XXI century. If the XX century can be conveyed through three keywords Man, Money, and Materialism [representing individualism, materialism and capitalism) then three new keywords Co-existence, Collective intelligence, and Consciousness can be proposed to both address the issues generated during the previous century, and to survive the consequences of those issues. These keywords reflect a new relationship between the individual and collectiveness in this networked world, in which a change is effected in the relationship between others, the environment and society. Brazil where a self-assured co-existence has been realized and Japan where communication on a non-verbal and conscious level is practiced, and in which the self is viewed from the perspective of others, and nature embraced as being part of the same magnetic field of consciousness both share an affinity and vision for co-existence, collective knowledge, and consciousness. The title of this exhibition When lives become form does not refer to "life" in the sense of the existence of bioforms, but instead signifies a fresh and new perspective of making discoveries through the process of simply living one's life. The strengths behind the improvisational aspect of Brazilian culture and the aesthetics of mitate [portrayal] and hybridization in Japan continue to produce works of a high standard that represent a coexistence of intellect, intuition, and sensibility. If improvisation refers to the sense of rhythm latent in the physical body and manifested through dance or music, then mitate represents the derivation or portrayal of something that is distinct from what the subject appears to be. It is a type of wordplay or play of metaphors to express another aspect of the subject and is found in abundance in cultures in which a system of sophisticated meaning and representation has evolved. Both improvisation and mitate are marked by elements such as "the physical body," "environment," and "play," which evolved from a relationship with a specific cultural and natural environment.
The title also refers back to the exhibition When attitudes become form curated by Harald Szeemann at the Kunsthalle Bern in 1969. Protected by the curator's conceptual framework and the institutional defenses of the art museum, many of the examples of non-representational art conveyed a resistance to the times, to materialism, and art as spectacle. The intention behind the replacement of the term attitude with life is to assert the fact that the "barbaric" knowledge ( unrefined, direct knowledge) of those living at the periphery is not the manifestation of an existential "attitude" towards the Western public, but instead is a manifestation of the process of living, of what it means to be an "exister."
The artists selected for this exhibition were either active during the 50s and 60s or have been active since the late 90s. During the period from the end of the 50s to the 60s, there was a growing awareness in contemporary art of a sense of unity between life and art, as well as a verification of the relationship between art and anti-art or non-art. This tendency was adopted by a new generation of artists in the late 90s and further evolved through their search to communicate with ordinary people in order to "re-regionalize" art. Helio Oiticica, who lived in the favelas in the 60s, argued that "everyday life is equivalent to creating a work of art" and advocated the uniqueness of tropicalia as more than just the culture of those living in the tropics. Atsuko Tanaka, in her aim to transform something that is concrete in the 50s, joined together multi-colored flashing light bulbs into a dress, which she wore on stage. These artists continue to strongly influence young artists today.
Duchamp transformed the value of art by placing ordinary items within the context of art. In remote regions where context is yet to be established, Duchampesque acts are realized through switching from one life site to another.

There is a tradition in Japan in which the value of an object used in everyday life is transformed by changing the way it is perceived or used. Through its use in everyday life, that object eventually becomes perceived as "art." An example of this is the aesthetics of mitate, in which an object that a craftsperson creates becomes a "work of art" when it is used by a tea master, or a garden created only with rocks and sand represents the ocean or cosmos. The equivalent in Brazil would be the transformation of the subject of improvisation. According to Umberto Campana, "I obtained all my creative ideas from the streets. It is the creativity of ordinary people that transforms an empty can that is picked up one day into a beautiful object the next day. What I learnt from the art museum was one thing only elegance." Diticica praised the samba as representing "the greatest public improvisation in the world," asking "How was it that the architecture of the favela, a fantastic improvisation of living spaces communicating delight rather than respectability, was the product of a daily survival struggle?"
There are two tenets of the term improvisation as used in music and dance to convey the meaning of moving naturally that it embraces all phenomena, a fundamental aspect of Zen philosophy, and that it can be danced by anyone without the need for any specific talent. It was Fluxus, a movement of which the central figures were John Cage and George Maciunas, in which these tenets were consciously structuralized. It was also the first international cultural movement in which Japanese artists such as Yoko Ono and Toru Takemitsu played a central role. The spirit of Fluxus evolved into the spirit of improvisation.
In any culture, there are complex systems of symbols in which meaning and implication can be lost in translation. Skin sensation and the sense of rhythm are not compatible with linguistic segmentation, and this also applies to complex representation and implication. It is the expression of these various aspects of life as form that enables their complex richness to be retained. And it is because these are all derived from the practice of different lives being lived that they remain totally distinct from each other.

"When Lives Become Form" Yuko Hasegawa (Excerpt from the catalog)