March 18, 2004 - Govett-Brewster Art Gallery - Mediarena: contemporary art from Japan
March 18, 2004

Mediarena: contemporary art from Japan

Mediarena: contemporary art from Japan
13 March – 7 June 2004

Govett-Brewster Art Gallery
Contemporary Art Museum
Private Bag 2025, New Plymouth, New Zealand
Tel + 64 6 759 6060
Fax + 64 6 759 6072

Image: Tadasu Takamine God Bless America (animation still) 2002

Mediarena: contemporary art from Japan tracks a history of contemporary Japanese art with an emphasis on work being produced now. Taking the practice of senior Japanese artists Yayoi Kusama, Tatsuo Miyajima and Noboru Tsubaki as its starting point, Mediarena explores the increasing relevance of their work for younger Japanese artists. This new generation produces work that slips easily between hi-end technology, pop-cultural and futuristic forms, traditional motif, and strategies common to performance and video-making from the 1960s. By linking work from three generations of artists, Mediarena places the work in an art-historical framework rather than simply interpreting it against recent changes in Asian pop-culture and technology. As such, the exhibition attempts to move beyond a reading of “superflat” or neo-pop contemporary Japanese art and develop a layered analysis of an expanding field of concerns.

Mediarena presents work by Makoto Aida, Kyoko Ebata, Exonemo, Gorgerous, Naoya Hatakeyama, Tomoko Kaneko, Mika Kato, Meiro Koizumi, Yayoi Kusama, Kyupi Kyupi, Hiroyuki Matsukage, Tatsuo Miyajima, Numb, Motohiko Odani, Saki Satom, Tomoko Sawada, Kyoko Sawanobori, Tabaimo, Tadasu Takamine, Noboru Tsubaki, Masato Wakabayashi, Akira Yamaguchi and Miwa Yanagi.

Mediarena is curated by Gregory Burke (Director, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery), Fumio Nanjo (Deputy Director, Mori Art Museum) and Roger McDonald (Deputy Director, Arts Initiative Tokyo).

REPLAY: Mediarena on screen explores links between recent Japanese artists’ video and concepts of the temporal, performative and the imaginative, keying into performance and video art dating from the 1960s. The title of the programme, Replay, signals this return. The repetitive nature of everyday experience is another key element of the works. The programme begins with new work by Yayoi Kusama and concludes with the much younger performance artist Kyoko Sawanobori.

Replay presents work by Makoto Aida, Kyoko Ebata, Meiro Koizumi, Tomoko Kaneko, Yayoi Kusama, Saki Satom, Kyoko Sawanobori and Masato Wakabayashi.


To reflect the importance within the contemporary Japanese art scene of time-based experimental practices – including performance, media and sound art, experimental music and social sculpture – Mediarena includes a number of live events:

Radikal carbon. Installation on the New Plymouth foreshore. This public social sculpture by Noboru Tsubaki comprises 30 subterranean kilns used to produce bamboo charcoal for water purification. The community is also invited to bring food to cook on the burners.

Mediarena: LOUNGE. Featuring a headline performance by Gorgerous, DJing by Roger McDonald, video projections by Kyupi Kyupi, and presentations by Tadasu Takamine and Noboru Tsubaki.

Mediarena: LIVE. Featuring Numb, one of Tokyo’s hottest electronic producers and sound artists, and VJs Exonemo, who are famous for both their Web-based actions and live-feed video performances.

Mediarena: LECTURES. Talks by Fumio Nanjo, Kentaro Ichihara, Roger McDonald, Noboru Tsubaki and Richard Dale.


The Mediarena catalogue is a 128-page full colour publication that documents the exhibition and contextualises the curatorial premise of the show against contemporary Japanese art history and social change. Gregory Burke writes the curatorial overview, Fumio Nanjo’s essay provides a historical frame for recent developments in contemporary Japanese art, Roger McDonald writes about art, performance and the emerging gallery scene in Tokyo, Hisako Hara tackles the scene in the Osaka/Kansai region, and Tomoko Kuroiwa focuses on new developments in artist video. The catalogue is an important sourcebook for research on contemporary Japanese art.

Govett-Brewster Art Gallery
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