Koichi Watanabe’s “Moving Plants”
              Nick Currie
              An ambitious metonym wants to give us a glimpse of what Jorge Luis Borges called “the Aleph,” that place from which everything in the world can be seen simultaneously. While keeping its gaze fixed on one thing, a metonym is also speaking of many others, seen in something like peripheral vision. Contemporary art—often a kind of oblique and esoteric visual poetry—is drawn to metonymy because it wants to speak of many things, but can only look at one thing at a time. It needs a part which can stand for the whole, a particular which slips in the direction of universals. In some cases there’s also a need to be critical and political in ways that don’t seem bombastic, simplistic, or didactic. Japan, a collectivist society built around Confucian ideas of harmony, is uneasy with art’s potential to examine things with too much critical or political acuity: even amongst the most serious contemporary art galleries there’s a tendency to show work that’s twee, cute, childlike, and uncontentious. So when a compelling metaphor or metonym does emerge in an exhibition here, it has the feel of something rare and subtly subversive. For a decade Koichi Watanabe has been traveling the world photographing the …

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