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Japanese Artists of the Busan Biennale in Korea
—Kohei Nawa and Tomoko Konoike

Keiko Sakagami
Professor, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University
(School of Culture, Media and Society)

I visited the Busan Biennale in Korea with graduate school students in the beginning of October. The biennale possesses 10 years of history as an international art exhibition. The Director of this year's biennale is Takashi Azumaya, the first Japanese ever to hold the position. The biennale used a seaside installation offering beautiful views. Unfortunately, this installation had already ended at the time of our visit, but we enjoyed an exhibition held in a separate venue.

This year's theme was "Living in Evolution", and a total of 161 works were exhibited by 72 artists from 23 different countries. The lineup of exhibiting artists featured many faces seen at other international exhibitions. The main venue of the biennale was the Busan Museum of Art, a facility featuring a large exhibition space which enhanced the display of modern art. Another striking aspect of the biennale was the large number of student groups which visited the exhibition with their instructors from the morning. These groups ranged from kindergarten to junior high school and high school. Such student participation was impressive because modern art exhibitions are often avoided due to the difficulty of interpreting subject matter.

Busan Museum of Art: Many students visited the museum from the morning.

Standing out among the exhibiting artists was Kohei Nawa. Mr. Nawa's composition used a dot motif and featured works using different methods. At first, visitors were lured by pictures monotone blue dots. 3 such pictures were affixed to both the left and right walls. Then, upon entering the next room, visitors were greeted by a "Dot Movie" made by moving images of dots in the primary colors of red, blue and yellow on the floor. Finally, in a completely dark back room, white bubbles of silicon oil emitted smoke and gushed forth while making bubbly sounds. This eruption of bubbles was a depiction of the "source from which images are born". Mr. Nawa's world of dots was expressed through varying mediums developed in the three phases of canvas, image and three-dimensional display using chemical materials. This composition allowed visitors to experience the shift from traditional to modern methods, while at the same time gradually expanding the stimulation from a visual to a whole body experience. Kindergarten students walked on top of the Dot Movie and female high school students surrounded the source of gushing bubbles, scenes which could not be seen at exhibitions in Japan.

Dot Movie, a work of Kohei Nawa

Ms. Tomoko Konoike's work is a three-dimensional representation of the feet of a young girl wearing shorts

A large number of modern art works use stimulating and shocking images and sounds to surprise and intimidate viewers. The resulting discomfort and discordance has the effect of enticing viewers. The large number of works exhibited at the Busan Biennale was no exception to this trend. However, Mr. Nawa's work realized great appeal and stood out from other works by using a suppressed style. His work was not overly assertive, but rather enticed viewers slowly by carefully revealing the essence of the composition.

Tomoko Konoike's work was also extremely interesting. The work was a three-dimensional depiction of the feet of a young girl wearing a shorts. The girl's feet had white socks and red shoes which seemed to have broken free from animation. However, no upper body was depicted in the work, which has a momentary shocking effect on the viewer. The young girl's feet were shown sitting in a chair at the Bussan Museum of Art. At the nearby Yacht Center, an image of two young girls was placed on the roof. Ms. Konoike has work with the motif of feet in the past, but she was able to place further emphasis on the image of feet through the bold decision not to depict the upper body of her subject. In the past, Manet had exhibited a woman's foot as an "object" which was severed and constantly exposed to the desire of men. However, Ms. Konoike's work is the antithesis of Manet's work. In Ms. Konoike's work, the young girl is depicted as being free and capable of going anywhere that she pleases. For example, it is even easy for her to lightly rise up to the roof of the Yacht Center. The young girl seems to be carefree, mischeivious and somewhat of a tomboy. The lack of an upper body gives the girl a sense of anonymity, giving the work a sense of universality in which anyone could become the young girl.

Additionally, as part of the Busan Biennale, related exhibitions are being held in galleries throughout the city. There are interesting exhibitions including the works of Japanese artists such as Miwa Yanagi.

The Yacht Center (right) and a view of Busan City as seen from the center. High-rise condominiums are being built at a rapid pace.

Advertisement for the biennale: Similar advertisements can be seen throughout the city.

Busan Biennale

September 11th to November 20th, 2010 (Bussan Museum of Art, Yacht Center and other venues)

Keiko Sakagami
Professor, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University
(School of Culture, Media and Society)

She graduated from the School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I, Waseda University, majoring in History of Art. After studying at Graduate School of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University, she has assumed the present post. Her speciality is modern and contemporary art, comparative culture. Her major works include “Painters in Dream and Luminescence: Reconsideration of Modernite (Modernity)” (publisher: Skydoor/ Winning the new face award of Minister of Education Award for Fine Arts) and “Berthe Morisot: Modern Times Lived by a Female Painter” (publisher: Shogakukan Inc.).