I recently just discovered the flower artist Makoto Azuma. Upon discovery I also found out he had a current exhibition. Struck by his art, and looking an some art gallery to go to, I immediately made plans to check out his exhibition. However, he was in fact not being shown in a gallery. Instead I found myself in an art, architecture, and technology of the future expo. The set up was seven different ‘houses’ all connected by a boardwalk, exhibiting different artists’ ideas of fusing traditional Japanese architectural design and modern design. The entire expo also pointed to space control, environmental and green living, and personalizing home interior. Exhibiting were established contemporary artists, architects, and Honda. Was this art? Was it housing design? Was this the answer to Japanese limited living spaces?
The artist I came for Makoto Azuma collaborated on a piece with some architects creating a bathroom space that had walls and ground entirely made of plants. The work’s tagline is “In a country where you leave schoes at the foyer to cut into a totally clean environment, the restroom could be a new locus for lifestyle aesthetics.” I love this reasoning. It seems so ‘Japanese.’ As an outsider I also see how this line would really sell Japanese too. I think they would buy into this advertisement, because of how true it is that the living space is culturally meant to be a clean, safe environment. I am not saying this is bad to be sold to the advertisement. I am instead saying that the audience this expo was geared towards was culturally correct.
One of the ‘houses’ was a great commentary of traditional and modern, was ‘the teahouse’. It was beautiful. One was a thatched roof small tea house and the other was a minimalistic room with tattame mats and sleak tables and chairs. Everything was made out of specified materials. The different kinds of wood used for different objects was very important to the architect. In turn it smelled so good. I love the smell of wood though.
I could talk about all the houses, but it would kinda take thousands of words instead of hundreds, so I will defer you all to the official website for more info on the different houses shown. http://house-vision.jp/en.about.html
The exhibit also featured Starbucks coffee and a Tsutaya books store. After walking through all seven ‘houses’ I went to the bookstore to look around. While there I was informed that Azuma would be speaking in 15 minutes. I just happened to go to the right day of the exhibit, at the right time…What are the odds?! I did not understand all that was said, but was still very inspired. Makoto Azuma works with flowers and puts a contemporary spin on flower arranging. Some of his pieces are a graphing of plants creating ‘hybrid’ plants. He also is involved with placing nature back into Tokyo through his art installments of plants. Like the bathroom, having plants growing from walls of store fronts are sculptures that he makes for parks or shopping centers. What may seem like small changes, little by little is bringing nature back into the urban setting and helping purify the air.
I am studying Japanese contemporary art history right now at Temple, and I can really see how Azuma is an example of the current trend of contemporary artists. Japan is really into art projects where art is not placed in a gallery but a collaboration between artists of different fields and placed in the community. The thought is that the art is made for the benefit of the community, whether re-purposing an area that has been abused and forgotten since the Industrial growth of the nation, or like Azuma trying to help the enviroment through replanting the city. With Tokyo’s lack of space it makes sense that the walls of buildings are now being made into gardens. I absolutely am in love with this vision. I am so excited that I stumbled upon it all while I am here!