Celebration – Polish-Japan Contemporary Art Presentation

prof. Akiko Kasuya
(The Kyoto City University of Arts)

Celebration: Between the Aesthetic and the Critical

Celebration: Japanese-Polish Contemporary Art Exhibition was organized to mark the centenary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Poland. It will be held in May 2019 mainly at Kyoto Art Center, and in Poland starting at the end of May during Poznań Art Week and in June at TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art in Szczecin. The organizers selected 21 primarily emerging or mid-career artists from both countries, not only to show their respective works, but also to have them mutually cooperate and present the results of their collaborations, while taking steps to encourage ongoing future exchange.

The exhibition has been co-curated by Paweł Pachciarek and myself, and an investigative survey was carried out while the show’s theme was being considered. A decision was made to focus on contemporary manifestations of an ephemeral and poetic aesthetic sensibility that can be expressed in Japanese as mono no aware, and on the keen critical gaze artists direct toward present-day society.

Refinement, affinity for nature, and the mono no aware sense of the transience of all things, are characterized as quintessentially Japanese traits and are visible in the work of emerging and mid-career Japanese artists as they are in the traditional arts, coming to light as a clear commonality during the preliminary survey of works. Prominent characteristics of Polish artists that one could cite include a sense of humor, sharp social critique, wit and intelligence. As Japan and Poland are geographically far removed and have very different histories and cultural backgrounds, at first glance they may seem to have little in common. However, despite the differences, with close observation certain noteworthy similarities come to light.

The sense of mono no aware often viewed as intrinsically Japanese can be seen in the work of Polish artists, and conversely, a close look at Japanese artists’ work reveals a keen critical sensibility concealed beneath the serene surface. Here I would like to reexamine this zone “between the aesthetic and the critical.”