THE EUGENE Studio THE EUGENE Studio THE EUGENE Studio THE EUGENE Studio THE EUGENE Studio THE EUGENE Studio THE EUGENE Studio THE EUGENE Studio THE EUGENE Studio THE EUGENE Studio THE EUGENE Studio THE EUGENE Studio THE EUGENE Studio THE EUGENE Studio

Beyond good and evil, make way toward the wasteland.

2017. Sculpture, Installation. Ceramic, iron, wood, glass, ash, other. 8900×3200×4200mm.

Beyond good and evil, make way toward the wasteland.
2017. Sculpture, Installation. Ceramic, iron, wood, glass, ash, other. 8900×3200×4200mm.


“Beyond good and evil, make way toward the wasteland.” is a sculpture work made for the exhibition “1/2 Century later”. The work reproduced a pure white room in the final scenes of Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey” and made it go through the process of destruction.
Within a large glass case are dust-covered chairs, a bed, cabinets, chipped marble pillars, oil painting, and other weathered items which appear to be from an old forgotten room.

“This final room appears within the movie as a room prepared by the monolith (an advanced computer which guides humans) for the next step in human evolution.… In this installation, we cannot see the monolith which occupied the center of the space in the movie. In this exhibition, the space originally occupied by the monolith – what Commander Bowman was looking at after being transformed into the Starchild – is occupied by the White Painting.”

Quoted from a handout of “THE EUGENE Studio 1/2 Century later.”(Shiseido Gallery)

Beyond good and evil, make way toward the wasteland.
2017. Sculpture, Installation. Ceramic, iron, wood, glass, ash, other. 8900×3200×4200mm.

Thesis

1/2 Century later.—In the case of conceptual art

Arata Hasegawa

Thesis “1/2 Century later.—In the case of conceptual art”
Arata Hasegawa

Quoted from a Catalog of “THE EUGENE Studio 1/2 Century later.”(Shiseido Gallery, 2017)

Arata Hasegawa

Born in 1988. Independent curator. Graduated from Kyoto University Faculty of Integrated Human Studies. Main projects include Mujinto nite: “Hachiju-nen-dai” no Chokoku/Rittai/Insutareshon [On an Uninhabited Island: Sculpture/Stereotomy/Installation of “The 80s”] (2014, Galerie Aube, Kyoto University of Art and Design); Palais de Kyoto: Genjitsu no Tateru Oto [Palais de Kyoto: The Sounds Made by Reality] (2015, ARTZONE & VOX Building); Chronicle, Chronicle! (2016-17, Creative Center OSAKA); and Impurity/Immunity (2017, Tokyo Arts and Space Hongo). PARADISE AIR guest curator for FY2017. Year-long monthly art critique column in Bijutsu Techo [Art Notebook].



Joseph Beuys: “If anything is possible, then nothing is possible.”
Michael Ende: “Exactly!” *1

This manuscript is being penned for the catalog to be published in tandem with the exhibit by THE EUGENE Studio. The organizers of the exhibit requested that the author localize the works, project, and practices of THE EUGENE Studio within the context of conceptual art. Affirming the stance of “pushing the conventional boundaries of art outward, even while embracing the conceptual creativity, contextuality and forms of pure contemporary art, … truly instrumental in creating the next actualities in society” in the “Foreword” for this exhibit. A demonstration of the intent that this stance is the true “image of an artist in the 21st century”: what the author attempts in this manuscript is to lay the groundwork for this intent.
A localization of the work “within the context of conceptual art” must not be fictionalized as if there is value creation in the very act of measuring imaginary distances presumed to exist within a fabricated hierarchy of “Japan” and “the West;” nor should the narrative describe conceptual art as being some kind of technique with infinite potential. Conceptual art is by no means Wikipedia, including its main technique of “allegorization,” nor is it an omnipotent skill. Without such self-restraint, it is patently futile to link the works in this exhibition with the likes of Stanley Kubrick, Robert Rauschenberg, or Anselm Kiefer. At the very least, such an attempt would be far from a critique. The possibilities of practice by THE EUGENE Studio should reveal themselves not through interminable expansion, excessive connection, or complication, but through an inevitable process of formalization. As Heidegger stated, “Circumscribing gives bounds to the thing,” and “With the bounds the thing does not stop; rather from out of them it begins to be what, after production, it will be.” *2 This is precisely the ethics of contemporary art.

Beyond good and evil, make way toward the wasteland.
2017. Sculpture, Installation. Ceramic, iron, wood, glass, ash, other. 8900×3200×4200mm.

Beyond good and evil, make way toward the wasteland.
2017. Sculpture, Installation. Ceramic, iron, wood, glass, ash, other. 8900×3200×4200mm.

Beyond good and evil, make way toward the wasteland.
2017. Sculpture, Installation. Ceramic, iron, wood, glass, ash, other. 8900×3200×4200mm.

What Ichiro Hariu lauded as “an exhibition worthy of being called the birth announcement of conceptual art in Japan”*3 was Nobuo Sekine’s Phase of Nothingness—Oil Clay (1972). It is doubtful that anyone today would agree wholeheartedly with this assessment. Phase of Nothingness—Oil Clay is a work consisting of three masses of oil clay, and to contemporary eyes, it appears to be more of an act of sculpture. Naturally, even at the time, Hariu’s view was met with dissent. For instance, Teruo Fujieda (although the logic of his criticism is itself somewhat distorted) declared the work of Sekine’s to be “something which should not be called conceptual art.”*4 As Katsuo Suzuki discusses in detail, *5 conceptual art in Japan marked an epoch in 1969, with vigorous debate by numerous interested parties giving rise to a flood of different interpretations, and was given a strong sense of periodic specificity under the translated term, “gainen geijutsu (literally ‘concept art’).” When Hariu understood the three masses of oil clay, extreme in their material nature and bearing all but excessive traces of action, to be the “birth cries of conceptual art,” the eardrums in his head were certain to have been ringing with the echoes of the When Attitudes Become Form exhibition (1969).

Fig.1 Nobuo Sekine, Phase of Nothingness—Oilclay Year of production: 1969. Oilclay, Dimensions variable, Tokyo Gallery, April 18 - May 2, 1969.

In the previous paragraph, the author followed Suzuki’s argument that gainen geijutsu (conceptual art) in Japan had taken on a periodic specificity. The author has no doubts in regard to this in and of itself. However, at the same time, it is possible to reconsider Japanese post-war art/contemporary art from the perspective of the generalization of conceptual art. Made-to-order art, active incorporation of design, installation art (spatial deployment), institutional critique, industrialization of art studios—these are examples of the generalization of conceptual art as well as the generalization of control. Noi Sawaragi and others who take the “1970 = Osaka Expo” approach*6 have overlooked the meridian pathway which is the generalization of conceptual art. Here, there is the unmistakable presence of a continuity. Alexander Alberro also protested against Rosalind Krauss’ diagnosis that conceptual art is nothing but a style of a certain period, arguing, “although in highly reconfigured forms, it thrives today more than ever before.”*7 According to Alberro, conceptualism was “pivotal in breaking art from the constraints of self-containment.”*8 Conceptual art, frequently positioned as the polar north of art or for the sake of art, actually reveals the interdependence of art and society.
Ultimately, in the birth of conceptual art lies the question of publicness. Art transforms society, and simultaneously, society transforms art. The locus at which it is not a matter of there being works which address ethical issues, but that this structure and style are themselves ethics. The conviction that all of humanity is involved in its workings. The entire array of actions for the purpose of “all humans being artists”—this we refer to as curation.
Let us consider the work of conceptual art, 1/2 Century later. In the present day, curators actively incorporate the various techniques of conceptual art for the purpose of posing questions on publicness, and at the same time, artists are redefined as conceptual artists. What this complicity gives rise to is the generalization of techniques and self-reproduction relating to self-reference and self-preservation (one of which is the proliferation of archival and re-creation techniques).

Here, there is no self-reflection or remorse for “infinite potential.” The fact that there is material substance there means that it is finite. This is by no means something to be saddened about. In Phase of Nothingness—Oil Clay, even the thoughts themselves relating to the “phase of nothingness” are driven by the physical finitude of the “oil clay.” We ought to remind ourselves time and again of the dialogue in the opening passage, because astonishingly, with the exception of that one excerpt, the two interlocutors take entirely opposite views almost throughout the whole book.

Beyond good and evil, make way toward the wasteland.
2017. Sculpture, Installation. Ceramic, iron, wood, glass, ash, other. 8900×3200×4200mm.

Beyond good and evil, make way toward the wasteland.
2017. Sculpture, Installation. Ceramic, iron, wood, glass, ash, other. 8900×3200×4200mm.

About the work of conceptual art, 1/2 Century later. When we consider the exhibition by THE EUGENE Studio, we find that there are unquestionable clues. For the time being, let us refer to them as “compatible coexistence of polarities” and “resistance to chaos.” The exhibition can be broadly separated into Beyond good and evil, make way toward the wasteland., White Painting, and Drawing: Model landscape for Agricultural Revolution 3.0. However, because the basic structure of this exhibition consists of the juxtaposition of the former two, coinciding with the theme “From Destruction to Restoration,” I will limit my discussion here to Beyond good and evil, make way toward the wasteland. and White Painting.
The White Painting shown by Robert Rauschenberg in his 1953 exhibition caused an uproar—a “gratuitously destructive act” according to one critic—but let us first remember that a work titled Black Painting was also displayed at this time (this was lambasted as “handmade debris”). The exhibition by THE EUGENE Studio features the installation of a room rendered into debris. This room has been depicted as having mimicked the movie set from the final scenes of 2001: A Space Odyssey,*9 and if we are to follow the critique of the period, Beyond good and evil, make way toward the wasteland. would be, so to speak, “made-to-order debris” = the Black Painting of the modern day, and in a sense, we might say the monolith is not absent, but in union with the room. This is not by any means a wild idea; the presentation of the state of compatible coexistence of opposites in the work is an important perspective which also relates to the entirety of the exhibition.

Beyond good and evil, make way toward the wasteland.
2017. Process. Ceramic, iron, wood, glass, ash, other. 8900×3200×4200mm.

Claes Oldenburg, known for his kitsch-looking soft sculptures,*10 in 1963 went on to create “Bedroom Ensemble” which gives the appearance of a departure from that approach. In his pursuit of stylistic expression of the geometric, abstract, and rational, Oldenburg intentionally chose the bedroom, which is softest room in the house and the furthest from conscious thought processes.*11 In this work, he incorporates various geometric shapes into the two-dimensional design of the bedroom in advance, then attempts a three-dimensional rendering with meticulous awareness of the laws of perspective, and the person who gave this work the highest praise at the time was Donald Judd during his art critic days. It is worth emphasizing that Judd had astutely perceived the intent to have the compatible coexistence of the two polarities, soft sculpture and geometry.

Benjamin Buchloh has pointed out that Rauschenberg’s White Paintings connotes animosity toward the monopoly by abstract expressionism of avant-garde artistic thought from the late 1940s to the early 1950s.*12 Although particularly marked in Erased de Kooning Drawing, the act of “erasing” or “whitewashing” serves to negate authorship while continuing to affirm the “uniqueness of the brushstroke” on which abstract expressionists placed so much importance. While this had crucial criticality at the time—the integration of minimalism and abstract expressionism, the connection to conceptualism—the White Painting of THE EUGENE Studio is an attempt at the contemporary adaptation of White Paintings from a different angle from this kind of rather nihilistic critical aspect.
In White Painting, what touches the canvas is not the painter nor the painter’s hand. What touches it are the appreciators and the appreciators’ lips. “Participation” in the “kissing” was carried out in the USA, Mexico, and Taiwan and is now reported to have exceeded 600 people, and continues to increase. This kind of minimum yet diverse community orientation toward participation is in itself also a positive extraction of the interactive aspect connoted in the Rauschenberg work.

[Left]Series of White Painting in Los Angeles, 2017, Still from video, Dimensions variable.
[Right]“Juliette, Sandra, Mitch, Wills, Gillies, Ergas, Asheron, James, Lilly, Thomas. P, Elias, Sofia, Victoria, Mackay, Jamin, Amelius, Prince, Cathy, Valerie, Keiny, Peter, Dona, Sam, Zaret, Christina, Laurencie, Owel, James, Kairy, Frances, Thom, Sugay, Marien, Kinbary, Kalen, Morry, Callen, Mut, Elen, Bruno, Peter, Daele, Clara, Benjamin, Charlotte, Michael, Ryan, Ina, Diego, Javia, Candelas, Robin, Rucaro, Daniel, Rumi, Benney, Sarah, Emily, Jack, Peter, Kevin, Safiya, Trisha, Eric, Danielle, Paul, Floyd, Alexis, Carlos, Nydia, Samantha, Daniela, Michael, Dom, Matt, Todd, Ava, Cailin, Melissa, Kirby, Alexandra, William, McGuiness, Liliana, Francisco, Daniel, Patricia, Anna, Dalia, Ricardo, Diana, Maribel, Barbara, Gabriela, Cristel, Kenia, Lorenzo, Gladys, Alberto, Carlos”, 2017, Canvas, 1700×1700mm.

However, to the author, what is even more intriguing is the question relating to “resolution.” In a dialogue with the author, Kangawa presented the idea, albeit with the proviso that he was “almost joking,” that if humans had slightly better eyesight, they would be able to see saliva, DNA, viruses, cells, and other adherents, and would thereby perceive White Painting to be an object.*13 In this work, I would suggest that this idea, more than anything else, ought to serve as the bet. Rauschenberg himself likened White Paintings to a clock in a 1999 interview.*14

Beyond good and evil, make way toward the wasteland.
2017. Sculpture, Installation. Ceramic, iron, wood, glass, ash, other. 8900×3200×4200mm.

Beyond good and evil, make way toward the wasteland.
2017. Sculpture, Installation. Ceramic, iron, wood, glass, ash, other. 8900×3200×4200mm.

Beyond good and evil, make way toward the wasteland.
2017. Sculpture, Installation. Ceramic, iron, wood, glass, ash, other. 8900×3200×4200mm.

Beyond good and evil, make way toward the wasteland.
2017. Sculpture, Installation. Ceramic, iron, wood, glass, ash, other. 8900×3200×4200mm.

Beyond good and evil, make way toward the wasteland.
2017. Sculpture, Installation. Ceramic, iron, wood, glass, ash, other. 8900×3200×4200mm.

Beyond good and evil, make way toward the wasteland.
2017. Sculpture, Installation. Ceramic, iron, wood, glass, ash, other. 8900×3200×4200mm.

Walter Hopps: “John Cage said. He said they’re landing strips for little motes that we don’t see, and they’re—and for shadows.”
Robert Rauschenberg: “I called them clocks.”
(…)
Rauschenberg: “Whereas, you—if—if one were sensitive enough that—that—that you could read it, that you would know how many people were in the room, what time it was, and what the weather was like outside.”
Ross: “All the information you need.”
Rauschenberg: “Want one? Paint one.” [they laugh]

“If one were sensitive enough.” Yes, just as we can tell the passage of time from the differential of the hands of a clock, we would be able to glean much information from the work. The weakness of the interface of our physical bodies limits our perception of White Painting to that of a mere white canvas.
The proof lies in the fact that in this exhibition, the work was accompanied by archival photographs and video footage. Even so, what is at issue here is that if we are “sensitive enough”–if we were able to perceive the saliva, DNA, viruses, motes, tiny asperities, scratches, and the like adhering to White Painting, then would not our perception of the world outside White Painting be one of horrific chaos? In the contemporary social environment in which everything becomes increasingly high resolution (and in reaction/self-defense, the increasingly acutely low resolution of perception), the conditions for laying the basis for the work White Painting can be said to connote a question which is contemporary in the extreme.
What is needed for us is to fear infinity correctly, and as styles for that end, there are both “compatible coexistence of polarities” and “resistance to chaos” which are ways of being which are neither 1 nor infinity. If so, then, the exhibition of THE EUGENE Studio must be deciphered not as being “From Destruction to Restoration” but as the presentation of a situation in which destruction and restoration are being carried out simultaneously. Such a situation is obviously a “wasteland,” for certain, but the presentation of the vision of that wasteland is arguably the ethical point of this exhibition. Thoughts of the conceptual art of 1/2 Century later. can start from this point.
“We can define the concept of Deleuze’s fictionalization as follows: It is an act of resisting the unbearable disintegration of a world unraveling irreversibly with old age by reducing it without ‘memory’ in a form liberated from ‘memory’ and by bestowing a counterfeit bond such as superstition.”*15

 

Annotation

1. Michael Ende, and Joseph Beuys, Dialogue on Art and Politics. Trans. Shizuya Okazawa. Iwanami Shoten Publishers, 1992.

2. Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology. Trans. Hiroshi Sekiguchi. Heibonsha Library, 2013.

3. Dialogue 31: Sekine Nobuo. Mizuwe 1972 September/October issue.

4. Fujieda, Teruo, “About Conceptual Art,” in; Art after Modernism: Teruo Fujieda Selected Critiques, Tokyo Shoseki, 1973.

5. Suzuki, Katsuo, “Typology of Absence: The Genealogy of Conceptual Art in Japan (1),” 2015.

6. See, Noi Sawaragi, War and Expo, BIJUTSU SHUPPAN-SHA, 2005 and others.

7. Alexander Alberro, Sabeth Buchmann (ed.) “Art After Conceptual Art,” The MIT Press, 2006.

8. ibid

9. It appears that the bedroom from 2001: A Space Odyssey was also re-created in The 14th Factory, an art show created by Simon Birch which ran from March to July of this year in Los Angeles.
https://californiathroughmylens.com/14th-factory-los-angeles

10. Teruo Fujieda, in the previously cited About Conceptual Art, does not hide his annoyance at how the “legitimate creators of conceptual art are ignored” in Japan, and how the likes of “Claes Oldenburg and Christo are accepted.”

11. Claes Oldenburg, note on Bedroom, 1976, in Germano Celant (ed.), Claes Oldenburg: An Anthology, Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1995, p.204.

12. Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, David Joselit (ed.), Art since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism, Thames & Hudson Ltd; 3rd revised edition, 2016.

1953 Composer John Cage collaborates on Robert Raus chenberg’s Tire Print: the ln dexical imprint is developed as a weapon against the expressive mark in a range of work by Rauschenberg, Ellsworth Kelly, and Cy Twombly. 13.https://bijutsutecho.com/interview/9140/

14.https://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/98.308.A-C/research-materials/document/WHIT_98.308_005/

15. Ogura, Takuya. Oi ni okeru Kakou [Fictionalization in Old Age]. at + Volume 30 Special Issue Rinsho to Jinbunchi [Clinical Practice and Humanities in Perspective].