July 20, 2012 — September 09, 2012
In this exhibition, I'm going to present a latest piece from The Rotators series, The District of Plywood City, a sound sculpture formed by a combination of wood crates as a kind of analogy for wooden architecture.
In 2004, I started The Rotators project as an advanced form of sound sculptures. The Rotators as a set is an automatic rhythm playing system that consists of motor-driven electric appliances orchestrated by the Rotatorhead, a unit of modified record turntables and vinyl discs. From hairdryers, blenders to power drills, a variety of electronic appliances are integrated as a sound unit to amplify by Rock'n Roll technologies like a electric machine band. Through this works, I try to sum up the 20th century's material civilization and critically project an interpretation of the world, as if it is Naturalism in the society of mass consumption, by assembling a number of mass products that were born and completed in the middle of consumerism which is about to collapse in the 21st century.
April 28, 2012 — May 26, 2012
Mechanical people have fascinated people for centuries. A movement developed from within a manufactured body, along with the construction of puppets, bodies and machines, has impressed us since time immemorial as the highest art of mechanical engineering. Leading the way here primarily is Japan, that most fascinating land of applied robotics and projected simulation imagery of the 20th century. Japan has made a name for itself as a centre of miniaturisation and high technology whilst remaining bound up in tradition, in the research laboratories of the high-tech companies on the one hand, in the cultural sector on the other; anthropomorphism of the technological kind. Chess computers were analogous guinea pigs in the service of Turing AI testing, Tamagotchis (lovable eggs) were the first tools with social implications, the Sony Aibo RS7 embodied the perfect dog and the QRIO an anthropomorphic virtual reality toy for the hysterical Otaku community.
The artist Ujino Muneteru, who lives in Tokyo, is a gifted all-rounder and (sound) tinkerer. He knows the game inside out and flirts with it like no-one else. For years, he has been turning everyday objects into sometimes towering sound systems that result in wonderful apparatus based on robots and the idealised concept of auto-productive design. Ujino also transforms modern and outdated technology into (kinetic) soundscapes as a performer, musician and DJ. He builds new objects out of discarded and obsolete equipment and technological apparatus in order to elicit old and new stories from the newly orchestrated materials. Their discarded value is rehabilitated, their bodies given new life – Japanese post-modern animism? In the art world, generating noise makes a fanfare out of detritus. This all leads to an extraordinary insight into the meaning of anti-materialism, a kind of pop iconography.
In his new work for the PSM Gallery, DUET, traditional elements of Noh theatre are sampled in a bizarre way with machine aesthetics and noise-sound generated from it. In highly formal Noh theatre performances, a piece of a motif is shown using masks by the originally all-male performers, accompanied by a Kyōgen comedy performace. These style-motivated scenes are highly artificial works of art using masks and perfectly studied sequences of strict temporal and dramatic strands. In DUET, one experiences this as a robot spirit play that borrows from tradition in the middle of new sounds, rock 'n' roll, according to Ujino, although the idea of a person remotely controlled by an invisible hand doesn't appear to be only in the theatre, but omnipresent. To the sounds of industrial noise, the machine people dance their absurd theatre and strike up a tune together, holding up a mirror to the world of all our Walpurgis nights. Let us pray for salvation!
Gregor Jansen, director at Kunsthalle Düsseldorf
Some background information, with thanks to Wikipedia: In some Noh plays, the action is presented as a so-called "double fantasy-Noh" (复式 梦幻 能 , Fukushiki Mugen Noh). This is a drama with two acts that blends imagination with true occurrence. A traveller arrives at a place where a stranger recounts to him an old legend, before suddenly disappearing (Act 1). Another person later explains to the traveller that this person was actually the ghost of the main character of this legend (间 狂言 , Kyogen, Ai, Eng. "middle act"). In the following night, the ghost returns, introduces himself and shares his real thoughts, memories and feelings with the traveller, asking him to pray for his salvation. Then, morning comes, and the traveller moves on with a prayer (Act 2).
On Ujino’s “Duet” – The Reality of Imaginary Existence in Japanese Tradition
Accompanied by the roaring sounds made by motors with flashlights, two denim shirts hung on wipers are the performers of Ujino’s theatrical piece “Duet.” The movement of wipers seems a little awkward, but we are made to feel that they are alive. As if these two wiper-shirts were human beings, they approach each other at the center of the stage in a sort of “boy meets girl” scenario, dance together, and separate again.
Behind the birth of this mechanical performance lies the influence of the traditional Noh Theater of Japan. One day, Ujino wondered why the movement of Noh performers are so machine-like. Asking a Noh performer about this, he received the answer that Noh needed to be taught to their patron Shogun; therefore the movement became mechanical so as to be easily taught. This comment inspired Ujino, and he thought that by using the wipers’ mechanical movement, he could imitate the movement of Noh, and create his own contemporary Noh theater.
In the Muromachi period (1337-1573), Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu patronized the “Kawaramono” (riverside men), pariahs who lived by rivers and worked as butchers or morticians, as performers. One of these performers was Zeami (1363 – 1443) who completed works representing a highly codified Noh Theater. Named after the Buddhism god of Infinite Light “Amitābha” after the reformation of Buddhism in the Kamakura period (1185 – 1333), Zeami dealt with the themes of life and death.
The origin of Noh is related to the myth concerning the birth of Japan. Zeami called himself as a descendant of Hata Kawakatsu, whose family originated in Continental Asia, and considered himself the reincarnation of the first Chinese Emperor of Qin in the 3rd century BC. Hata Kawakatsu made 66 theater pieces for Shotoku Taishi, a legendary figure who imported Buddhism from China to Japan in the 6th century. Some of the Noh repertoires even include the stories of the Yuezhi, an ancient Iranian people who fought against the Greco-Bactrian kingdom in the 2nd century BC.
In 1907, Dr. Saeki claimed that the Hata are likely members of the Lost Tribe of Israel. Ernest Fenollosa, one of the founders of Tokyo University of the Arts where Ujino studied, translated Noh plays into English, and the works fascinated Ezra Pound in London in the 1910s enough to spur his own versions of some of the plays. In post-WWII Japan, under the heavy influence of Singon Esoteric Buddhism, Gutai artist Kazuo Shiraga also made a contemporary Noh theater costume called “Sambasoo.”
Noh often deals with gods, spirits and supernatural worlds from the perspective of the dead. The main actor, called “Site,” wears the Noh mask, which is smaller than the face of the actor. The mask itself does not have a set facial expression, but expresses joy when tilted upwards (terasu=shine), and sorrow when drawn downwards (kumorasu=cloudy). Wearing his mask, Site brings both “afterworlds (of masks)” and “this world (of faces),” and depicts the boundary upon which can be traced the meaning of reality.
Western modernity, which divides subject and object, may fail to capture the concept of the imaginary body of Japan, which exists in the metaphysical world of animism, and does not correspond to what can be mapped onto the Cartesian coordinate plane, such as an imaginary number. Without having the expression by itself, the Noh mask acquires a multitude of expressions by drawing the borders of the imaginary body and the actual body as reality. However, Ujino’s genius is to try to express this imaginary body of Japan in our modern society as his own reality. Thd onto the tradition of Japan. Therefore, Ujino uses modern American products such as a Wiper (=Site) and a denim shirt (=Noh mask), in the context of traditional Japanese Noh Theater.
In Duet, Ujino tries to trace the blur boundary between the living and the dead, by connecting cheesy American culture (wiper, denim=real, live) with dying Japanese tradition (=imaginary, dead) in its most elemental way.
NJP SUMMER FESTIVAL 21 ROOMS
July 20, 2011 — September 13, 2011
NAM JUNE PAIK ART CENTER
GyeongGi-do, South Korea
NJP Art Center is pleased to announce “NJP Summer Festival - 21 Rooms” for Num June Paik’s 79th birthday. The festival, consisting of an exhibition, performances and public programs, runs for eight weeks from July 20 to September 13, 2011 with twenty works on display on the second floor of the Center and the outdoor stage.
This festival was inspired by Symphony for 20 Rooms, a score composed by Paik in 1961. The term ‘score’ used by Paik and Fluxus artists referred to instructions of actions to be performed. Paik’s Symphony for 20 Rooms, as a visualization of ‘music,’ is made up of descriptions of various sound installations and interactions with the audience. Still awating a first performance, this piece contains Paik’s creative and innovative ideas for music and exhibition which he was to materialize in his later performances and exhibitions.
As Paik and his Fluxus friends did, the artists in this festival will present ‘scores’ to engage with the audience. By performing the scores as instructed, the audience will cut through genres and spaces, moving around the 20 rooms (or works), and realize the “unblinded” participation, which is the central tenet of Paik’s score.
"Through these exciting art experiments made in midsummer, they will be given an opportunity to create their own score as in Paik’s saying: “The wise will play a wise tune and the foolish a foolish tune.”
Link: NJP SUMMER FESTIVAL 21 ROOMS
Link: NJP SUMMER FESTIVAL - Performance
May 21, 2011 — June 18, 2011
This exhibition is expected to be the first solo presentation by the artist in Japan in the last 7 years after 2004. For the occasion, UJINO extends his own longtime “research on material world” as he calls, and present two new series as well as several new works from the acclaimed project The Rotators.
Growing up in Nerima Tokyo during the late 1960s, UJINO frequented a nearby boulevard to see automobiles that come from Grand Heights, the US Army’s housing area in the neighborhood. His favorite at the time was Mustang. He recalls these days when he discusses the beginning of his artistic “research on the material world”. American culture, influences from automobile and machine industries, and consequential imagery of the western culture later became an essential part in the development of UJINO’s artworks.
In the 1990’s, he created a series of sound sculptures such as LOVE ARM series assembling electrical home appliances and decorative lamps from “decotra”, excessively decorated art trucks uniquely developed in Japan. He also participated in a number of live performances using these sound sculptures.
In 2004, he started The Rotators project as an advanced form of sound sculptures. The Rotators as a set is an automatic rhythm playing system that consists of motor-driven electric appliances orchestrated by the Rotatorhead, a unit of modified record turntables and vinyl discs. From hairdryers, blenders to power drills, a variety of electronic appliances are integrated and laid out on a platform such as a dining table, while naked bulbs and home lams decorate the project. For exhibitions abroad, UJINO purchases most of these components on the locations, as these items have already reached their maturity as mass products and are widely available internationally. The Rotators series has been widely acclaimed, and lead to a number of exhibitions and live performances outside Japan.
UJINO’s works may be discussed in relation to the Futurist artist and musician Luigi Russolo, or the works of Neo-Dadaists who saw a rise of an alternative and new nature in the overflowing industrial products and junk and attempted to identify a reality of the time. However, what arrived upon the maturity of industrial society was the delirium of mass consumerism that swept our life at an unprecedented scale. Through his works, the artist sums up the 20th century and critically project an interpretation of the world, as if it is Naturalism in the society of mass consumption, by assembling a number of mass products that were born and completed in the middle of consumerism which is about to collapse in the 21st century.
In this exhibition, UJINO is going to present a new piece from The Rotators series, along with two brand new projects. The Rotators will be updated developed as a self-contained unit to be installed on its own crates attached to the wall. Updating from the previous versions, he intends to turn The Rotators to a universal system that is free from double-barreled “domesticity”.
For the new project, UJINO creates a series of panel and sculptural pieces by combining decorative components like truck lamps that reflect the imagery of American culture, and mass products from Japan’s so-called“modernization” period under the influence of the United States. The exhibition will also include an installation that the artist constructs as an alternative natural environment by integrating plant motives found on post-war American and Japanese mass products.
Link: YAMAMOTO GENDAI
LIVING ROOM 2011 - Metropolis Dreaming
April 8, 2011 — April 17, 2011
Auckland CBD - various venues, New Zealand
Living Room, Auckland Council’s annual 10-day public art event, kicks off again in April. It will feature artists from all over the world, as well as some well-known local faces. There will be a mix of installations, performances, sound art, video projections and a poster project.
In 2011 Living Room is titled Metropolis Dreaming. The planned artworks will encourage us to re-imagine our day-to-day urban surroundings, rediscovering ordinary, overlooked and hidden details of the city.
Metropolis Dreaming spotlights the actual mechanics of a city’s systems, transforming its functional, everyday structures from a routine backdrop into imaginative possibilities. It is a celebration of post-industrial urban life and takes its inspiration from the excitement the Italian Futurist movement felt at the start of the 20th century for the clamour and bustle of the new, kinetic environment of the machine age.
100 years later, Living Room acknowledges that the city is both a cultural and technological hub, so will include social projects that highlight the human dynamics of urban life.
Andrew Clifford, Curator
Living Room: Ujino, 'Dragon Head'
Ujino’s Dragon Head sculpture takes the form of an automotive taniwha, a mechanical dragon for the modern age, which will occupy Aotea Square. It will watch over tides of traffic on Queen Street, Auckland’s most iconic road, which was once a stream.
The dragon is a creature common in mythology. The image of the dragon came to Japan from China but this was pre-dated by a belief in river gods visible in rippling water currents, much like the Māori taniwha.
With his latest work Ujino substitutes river currents for the flow of vehicles, a contemporary beast that epitomises the last half-century of globalisation. Like the dragon, international car culture - a primary source of worldwide tension - appears in different forms and meanings in each society, where it has its own history and cultural background, although the technology remains constant.
Ujino’s dragon is built from abandoned cars, everyday appliances and local street paraphernalia, taking the detritus of contemporary consumer society and turning it into a giant, celebratory beat-box.
Link: Living Room 2011 - Metropolis Dreaming
Link: TV3, Auckland
Link: Youtube - DRAGON HEAD
Link: Youtube - DRAGON HEAD in the dusk
ART FORUM BERLIN
October 7, 2010 — October 10, 2010
Exhibition Grounds Messe Berlin, halls 18-20,
PSM Berlin will present works by UJINO at the art forum 2010 (Focus Section, hall 18, booth No. 160a)
Copyright ©2008 - 2011 UJINO, All rights reserved.
Ujino Muneteru turns mechanical sounds into complex rhythms. For Art Forum 2010, Ujino Muneteru has reconstructed his sound sculpture Plywood City, which he first created in 2008 for his solo exhibition Crossband at PSM, Berlin.
“Bored by the technical limits of conventional instruments, Ujino, a guitarist and bassist himself, experiments with new sounds. Different resonant bodies widen the spectrum of timbre; the sound of simple mechanical motors is used to produce new tones. In particular domestic appliances, tools, and large machinery from the fifties to the seventies are employed for their mechanical simplicity and physicality. Japanese Noise Music, a sound movement from the eighties, influenced by John Cage and the Fluxus movement, is referenced in Ujino’s productions.
The title of the sound sculpture now presented at the Art Forum Berlin refers to a part of Tokyo, which is built form wood and is colloquially known as Plywood City. Ujino has constructed a wooden model ciy, which is animated by kinetic objects and sound. The basis of Plywood City is formed with art transport crates.
Link: Vernissage TV
Link: Art Agenda
Link: Berlin art forum draws 40,000 art lovers
ROPPONGI CROSSING 2010: Can There Be Art?
The Creative Potential of a New Japan
March 20, 2010 — July 4, 2010
Mori Art Museum
Link: MORI ART MUSEUM
Link: Interview on YOUTUBE
The Creative Potential of a New Japan
“Roppongi Crossing” is a series of exhibitions that introduce the work of diverse artists and creators with an eye to present a vision of the future Japanese art scene. Starting from a fundamental question – “Can there be art”* - the third in the series highlights the ambitions and dynamic talents who are today actively turning the pages of Japanese art history. The exhibition represents a “crossing” of diverse output – photography, sculpture, installation, video, graffiti, performance and so on – by 20 artists and units ranging from up-and-coming stars to art world veterans.
While the artworks chosen by the team of three curators are all new or topical, they are diverse in their approaches. Some refer directly to various social issues, while others take the form of projects, presenting new possibilities by their collaborative or trans-genres natures. The exhibition also introduces creative activities generated from the streets which is a stage of our daily life, as well as the work of a new generation that suggest the emergence of a new aesthetic.
Now more than ever, with society and the economy going through a period of immense change, we are provided with a rare opportunity to think about the very nature of art. It will be a new Japan that emerges from this period of upheaval, and the discoveries, surprises and insights offered in this exhibition provide a clue as to what the art of that new Japan will be like.
*In the 1990s, in the aftermath of the collapse of the bubble economy, the late Furuhashi Teiji, of the artist group Dumb Type, is known to have asked, “Can there be art” which seemed to inquire whether art can exist outside of the art world’s confines, in a direct discourse with society in general.
HITOTZUKI (Kami + Sasu)
Morimura Yasumasa Rogues' Gallery
EXPosition of mythology - ELectronic technology
Nam June Paik Art Center
GyeongGi-do, South Korea
June 12, 2009 — October 4, 2009 (4 months)
Opening: Friday June 12, 2009, 5:00pm
Link: NAM JUNE PAIK ART CENTER
The EXPosition of Mythology - ELectronic Technology explores notions of technology, mythology and religion through the perspective of Nam June Paik's first solo exhibition in 1963, EXPosition of Music ELectronic Television. Nam June Paik's first solo exhibition is taken as representative of the thinking and concerns Paik would later explore in his practice and represents a bridge between Eastern and Western philosophies offering an alternative perspective into how technology, mythology and religion can be understood from a more anthropological perspective.
In this 1963 exhibition, Paik presented his first experiments with televisions, his prepared pianos and several other objects that invited audience participation. Paik’s use of the exhibition space, including hanging a dead cow’s head in the entrance and making people walk around a giant balloon to enter the rest of the exhibition, highlights his emphasis the viewer's participation and bodily experience. In addition, Paik also raised issues concerning the experience of time,media, history, and knowledge by suggesting different themes and concepts through the works created for the exhibition, the posters displayed, and the type of participation solicited to experience this show. The following were some of Paik's themes:
For the upcoming exhibition the aim is to play with these themes, reflect on them, update them to current situations and even possibly parody some of them. Selected works will be presented alongside documentation related to different themes to emphasize the relevance and development of the concerns present in Paik’s exhibition in relation to historical, cultural and anthropological perspectives informed by a reading of the forty years that have passed since EXPosition of Music, Electronic Television.
Nam June Paik, alan∂, Chang Sung Eun, Christoph Meier, Gregor Zootzky, Hong Chul Ki, Honore ∂’O, Javier Tellez, Jimmie Durham, Kevin Clarke, Kim Yun Ho, Mary Bauermeister, Marcus Coates, Roland Topor, Ryu Han Kil, Park Kyong, Park Jong Woo, Pedro Diniz Reis, Tilo Baumgartel, Ujino Muneteru, Una Szeemann, Ute Mueller, and Others.
Curated by Youngchul Lee
UJINO AND THE ROTATORS
The Hayward Project Space
February 18, 2009 — April 24, 2009
SHERBET DAB SWIVEL
The renowned Japanese sculptor and musician Ujino Muneteru (born Tokyo, 1964) founded The Rotators in 2004, a band whose members consist of ordinary household appliances, including blenders, hairdryers and power tools. Each of these 'musicians' are connected to the Rotatorhead, a unit created from a specially adapted DJ's mixing desk that Ujino has programmed to automatically control all The Rotators' components.
Ujino has said that 'I set up the band on the table and control everything from the Rotatorhead, so it ends up looking like a cooking show on TV. The permanent members of The Rotators are: the blender, for its heavy, low frequency sounds — like a punchy kick drum; the drill, set up too for its snappy, tight snare drum sound; and the hair dryer, which is always involved with my performances because it resembles a fuzzy bass but sometimes takes the role of vocals.'
While Ujino's work recalls both the Intonarumori (noise intones) invented by the Italian Futurist artist and composer Luigi Russolo and kinetic sculpture of Jean Tinguely, it also speaks of his childhood and adolescence in 1970s and early 1980s Japan, a time when that nation was undergoing rapid economic development. Growing up surrounded by American pop culture and then-novel plastic household appliances, his passion for Punk and New Wave led him towards an interest, as he puts it, in 'art as material realism rather than the planar illusions of painting, manga and animation'. For Ujino 'rock music expression and electric technology which amplifies sound signals were at their peak in the 1980s', and this is why he prefers to make use in his work of second-hand items from this period. While Ujino and The Rotators reflects the impact of globalisation on the local, it also speaks of how even its blandest material deposits — a piece of kitchenware, or a power tool — become strange again when connected to a specific set of cultural, social and historical currents.
For this exhibition at The Hayward Project Space, Ujino is transforming the space into his workshop, continuously welcoming ‘new band members’ from London during his stay at The Southbank Centre as an artist in Residence. During the exhibition’s run, Ujino and The Rotators will give several public performances as part of Southbank Centre’s Ether 09 Festival of Art and Technology.
Sherbet Dab Swivel, 2009Copyright ©2009 UJINO, All rights reserved.
photo: Jon Cartwright
The Rotators also feature in Ujino’s Sherbet Dab Swivel, a temporary outdoor sculpture installed on Festival Terrace until 24 April and active from 10am to 10pm every day. Taking part of its title from Cockney rhyming slang, Sherbet Dab Swivel converts a taxicab and other street apparatus into a new outdoor sculpture for London. inspired by many equestrian statues he found around the city, Ujino based its form on a figure on horseback, metamorphosed — like a Transformer toy — into a twenty-first century monument to urban transport, complete with flashing lights and intermittent sounds created by Ujino's Rotators.
Exhion bitiassistant: Chelsea Fitzgerald
Exhibition interns: Louisa Adam and Fatima Hellberg
TOKYO STORIES Vol. 1
November 23, 2008 — November 24, 2008
The Ballad of Backyard, 2008Copyright ©2008 UJINO, All rights reserved.
PLATFORM SEOUL 2008
One and J Gallery
Seoul, South Korea
October 25, 2008 — November 23, 2008
ONE AND J GALLERY
ATSROK: The Rotators in Daewoo TICO
accompanied by a progressive amnesia. In our era of new technology, the brilliant metamorphose of everyday objects into music would bring people to ecstasy.
September 4, 2008 — October 4, 2008
Copyright ©2008 UJINO, All rights
Courtesy of PSM
Plywood City, 2008
Ujino Muneteru transforms mechanical sounds into complex rhythms. Bored by the technical limits of his instruments, the guitarist and bassist experiments with new sounds. Different sounding bodies widen the spectrum of resonance; simple mechanical motors produce new tones. In particular domestic appliances, tools, and large machinery from the fifties to the seventies play a significant role here because of their mechanical simplicity and haptic palpability. Points of reference to the Japanese “Noise Music”, a type of sound movement from the eighties rooted in John Cage and the Fluxus, can also be seen.
In his first solo presentation in Europe Ujino Muneteru deals with the cultural and historic integration of the East and West using sounds. Muneteru, growing up in the consumer society of Tokyo, sees himself confronted with the historic industrial space of the GDR at PSM. PSM is located in a freight garage of the former transport establishment of the Central Committee of the SED. In Crossband Muneteru does not wish to teach, he wishes to investigate and record a playful catenation between history and the future of spaces.
Crossband speaks about the concurrence, the intersection of sound waves, of information from language or sounds. Two installations are in the forefront of this communication cross-link - Pickle-up and Plywood City.
Pickle-up consists of two old GDR motor cars, which have lost color and shape since the collapse of the GDR and have succumbed to the elements, like a pickle in its brine.
Plywood City refers to a part of Tokyo, in the vernacular, built from wood. Inspired by it, Muneteru constructs a model city, which is animated by kinetic objects and sound. The basis of the city is formed by art transport crates, whose misappropriation cites socialist flagstone buildings with irony.
Pickle-up and Plywood City also function as interfaces between the past and future of the space of PSM - the former GDR freight garage and the future gallery.