世界の終わりと環境世界/End of the World and Self-centered World

Contemplating our future through artists such as Yayoi Kusama, Anish Kapoor, and Maki Ohkojima:
Can we reach awareness of the fact that we each live in different self-centered worlds?

Our world is one of nuclear threats, geopolitical tensions, destruction of the natural environment, and global warming—today, the “end of the world” is no longer just a religious prophecy or scientific prediction. It is already here, firmly in the category of phenomena that can be physically sensed and experienced. This exhibition, End of the World and Self-centered World, faces up to and confronts the catastrophic subjects that appear at the point of intersection between the political, the social, and the human. It fundamentally questions concepts of modern times, not in order that we may survive until the end of the world, but in order that we may live with the end of the world.
The end of the world can also be considered the demise of anthropocentrism. This comes from the idea that every living creature lives in its own umwelt, a species-specific perceptual world or self-centered world, with the individual animal as the subject in the world that it experiences. According to Jakob von Uexküll,* universal time and space (which von Uexküll called umgebung—the objective environment, or the view from outside a self-centered world) are also perceived by animal subjects as their own time and space. Animal behavior is the result of the different perceptions and effects experienced by each animal, and has specific significance for each different creature. The significant interrelationships between animal subjects and the objects that they perceive were described as a plan for life by von Uexküll, who advocated research in greater depth into such plans.
End of the World and Self-centered World is an exhibition that poses the difficult question of whether we can free ourselves from anthropocentrism and reach an awareness of the fact that we all live in different self-centered worlds.
* Jakob von Uexküll (1864–1944) was a German biologist known for his proposal of the term umwelt (Ger. Umwelt, literally meaning surrounding world or environment, sometimes translated as self-centered world) in the field of biology. He used umwelt to refer to the world as independently constructed by or perceived by biological subjects. Rather than an objective view of the environment, this refers to the environment as perceived by the subject and able to be acted on by the subject, hence self-centered world. For the subject, the umwelt is its reality, the stage upon which it lives.
Exhibition curator, Takayo Iida
(director of the Sgùrr Dearg Institute for Sociology of the Arts)

Exhibit Works, Artists Profile

Yayoi Kusama
Kusama’s Self-Obliteration(up)
Flower Obsession (performance videos)(down)

According to Yayoi Kusama, “My performances are a kind of symbolic philosophy with polka dots. A polka dot has the form of the sun, which is a symbol of the energy of the whole world and our living life, and also the form of the moon, which is calm. Round, soft, colorful, senseless, and unknowing. Polka dots can’t stay alone; like the communicative life of the people, two or three or more polka dots bacome movement. Our earth is only one polka dot among a million stars in the cosmos. Polka dots are a way to infinity. When we obliterate nature and our bodies with polka dots, we become part of the unity of our environment. I become part of the eternal, and we obliterate ourselves in Love.” She went on to say, “Let us unite with eternity. Obliterate ourselves. Dissolve into our environments. Forget ourselves. Self-obliteration is just another means of escape.”
This performance can be interpreted as a sharp hint that in our contemporary world, financial capital is accelerating along a vector toward war business. As if resonating with Kusama’s message, French philosopher Félix Guattari praises the artistic value of her work. “The intensities engendered by Kusama’s compositions, while remaining anchored in a very traditional Japanese imaginary, above all constitute extraordinary dispositifs of subjectivation and aesthetics of the most modern of materials, those which, let’s not forget, our societies of consumption otherwise reserve for their miserable and disenchanted universes.” Félix Guattari saw Yayoi Kusama as great contemporary artist forging the sensibility of a most unpredictable future, an artist producing a new subjectivity liberated from the hegemony of capitalist value production oriented only toward profit.
* Félix Guattari, “Les Riches Affects de Madame Yayoi Kusama,” in Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Explosion (exhibition catalog), Fuji Television Gallery, 1986, translated as “The Rich Affects of Madam Yayoi Kusama” in Félix Guattari, Machinic Eros. Writings On Japan. U of Minnesota Press, 2015.
(Takayo Iida)
Yayoi Kusama Born in 1929 in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. Created fantastic paintings featuring polka dots and nets from a young age. Moved to the United States by herself in 1957, and established herself as an avant-garde artist. Gained renown as an artist in the New York art scene from the 1960s to early 1970s. Moved to Tokyo in 1973. Brought back into the spotlight by the Yayoi Kusama: Retrospective at the Center for International Contemporary Arts, New York in 1989. Represented at the Japan Pavilion in the Venice Biennale in 1993 with her first solo exhibition as a contemporary artist. Her second break gained further impetus with the retrospective Love Forever: Yayoi Kusama 1958-1968 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1998. Received the Asahi Prize in 2001. Recognized as a Person of Cultural Merit in Japan and began My Eternal Soul series in 2009. Began a traveling exhibition in 2011 that toured art museums in four cities in Europe and America, including Tate Modern in London and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Began a traveling exhibition in 2012 that toured ten cities in Japan. Began a traveling exhibition in 2013 that toured Central and South America and Asia. Named the world’s most popular artist by The Art Newspaper in 2014. Began a traveling exhibition in 2015 that toured northern Europe. Named one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time magazine, and received Japan’s Order of Culture award in 2016. Yayoi Kusama Museum opened in 2017. The same year, began a traveling exhibition that toured Southeast Asia. In 2021, held a solo exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden and a retrospective exhibition at the Gropius Bau, Berlin, which traveled to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel in 2022.
Copyright of YAYOI KUSAMA
Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts


Shusaku Arakawa
Why Not: A Serenade of Eschatological Ecology (film)

Why Not: A Serenade of Eschatological Ecology, presented as part of the exhibition, is Shusaku Arakawa’s first foray into filmmaking, an experimental film featuring the performance of a young woman. The set, a room with a table, bed, and bicycle, is actually Arakawa’s studio. The camera voyeuristically follows a woman around the room, capturing each of her actions. The woman mingles with the door and the table in the room, posing questions about the human existence through her physical performance in this enclosed space. Surrounded by an inorganic wilderness with no other person present, the actions seem to be those of solitary struggle (masturbation). The performance represents physicality underlain by bottomless chaos, and depicts the natural forces that implode the human body, transformed into symbols worn on the body. The origins of the thinking that led to Arakawa’s “architectural body” approach that emerged in the 1990s seem to be condensed into this performance. The questions posed by Shusaku Arakawa as a young artist shook viewers’ perceptions, orienting them toward the possibility of developing a new means of understanding. They skillfully navigate the procedures for recognition involving abstruse language, and attempt to take overall control of the phenomenon of meaning. This provocative experiment by Arakawa is highly appropriate for an age of confusion in a world that is increasingly divided and polarized, and in which the systems that we had become used are no longer functioning. “We hope future generations find our humor useful for the models of thought and other escape routes they shall construct.”*
* Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins, from their introduction to The Mechanism of Meaning, Work in Progress (1963-71, 1978)
(Takayo Iida)
Shusaku Arakawa Born in 1936 in Aichi Prefecture, Japan. Graduated from Aichi Prefectural Asahigaoka Senior High School, where he majored in art, and attended Musashino Art School (now Musashino Art University). Formed the avant-garde group Neo-Dada Organizers in 1960 with Masunobu Yoshimura, Ushio Shinohara, and Genpei Akasegawa, conducting anti-art practices. Held first solo exhibition, Another Cemetery, in September of the same year at Muramatsu Gallery in Tokyo. Presented coffin series featuring three-dimensional works resembling coffins incorporating wooden boxes and chunks of cement. Moved to New York in 1961, and began working with the poet Madeline Gins. After creating work such as the Diagrammatic Paintings series, in which paintings incorporated a mixture of motifs such as silhouettes, arrows, photos, and color gradations, presented The Mechanism of Meaning series, in which words not only symbolize images and things but are also depicted as free-standing elements in parallel with other signs and shapes, at the 35th Venice Biennale held in 1970. Praised in 1972 by physicist Werner Heisenberg, who saw this series at a retrospective held in Germany, and was invited along with Madeline Gins to the Max Planck Institute. Designed a poster for the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Recognized throughout the world, including being awarded the Medal with Dark Blue Ribbon in 1982 and the Medal with Purple Ribbon in 2003 and being named a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 1986. Became the first Japanese artist to hold a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in 1997. Died in 2010.
Photo courtesy of Arakawa +
Gins Tokyo office


Anish Kapoor
1000 Names (installation)

1000 Names was one of Anish Kapoor’s earliest series, executed in 1979 and 1980. His inspiration for the use of pigment in different colors came from a journey through India in 1979 where small piles of pigments for cosmetic and ritual use were sold at the entrances of temples and roadside sanctuaries. Kapoor’s 1000 names was a surprise. To the artist, its sudden appearance was prompted by the pigment. Separate mounds of powdered pigment (vivid red, yellow, bright blue, white) completely cover certain objects, producing forms with softer outlines and hiding the true shapes of the objects underneath. These elements give rise to associations with architecture, then with organic forms. Sometimes, they seem to exist between the two: suggesting forms in transition, somewhere between nature and the abstract. The pigments provide a marvelous embodiment of a contradiction that Kapoor needed to express.
Describing this series, Kapoor says, "With the early powder pieces, one of the things I was trying to do was to arrive at something which was as if unmade, as if self-manifested, as if there by its own volition. ... I was much more concerned with the way the objects gave out light; they seem to be a source of light. ... [1000 Names] implies that the objects are part of a much bigger whole. The objects seem to be coming out of the ground or the wall, the powder defining a surface, implying that there is something below the surface, like an iceberg poking out of the subconscious."*
The white powder covering the objects is a metaphor for the vast expanse of nature. In view of the modern condition, it inevitably reminds one of the “ashes of death,”—the fallout from detonation of an atomic bomb.
* Lewallen, Constance, “Interview with Anish Kapoor, Japan, September, 1990,” reproduced in "Anish Kapoor", in View, VII no. 4, San Francisco 1991.
(Takayo Iida)
Anish Kapoor Born in Mumbai, India in 1954. Moved to the UK in the 1970s, and is now highly acclaimed throughout the world as one of the UK’s leading sculptors. Presented his work at a solo exhibition at the British Pavilion at the 1990 Venice Biennale, and won the 1991 Turner Prize. Has participated in major international exhibitions, including presenting his work at documenta in 1992, and held solo exhibitions at art museums in Europe and America. Two solo exhibitions in Venice are planned for 2022. Formed through a distinctive worldview derived from mythology and philosophy, his practice is characterized by totally transforming the experience of the space in which his art is situated. Seemingly possessing both real and unreal elements, it evokes a strong sense of the cosmic, the mystical, and the sensual. The originality of his art, which is based on Asian thinking and transcends the Western values that predominate contemporary art, has tremendous appeal as well as a familiarity that allows all viewers to immerse themselves within it, enjoying it visually, and truly savoring the encounter.
Photo by Gautier Deblonde


Galloping Nambu breed horse

The Nambu horse is a breed of horse unique to Japan that is now extinct. This animation work, Galloping Nambu breed horse, depicts it resurrected as an ice sculpture, running across a snowfield.
The Nambu stallion is extolled in the Gosen Wakashu, a tenth-century (Heian Period) anthology of waka poetry, but pure Nambu horses disappeared as a result of reforms in the Meiji Period (1868–1912) that required native Japanese horses to be crossed with foreign breeds as part of efforts to boost Japan’s wealth and military strength. There are few extant records of these horses, but based on the skeleton of the last Nambu horse—preserved at the Morioka Agricultural High School—the artist created twelve sculptures, outputting them in 3D and freezing them in conditions that would form icicles to bulk up their surfaces, thereby resurrecting the Nambu breed as translucent white horses with thin coats of ice.
The sight of a pure white horse running free and happy in the snow of Aomori—which has deep snowfalls in winter—is beautiful, a fairy tale ending. Nevertheless, Nambu horses were selectively bred to enhance their role, which involved functioning as a means for transporting goods for farmers, as weapons for soldiers to fight with, or as eye-candy and a symbol of financial power for nobility. Eventually, the cross-breeding to produce stronger battle horses under the Meiji restoration reforms resulted in the Nambu horses disappearing into the gene pool of mixed breeds. Thinking of its history of being manipulated and pushed around by humanity, the resurrection of this horse in ghostly form can be interpreted as a critical comment on human activity in the Anthropocene.
Galloping Nambu breed horse is also an homage to Eadweard Muybridge’s groundbreaking photographs of horses in motion which consisted of series of shots in quick succession and became a vital step in the development of motion pictures. Shooting this animation in monochrome gives it a nostalgic air, harking back to the time of gelatin-silver photographs and black-and-white movies. The sense of loss for the Nambu horse, which disappeared with the advent of newer technology, is accentuated by shooting in analog technology from the early days of photography, rather than using today’s digital technology.
(Yohsuke Takahashi)
AKI INOMATA Born in Tokyo in 1983. Received MFA in Inter-Media Art from Tokyo University of the Arts in 2008. Participated as an artist in residence in the International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) in New York City with the support of an Asian Cultural Council (ACC) fellowship in 2017. Lives and works in Tokyo. Focusing on how the act of creation is not exclusive to mankind, develops co-creation with non-human species. In addition to solo exhibitions at Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes, Towada Art Center, and Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art, major exhibitions throughout the world include Broken Nature at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and The World Began Without the Human Race, and It Will End Without It. at National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts in 2021, as well as the XXII Triennale di Milano in 2019 and the Thailand Biennale in 2018. Published the book AKI INOMATA: Significant Otherness (Bijutsu Shuppan-sha) in 2020. Major collections holding her works include the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide, and Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art.
Photo by Hiroshi Wada


Akira Kamo
Zone 5(down)

After the 3.11 earthquake, Akira Kamo came to see the disasters that hit Japan in the postwar period as being at the root of his practice, and set about exploring the potential for expression on that theme. In addition to the aftermath of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Minamata disease in Kumamoto, he made a serious reexamination of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant issue ten years after it emerged. Through a number of long visits to the locality, he has constructed his own unique methodology.
Anti-sanctuary is a massive painting, over 7 meters wide. It depicts a scene where people covered in flames are marching through snow-covered mountains, creating a vivid contrast between the subzero world of ice and the many-thousand-degree temperature of the flames enveloping each of the people.
The figures are all burning, but are acting differently, with actions including continuing to march onwards, standing in contemplation, holding out their hands, and falling at the side of the track, burned up. It this had been a depiction of people burning themselves to death, it could have been interpreted as taking up the universal theme of people giving their own lives to protest against oppression around the world—including examples of self-immolation in Tibet, Chechnya, Czechoslovakia, Vietnam, Russia, China, and Korea. However, suicide by setting oneself on fire is generally done in the view of lots of people—on major roads, public squares, or social media—and the people in this work show no sign of having sought out such a stage. They are not protesting against dictatorial regimes that have taken away the freedom of speech. Instead, they are burning quietly in a frozen world with no-one else around.
Sanctuaries are generally pure, uncontaminated places where super-human entities manifest themselves. Kamo’s Anti-sanctuary also represents a place that we people cannot enter, but the prohibition is due to the place being so defiled that people cannot go in. When first exhibited, it was installed opposite a painting of workers heading for a nuclear plant, so it can be interpreted as a metaphor for nameless individuals who are aware of the potential for lethal exposure to radiation, but are going to work to contribute to bringing the accident to an end. Alternatively, the depiction of people burning up in a world of extreme cold conjures up ideas of the feelings of people who are forced out of their homes by war or nuclear accidents, only to discover the cold reality of an outside world with no salvation, or the feelings of people who have no option but to continue living their lives even though they are burning up inside, with the flames reaching all the way to their bones.
Stepping back and taking an overview, I remember that the ethics of postwar contemporary art have treated massacres and major disasters as taboo subjects that cannot be appropriated as the theme for artistic expression. However, instead of just shutting up and averting our eyes, this work seems to provide a solution for the question of how to think about and pass down issues that cannot be spoken about.
(Yohsuke Takahashi)
Akira Kamo Born in Tokyo in 1982. Received MFA in painting from Tokyo University of the Arts in 2010. Viewing ‘painting’ as synonymous with ‘surviving’ since the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, he has produced paintings in which the self and society are visualized relative to each other and imagination and actual events are interwoven . Recently, major disasters that have befallen Japan, such as those in Fukushima, Hiroshima, and Minamata, have inspired themes in his art. Major solo exhibitions include Wind Blowing Through Boundary at Loko Gallery in 2019, Vicarious Scene at Maruki Gallery for the Hiroshima Panels in 2018, Portrait of the Scene at Tsunagi Art Museum, Between Landscape and Portrait at island Japan, and Vicarious Painting at Hiroshima Art Center in 2017, and Painting and Survival at island MEDIUM in 2012. Major group exhibitions include Artists and the Disaster: Imagining in the 10th Year at Art Tower Mito and Moyai at Tower Hall Funabori in 2021, Azamino Contemporary Vol.10 Reality in a Square at Yokohama Civic Art Gallery Azamino and Past, Present, Future—Like Imagining a Constellation at Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in 2019, Navigation & Trajectory at Aomori Contemporary Art Centre and The Vision of Contemporary Art 2015 at The Ueno Royal Museum in 2015, Artists-in-Residence Project at the Soy Sauce Warehouse in Spring Session at Setouchi Triennale 2013 Shodoshima, and The Vision of Contemporary Art 2013 at The Ueno Royal Museum in 2013.


Maki Ohkojima
Golem and Venus

Maki Ohkojima expresses life as the locus of constant intermingling between multiple instances of life and death, urging us to reconsider our human-centric approach to the world. Golem and Venus is an installation of two torsos (dolls with parts of their bodies missing), inspired by legend and constructed from a number of media, including cloth and steel, leather, ceramics, an animal skull, feathers, petrified wood, video, photographs, and pigments. Through it, she attempts to reinterpret the human body as a home for many different lifeforms—plants and animals, bacteria, and viruses.
Golem appears in Jewish religious mythology as a figure of mud or clay without a conscious mind. Here, Golem has grass growing from its mouth, flowers coming from its eyes, and other vegetation in full bloom at its heart, leg, and other places. Instead of hands it has feathers. Depicted as a human-like figure created from earth and returning to earth or dissolving in water, it takes the form of an interspecies hybrid reminding us that humanity is also an entity like Golem, born from earth.
In contrast, Venus is a torso comprising scraps of leather patched together, on which is projected a circular video collage of images depicting images such as the galaxy and plankton. Ranging from the macroscopic to the microscopic, from whole planets to microorganisms indiscernible to the naked eye, the collage is condensed onto the body of the goddess of love and fertility, whose name represents sexual love in Latin and adorns the morning star. This juxtaposition expresses the vast extent of the universe that dwells within a single human body.
Both these figures, Venus and Golem, depict humans as an accumulation or mix of non-human phenomena, implying that the human existence, rather than being autonomous, is a small and transient perturbance in a corner of the universe, just like clouds, water, stone, flowers, insects, animals, and much more.
(Yohsuke Takahashi)
Maki Ohkojima Contemporary artist depicting the self-centered worlds of different creatures, and, acting as intermediary, aspects of their life and death. Creative output includes art produced while resident in locations including India, Poland, China, Mexico, and France. Received the VOCA Encouragement Prize in 2014. Participated in Tara Pacific expedition on a scientific exploration ship led by the Tara Ocean Foundation backed by French fashion designer agnès b. in 2017. Major exhibitions include Re construction at Nerima Art Museum in 2020, AGROTOPIA at Aomori Museum of Art, Setouchi Triennale Awashima, and L’œil de la Baleine (The eye of the whale) at Aquarium de Paris in France in 2019. Major publications include Kujira no Me (Eye of the whale) published by museum shop T. Currently participating in the Amabie project at Kadokawa Culture Museum in Saitama displaying Perforated Spiral at the entrance.
Photo by Kenji Chiga


Lia Giraud
Photosynthèse (film)(up)
Entropies (photography)(down)

Algægraphies are "living images" formed by photosensitive microorganisms (micro-algae). Between biological and particulate movements, the cells dynamically organise themselves to respond to the luminous variations of their environment.
For the creation of Entropies, this biological matrix is subjected to a process of pictorial disturbance: the dissipation of the landscape is carried out here with the help of a scanner whose mode of acquisition induces a behavioural modification of the cells, which then reorganise themselves according to their own rules of composition. The negative used evokes an imaginary artificial ecosystem implanted on the Batignolles district in Paris, then under construction.
The film Photosynthèse is a "photographic inventory of the invisible" listing the thousands of objects recovered from the port of Marseille between 2016 and 2020, which have been characterised by the association MerTerre. The voice of its founder, Isabelle Poitou, mingles with that of sociologist Baptiste Monsaingeon to guide us in an intimate and analytical exploration of waste, set to sound by composer Térence Meunier.
Between oblivion and reminiscence, the processual revelation of these objects uses a process known as "algægraphique" developed by the artist in collaboration with the "Cyanobactéries, Cyanotoxines et Environnement" team at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in France. Micro-algae, usually used as markers of pollution, replace the photographic silver grain to reveal an image that has become alive.
Lia Giraud Artist who lives and works in France. She first studied documentary photography and received a PhD in visual arts (SACRe/PSL). She is a professor at the Marseille School of Fine Arts (Institut National Supérieur d'Enseignement Artistique Marseille Méditerranée). For more than a decade, her installations have explored the evolution of the relationships with living organisms, influenced by science and technology. Her work, which focuses on processes that combine biological phenomena, technology and image systems, reassesses how we experience our ‘milieu’ (environment as medium) and proposes new ecologies through sensitive interactions. Conducts projects involving natural scientists, thinkers, artists and citizens with the aim of building an interdisciplinary research ecosystem at the boundaries of science and society. Her work has been presented in art museums, festivals and media in France and around the world, including Centre Pompidou, CENTQUATRE-PARIS, Cube, Bel Ordinaire, Fresnoy, Naturpark Our, NYUAD Art Gallery, Festival Images de Vevey, Dutch Design Week, Artpress, Arte, Wired and Vice.

End of the World and Self-centered World

May 13 – July 3, 2022
GYRE / Sgùrr Dearg Institute for Sociology of the Arts
GYRE GALLERY, GYRE 3F,510 1 Jingumae, Shibuya ku, Tokyo.
0570-056990 Chargeable call (11:00~18:00)
Takayo Iida (director of the Sgùrr Dearg Institute for Sociology of the Arts)
Curatorial collaboration:
Yohsuke Takahashi
Venue Design:
Ryuya Umezawa (ALA Inc.)
Design collaboration:
COVA (Taketo Kobayashi, Hikaru Takata, and Haruka Ohta)
Equipment collaboration:
Suga Art Studio
Photography collaboration:
Mori Koda
PR direction:
Arakawa + Gins Tokyo Office, Reversible Destiny Foundation, Yayoi Kusama Inc., Ota Fine Arts, SCAI THE BATHHOUSE, Maho Kubota Gallery
Ambassade de France au Japon, Institut français du Japon
HiRAO INC | #608 1-11-11 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Tel. 03.5771.8808 | Fax. 03.5410.8858
Contact: Seiichiro Mifune