Sayaka Murata’s Utopias Violence and the Structure of Normality David Shrigley & Teppei Kaneuji in dialogue with Murata’s worldview

This is why it makes little difference when the first voice of madness insinuated itself into Nietzsche’s pride, into Van Gogh’s humility.
There is no madness except as the final instant of the work of art

― Foucault, Michel, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, trans Richard Howard. Pantheon Books, 1965, p.288.

The exhibition Sayaka Murata’s Utopias: Violence and the Structure of Normality presents a dialogue between the work of Sayaka Murata, winner of the Akutagawa Prize for Convenience Store Woman (2016), and the work of two contemporary artists, David Shrigley and Teppei Kaneuji. Through this dialogue, the exhibition brings out Murata’s worldview—her “utopias.”
The exhibits consist predominantly of works, including new works, by David Shrigley and Teppei Kaneuji inspired by three novels by Sayaka Murata: Shometsu Sekai (Dwindling World), published in December 2015 by Kawade Shobo Shinsha; Convenience Store Woman, published in July 2016 by Bungei Shunju; and Seimeishiki (Ceremony of Life), published in October 2019 by Kawade Shobo Shinsha. Drawing from Convenience Store Woman’s declaration that “a convenience store is a world of sound,” one room at the venue presents “Convenient,” a new composition by sound artist Ken Ikeda that takes its inspiration from the novel.

Takayo Iida is director of the Sgùrr Dearg Institute for Sociology of the Arts
Also exhibited in public for the first time are four paintings and one drawing that Sayaka Murata produced as a student. Novels and paintings are very different forms of expression, but to Murata, they are both art, and both come from exactly the same root. The novels that she produces are like beautiful and pure lotus flowers that grow out of the muddy water of a pond. Murata’s artwork gives a glimpse at the origin of the creative methodology that informs her approach to expressing the essence of the world. Although she describes her paintings simply as works that she produced for art assignments in college, she was obviously unconstrained by the art class requirements—the results seem to be in a different dimension altogether. In fact, the artworks presented here by David Shrigley and Teppei Kaneuji may have triggered her to see the roots of her creativity in her own paintings. Recalling the way that the lotus flower emerges from the root in the pond, stepping back and looking at Murata’s artworks in terms of perspective drawing, her novels—such as Dwindling World, Convenience Store Woman, and Ceremony of Life—seem to appear at the vanishing point, providing a reminder that the plan for this exhibition emerged from the idea of attempting to realize the topological space at the intersection of literature and art. The existence portrayed in Sayaka Murata’s works can be said to be based on disharmony between realities observed from a safe distance, and the real world observed at extreme proximity.
  • Sayaka Murata "Untitled" ,Production Year Unknown
  • Sayaka Murata "Untitled" ,Production Year Unknown
David Shrigley’s exhibits were produced after reading Convenience Store Woman. His drawings that derive from Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman incorporate messages from the book in the form of text strings—“INSTRUCTION MANUAL,” “UNIFORM,” “EACH PRODUCT IS DIFFERENT,” “EACH PRODUCT IS THE SAME”—that can be read as direct messages to the author. David Shrigley is a British artist renowned for drawings depicting a mental world that has broken down the boundary zone between the superficial and the profound in everyday life. He also works in a range of other media, including animations, three-dimensional works, and photography. And he breaks the consensus on what society calls madness. This was neatly symbolized by his public art project that towered seven meters over viewers in central London. Trafalgar Square corresponds to the sort of world described in Murata’s Dwindling World as “that world”, or to the convenience store in Convenience Store Woman described as “a forcibly normalized environment where foreign matter is immediately eliminated.” Shrigley’s Really Good, cast in bronze for installation on the Fourth Plinth in the square, is an exaggerated thumbs-up gesture. It disrupts the formal order of the square, brilliantly breaking the boundary between the two sides of the mental divide. By inverting the superficial view of the everyday, Shrigley acts in collusion with the absurdities that squirm deep in our minds. Applying his richly creative powers of observation, he has exposed the chaos and deception that lurk in our everyday lives, activated the subconscious world, and realized it in “that world.”
  • David Shrigley "Untitled",2021
  • David Shrigley "Untitled",2021
Teppei Kaneuji creates three-dimensional works and installations consisting of collages of objects that have the image of being ordinary, everyday things. His practice involves the approach of stepping back to look down on and escape from a hierarchical anthropocentric worldview. Teppei Kaneuji created the work that was used on the cover of the Japanese edition of Convenience Store Woman, so the dialogue between works by Murata and Kaneuji started long before this exhibition. The exhibition includes an installation by Kaneuji produced by pouring plaster into plastic buckets of many different colors. The plaster sets in the buckets, but he inverts the viewpoint to provide a paradoxical perspective, carrying a message that suggests that although the plaster appears to be set in the molds, instead of stopping there it will overflow and eventually cover everything. This is thus another work that breaks down the boundary between “this world” and “that world.” It is reminiscent of the scene in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining where the ghosts of murdered twins appear, and blood seeps, flows, and then pours out of an elevator, becoming a flood. Kaneuji’s plaster, which appeared to be set solid, abhors the restraint and returns to fluid form, covering the normality of the everyday world with whiteness. At that point, being “cut off from the world” (Convenience Store Woman), the viewer feels like screaming “going insane is nowhere like as weird as being normal” (Dwindling World). Sound artist Ken Ikeda’s composition for this exhibition, “Convenient,” plays off a phrase in Convenience Store Woman: “I could distinctly feel all my cells stirring within my skin as they responded in unison to the music reverberating on the other side of the glass.” Ikeda’s work keeps reverberating to these words. Finally, the cheery, scripted greetings of the convenience store repeat ad infinitum.
Teppei Kaneuji / Splash and Flakes (Skeleton / 2021) #1 / 2021
  • Top:Teppei Kaneuji / tower (MOVIE) / 2009
    Bottom:Teppei Kaneuji / Hard Boiled Daydream (Wall Paper / Ocean) #4 / 2021
  • Teppei Kaneuji / Ghost in the Liquid Room(Sports pattern)/ 2010
Teppei Kaneuji / White Discharge (Built-up Objects) #48 / 2019
Through this exhibition, we question what can be considered untamed art and untamed euphoria at a time when there is rampant questioning of the efficiency of culture, which is seen as the raison d’être of the arts in contemporary society. Today’s world esteems the standardized mass culture traded in the market and the globalization-derived values of financial capitalism. Diversity in the true sense is being lost. In that context, the exhibition attempts to awaken not just rational memories, but also physical memories and the subconscious, and in doing so, gives voice to the confrontation between normality and madness. By inquiring into the nature of utopia and dystopia, we reveal the societal violence and repression hidden in the normality referred to in Sayaka Murata’s novels.
In asserting that “the world is just a vivid mirage” (Ceremony of Life), Sayaka Murata is talking to people hiding in the underground of a mental world isolated from society, bringing them a message of hope and the strength to live.

Takayo Iida is director of the Sgùrr Dearg Institute for Sociology of the Arts
村田沙耶香/金氏徹平_インタビュー Interview with Sayaka Murata & Teppei Kaneuji

Sayaka Murata

Murata was born in 1979 in Chiba Prefecture. Her first novel, Jyunyu (Breastfeeding) was awarded the Gunzo Prize for New Writers in 2003. In 2009, her novel Gin Iro no Uta (Silver Song) won the Noma Literary New Face Prize. In 2013 her novel Shiro-iro no Machi no, Sono Hone no Taion no (Of Bones, Of Body Heat, Of Whitening City) won the Mishima Yukio Prize, and, in 2016, her novel Convenience Store Woman won the Akutagawa Prize. Her other books include Tadaima Tobira (A Welcoming Door), Satsujin Shussan (The Murder Births), Shometsu Sekai (Dwindling World), and Seimeishiki (Ceremony of Life). Photo:Sayaka Murata ©Bungeishunju Ltd.

David Shrigley

David Shrigley was born in 1968 in Macclesfield, UK. He is based in Brighton, UK. Shrigley is best known for his distinctive drawing style and works that make satirical comments on everyday situations and human interactions. Whilst drawing is at the center of his practice, the artist also works across an extensive range of media, including sculpture, large-scale installation, animation, painting, photography and music. Shrigley consistently seeks to widen his public by frequently operating outside the gallery sphere through activities such as publications and collaborative music projects. Shrigley was a Turner Prize nominee in 2013, following his major mid-career retrospective “Brain Activity” at Hayward Gallery in London in 2012. In September 2016, his monumental sculpture Really Good was unveiled in Trafalgar Square in London for the Fourth Plinth Commission. From 2015 to 2018, the solo exhibition “Lose Your Mind,” organized by the British Council, was held at six locations, including Power Station of Art in Shanghai, China, Storage by Hyundai Card in Seoul, South Korea, Art Tower Mito in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan, and Instituto Cultural Cabañas in Guadalajara, Mexico. He was also appointed guest director of the Brighton Festival in Brighton, UK in 2018. Shrigley currently has an on-going presentation in The Gallery at the London restaurant Sketch as part of a long-term program. In 2020, Shrigley was awarded an OBE for services to Visual Arts.Photo:Craig Gibson

Teppei Kaneuji

Teppei Kaneuji was born in 1978 in Kyoto Prefecture, Japan, and currently lives and works in Kyoto City. He earned a Master’s degree in Sculpture at Kyoto City University of the Arts in 2003, and took part in the exchange program at Royal College of Art, London, UK in 2001 while a student at Kyoto City University. He creates art using a collage-like method that involves a collection of everyday items. He works in a range of media, including sculpture, painting, video, and photography, and has consistently explored proposals for a system of formative art that reveals the relationship between matter and images. Major solo exhibitions include shows throughout the world such as “chelfitsch & Teppei Kaneuji, Eraser Forest” (21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, 2020), “Teppei Kaneuji’s ‘ZONES’” (Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art, 2016), “Cubed Liquid, Metallic Memory” (Kyoto Art Center, 2014), “Towering Something” (Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, 2013), and “Teppei KANEUJI: Melting City / Empty Forest” (Yokohama Museum of Art, 2009). He has also handled many stage designs and book designs. He did the stage design for “Kaden no youni wakariaenai” (We never understand each other as household electric appliances) produced by Owlspot Theater (2011), “Wakattasan no Cookie,” part of “oishii okashii oshibai” (yummu, funny play) for the 2015 Kanagawa Arts Theatre Kids Program, KAAT (2015-2016), “chelfitsch & Teppei Kaneuji, Eraser Mountain” at KYOTO EXPERIMENT 2019 (2019), and “chelfitsch & Teppei Kaneuji, Eraser Forest” (21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, 2020). He also handled the direction of “tower (THEATRE)” (ROHM Theatre Kyoto South Hall, Kyoto Experiment 2017), in which he brought his video work to the stage. Kaneuji is currently exhibiting a site-specific installation for En/trance, a series of long-term projects organized by the Japan Society in New York.Photo: Kotori Kawashima

Sayaka Murata’s Utopias
Violence and the Structure of Normality
David Shrigley & Teppei Kaneuji
in dialogue with Murata’s worldview

August 20 – October 17, 2021 /
Closed : August 23, 2021
GYRE GALLERY / GYRE 3F 5-10-1 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
>Takayo Iida (director of the Sgùrr Dearg Institute for Sociology of the Arts)
Music collaboration
Ken Ikeda
Nanami Norita
Design collaboration
COVA (Taketo Kobayashi, Hikaru Takata)
Photography collaboration
Mori Koda
Installation cooperation
Haruka Ohta
Yumiko Chiba Associates, Kawade Shobo Shinsha, Bungei Shunju, Ricoh Company, Ltd., HiRAO INC