by Zohra KhanApr 22, 2020
In a recent exhibition, Parco Museum Tokyo brought together two iconic artists in a curatorially historic combination – HR Giger and Hajime Sorayama. Co-curated by Alessio Ascari and Shinji Nanzuka, the showcase invited the viewers to explore the artists’ expansive and exquisite oeuvres.
The deepest, darkest crannies of human behaviour can be seen expressed in the artworks of these two incredible artists. They explore artificial intelligence, robot futures and biomechanics in combination with notions of humanity and sexuality, underlined by the materiality of our world as we know it today.
STIR spoke to Hajime Sorayama, the only one of the two artists who continues to live in our physical realm. HR Giger passed away on May 12, 2014, leaving behind an otherworldly legacy in the art world. The juxtaposition of Giger’s with Sorayama’s work created an inspiring landscape, a peek into their magical kingdoms. About Giger, Japanese artist Sorayama states, “I think my work is an acceptable expression because I am Japanese. Overseas, robots in the shape of humans cannot be made due to religious restrictions. I think that sexy robots have been highly evaluated because they are drawn by artists of the yellow race who are not religious and punishable. Giger was a Swiss and exposed taboos such as internal organs and bones to the world. I thought he was a real pervert. My artwork is more socially acceptable than his”.
While the artists have distinctly individual visual languages, and their artistic concerns are diverse, they are both radical creators who found acceptance in commercial commissions. For Giger, the most notable commercial project was Alien, the 1979 sci-fi horror film directed by Ridley Scott. Moved deeply by Giger’s style, Scott invited the artist to develop the character of the antagonist for the film and eventually commissioned the entire set design of the ‘alien world’ to Giger as well, while giving him artistic freedom. This film stands as a testament to the inarguable talent possessed by Giger, an artwork by itself which ensured his global popularity. Prior to Alien, Giger was invited to do similar work for film director (Alejandro) Jodorowsky on the set of the ambitiously planned Dune. This project included many pioneering artists of the time, including Salvador Dali and his muse. Ultimately, the film was never made as it far exceeded budget, time and feasibility. However, this eventually led to Giger finding a place on the set of Alien.
Sorayama too found commercial success through projects like AIBO, the world’s first robot dog he developed with Sony. He even made a contribution to the Star Wars franchise in the form of an illustration for Star Wars Concept, an art book dedicated to the Star Wars universe.
About the balance between commercial collaboration and individual artistic expression, Sorayama says, “Success in commercial work will make you famous. When you become famous, your voice gains power. Then your expression will be accepted by the world. Becoming famous is a tool for reaching freedom of creative activities, but not a goal”.
Sorayama’s oeuvre discusses human sexuality, our relationship with robots and our hyperbolised expectations of beauty and desire. His paintings are largely done using airbrushes, similar to Giger, a tool which had markedly increased popularity a few decades ago. Sorayama’s erotic undertones and focus on the female form builds intrigue and curiosity around human and robot relationships, and our potential futures. He says, “My life work is to express light. I also have a desire to oppose social norms in my work. Depicting things which are supposedly taboos is an important motivation in my creative activities”.
Sorayama’s work continues to hold space in the world of contemporary art, reigning a timeless legacy. As an audience, we see revisions and remakes of everything from old music to old movies but somehow the original always seems unbeatable. When asked about the apparent rise in nostalgia in the global cultural market, Sorayama says, “I assume there is nothing stronger than the original, like Ma-kun (a baseball player Masahiro Tanaka who was in MLB), whose ability is quite simple - he is a fast bowler. That is his unique characteristic. If you develop your strong point until you reach the level that no one can imitate and compete, you will be able to get a job even if you have become an elderly person like me”.
While the exhibition at Parco Museum included seminal works by both artists, the curatorial approach misses out on recreating the immersive worlds of both artists. However, the showcase is certainly one to catch, hosting artworks like Giger’s Necronom (2005) and Harkonnen-Capo-Stuhl (2002). The exhibition toured from Parco Museum Tokyo (Shibuya Parco, Tokyo), to Parco Event Hall (Shinsaibashi Parco, Osaka) between December 2020 and February 2021. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, these dates are subject to change.