Recurring exhibit ‘Roppongi Crossing’ returns to Mori Art Museum, Tokyo

Kondo Kenichi, Senior Curator at Mori Art Museum, talks to STIR about navigating post pandemic life through the lens of art showcased at Roppongi Crossing 2022.

by Shraddha NairPublished on : Nov 12, 2022

Roppongi Crossing is a recurring exhibition co-curated by Mori Art Museum every three years. This year Roppongi Crossing 2022: Coming & Going is opening on December 1, 2022. The exhibition was first hosted by Mori Art in 2004, to encapsulate the Japanese art market of that time. Coming & Going, the seventh edition of this exhibition, showcases 22 Japanese artists and artist groups, both emerging and well-established. This showcase will include events featuring the participating artists in offline and online formats. The exhibition is open until March 26, 2023. Kondo Kenichi, Senior Curator at Mori Art Museum, speaks with STIR about the conceptualisation of this exhibition.

Installation view: How to Carve a Sculpture, 2018, Aki Inomata | Roppongi Crossing 2022 | Mori Art Museum | STIRworld
Installation view: How to Carve a Sculpture, 2018, Aki Inomata Image: Kioku Keizo; Courtesy of Contemporary Art Foundation, Tokyo

Kenichi takes us through the history of this exhibition, saying, “In the early years, the series introduced artists and creators who were active and deserving of attention at the time, selected from a diverse range of genres including fine art, design, architecture, and fashion.” More recently, the curatorial vision is more or less bound to contemporary art. Roppongi Crossing looks to capture the creative zeitgeist of Japan, a time capsule of art and culture. The 2013 edition of this exhibition titled Roppongi Crossing 2013: Out Of Doubt was curated in response to the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami which took place in March 2011. This year with Coming & Going, Mori Art Museum examines the shifts in lifestyle that have emerged in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this recurring exhibition, the museum navigates the current socio-political environment of the moment, hand-in-hand with the viewer. This elevates the experience of the exhibition itself, creating relevance and engagement by emphasising the common denominator - society itself.

furisosogu monotachi / nagasaki (all that floats down / nagasaki), 2019, Iron, glass, Aoki Noe | Roppongi Crossing 2022 | Mori Art Museum | STIRworld
furisosogu monotachi / nagasaki (all that floats down / nagasaki), 2019, Iron, glass, Aoki Noe Image: Yamamoto Tadasu; Courtesy of ANOMALY, Tokyo

Kenichi says, “It feels necessary to reaffirm or re-acknowledge the fact that Japan today has a diverse range of people and cultures coexisting after having a complicated past, and as a result of repeated exchanges with different cultures and people coming and going throughout history. At the same time, the theme of the edition also expresses a desire for those ‘comings and goings’ of people, brought to a halt by the pandemic, to resume.” For Kenichi and the rest of Japan, the pandemic not only significantly altered daily routines, but also slowed down everyone’s pace. Without the rush of traffic and the hustle of 9 to 5 culture, everyone was forced to stop and look around for a moment. Who are our neighbours? What is the value of our life when we eliminate office life? In what ways does our home environment truly serve us? Kenichi continues this thought saying, “The pandemic has made us far more aware and conscious of our everyday life and our living environments, in turn helping us realise that Japan has been home to a wide variety of people. It has also made it much easier to see the fact that diverse ethnic groups coexist in this country, a fact that had been obscured or masked by the inbound tourism boom. The exhibition aims to examine today's society where a wide variety of people live together this way.”

Until My Voice Dies, 2019, Video, KYUN-CHOME | Roppongi Crossing 2022 | Mori Art Museum | STIRworld
Until My Voice Dies, 2019, Video, Kyun-Chome Image: Courtesy of Kyun-Chome

The curatorial parameters for this edition of Roppongi Crossing are based on three essential qualities. “1 - Taking a Fresh Look at Familiar Aspects of Our Everyday Life; 2 - Living with a Variety of Neighbours; 3 - Shedding a Light on Japan’s Cultural Diversity (Multiculturalism in Japan),” shares Kenichi. Some of the artists on view at the exhibition are Ishigaki Katsuko, Oh Haji, Ichihara Etsuko, and Kanagawa Shingo among others. Each artist highlights one aspect of a multifaceted circumstance. Oh Haji’s cyanotype prints on fabric look at life on a boat at sea. Han Ishu examines themes of migration and relocation. Side Core / Everyday Holiday Squad, a Tokyo based art collective, shares rode work, a massive hanging installation which looks like a traffic light from a dystopic future.

Ama’s home/boat floating on memory with the colour of emptiness, 2018, Oh Haji | /Roppongi Crossing 2022 | Mori Art Museum | STIRworld
Ama’s home/boat floating on memory with the colour of emptiness, 2018, Oh Haji Image: Kioku Keizo; Courtesy of Culture City of East Asia 2018: Kanazawa Altering Home, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa

Through the selection of work, Roppongi Crossing 2022 recognises the reality of Japan’s cultural medley. The curation of myriad materials and media reflects this notion as well. Keinichi says, “Although Japan is thought of as a homogeneous country at times, today Japan has become a place where various peoples of Ainu, Okinawans, Chinese, and Korean descent live together, through political changes and a complex history. As more and more people migrate to Japan, we believe the need to shine a light on Japan's long-standing cultural diversity, and to contemplate a new era of even greater diversity and cultural celebration together with the viewers of the exhibition. While we see a growing worldwide trend for reappraisal of the previously ethnically and culturally marginalised, it is our sincere hope that through this exhibition we would likewise see the trend grow larger here in Japan, too.” Roppongi Crossing 2022 acts as an insulated, safe environment for the discussion of these transformative themes.

Portrait of Senior Curator Kondo Kenichi | Roppongi Crossing 2022 | Mori Art Museum | STIRworld
Kondo Kenichi, Senior Curator, Mori Art Museum Image: Mikuriya Shinichiro; Courtesy of Mori Art Museum, Tokyo

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