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Major new multimedia project by Tadasu Takamine at Contemporary Art Center, Art Tower Mito
Tadasu Takamine, Japan Syndrome MITO version, 2012. Photo:Mieko Matsumoto.

IBARAKI.- The Contemporary Art Center, Art Tower Mito is presenting a major new multimedia project by Tadasu Takamine. One of Japan's preeminent contemporary artists and theater directors, Takamine is internationally known for a body of work that brims with both humor and a keen sense of criticality in relation to the systems of oppression and control that operate within contemporary society.

Taking the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the recent Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster as two important benchmarks, Tadasu Takamine's Cool Japan investigates popular constructs of Japanese identity. Much of Takamine's work is inspired by doubts and misgivings regarding issues he encounters in daily life. These ideas are then given substantial form through an accumulation of research, encounters and dialogues with the local residents of the area where he is working. In preparation for this exhibition, he has spent a two-and-a-half month period in a town halfway between Tokai-mura in Ibaraki Prefecture, where a nuclear power plant is located, and the city of Mito. The interviews he has conducted with people ranging from an elderly woman displaced by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster to a student participant of anti-nuclear protests in Tokyo are developed in the form of a theatrical installation that evolves across each of the galleries in the Contemporary Art Center. Building upon Takamine's frequent and innovative use of text in his works, the installation will also incorporate words, slogans and images that the Japanese have unconsciously promoted, disseminated, and deployed in an oppressive way from the postwar era to the present.

The "Cool Japan" in the exhibition title is a catchphrase devised by the Japanese government as a self-branding exercise to promote Japanese culture to an international audience. This includes superior consumer technology and a customer service ethic with a meticulous attention to detail, as well as Japanese food, anime, manga, and video games. At a time when the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, and various problems surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster have yet to be resolved, a pervasive distrust of politicians, corporations and the mass media has taken hold, and public emotions and sentiments over these issues remain divided. In this context, it seems a bit of a stretch to label anything about the current Japan as "cool."

Offering a taste of Takamine's vision of a "Cool Japan," the newly commissioned interactive works in this exhibition invite visitors to cast an inquiring eye on the value systems and moral perspectives of the Japanese people.

Curated by Mizuki Takahashi, the exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue in Japanese and English, to be published in March 2013.

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