Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Smile, it's art!

Sculptures by Ugo Rondinone, outside the Yokohama museum of art, now through Nov. 6:

Altogether, there are 12 heads currently keeping watch outside the museum, part of the Yokohama Triennale 2011 exhibition, "Our Magic Hour: How Much of the World Can We Know?" I went to see this show the other day with three other moms from the British School ("A Spaniard, an American, a Brit and a Norwegian board a train...") and we all thought it was worthwhile, if a bit puzzling in parts (that's ahht, for me at least).

We took the Tokyu-Toyoko line from Shibuya to Minatomirai, a few stops past Yokohama (where you can switch from an express to a local train if you're not already on one) and the museum is a short walk from there. The 12 works that make up Rondinone's "Moonrise" series, according to Art Agenda, were modeled in brown clay, then cast in aluminum and lacquered to match the color of the original material. Their surfaces are finger-stroked, mottled, soft to the touch. We couldn't help but push gently into the surface grooves with our fingertips before noticing the sign saying keep off - oops.

The rest of the show was a bit hit or miss for me. My favorite video work was a short film by Romanian artist Mircea Cantor called "Tracking Happiness," featuring seven women dressed in white, walking barefoot in sand, each silently sweeping away the footprints left by the person in front of them. It's shot from various angles and there's a certain pattern to their movements. We were all a bit mesmerized by it. Apparently it's a commentary on "the creation and revision of history, and the state of information in the computer age." (Audio tours available in English or Japanese.)

We hopped on a free shuttle bus to get to the second venue, BankART Studio NYK, a.k.a. NYK waterfront warehouse, near the Bashamichi metro station (where we later caught our train back to Shibuya -- it's about a half hour's journey).

In one room inside the warehouse you could relax on one of a half dozen upholstered sofas and watch a bit of "The Clock" by Christian Marclay, a 24 hr.-long film comprised of thousands of video clips (it won the Golden Lion prize at the Venice Biennale). Each segment makes some reference, specifically or obliquely, to time - a snatch of dialogue here ("You're late," "It's five to two") a wordless action sequence there (a stressed-out cowboy gets up to go to a window and pull back the curtains). Next there's an Italian family sitting around a table talking and eating dinner, a grandfather clock tick-ticking nearby. And on and on it goes, a continuous string of non-sequiturs culled from a variety of movies and television programs, old and new, obscure and mainstream, dramatic, comedic, in English and other languages. It's a video clock, telling time minute by minute, only the museum can only show the 11 am to 6pm portion (the hours it opens to the public). Glenn Close, in a scene from the 1994 American movie The Paper, looks at her wristwatch and complains about the way her skin "bunches." Spider-Man's boss warns him that if he doesn't deliver those pizzas in 9 minutes, he's out of a job -- cut to a wall clock showing 1:51 pm, and it's 1:51 pm in real life! You get the idea. What an enormous undertaking this must have been, to find all that footage and put it in order, with the timing just right...

Tickets to the Triennale cost 1,600 yen per adult and cover admission to both venues. You need at least 90 minutes at each place if you like to take your time at these sorts of things. You can grab a bite to eat in the cafe at the Yokohama Museum of Art's own cafe (I had the egg salad and tomato sandwich) or take advantage of the many restaurants in the Landmark Tower or nearby Queen's Towers. For 1,000 yen you can ride the superfast elevator up to Landmark's 69th floor "Sky Garden" observatory. Here's the view overlooking the Minato Mirai Shinko district and Cosmo World amusement park, with its giant ferris wheel:

Yokohama Triennale 2011 runs through Sunday, Nov. 6. For information including some useful maps, click here. For more information about that whole area, see

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