P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center presents First Steps: Emerging Artists from Japan, a biennial exhibition established in 1995 by Philip Morris K.K., the Japanese subsidiary of Philip Morris International Inc., as a vehicle for discovering and supporting emerging Japanese artists and introducing them to the international art world. The work of ten prize-winning artists will be on view at P.S.1, a Museum of Modern Art affiliate.
Open to Japanese residents aged 20-40, the call-for-submissions attracted more than 1,000 artists working in a range of media, including painting, sculpture, photography, installation, animation, video, and film. An exhibition of the work of 57 finalists was presented at the Tokyo International Forum in Spring 2002. Of these finalists, jurors selected ten recipients of the Philip Morris K.K. Art Award in May 2002, seven of whom received a grant of two million yen (approximately $16,000) and all of whom received an invitation for an international debut of their work at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center.
“Philip Morris K.K. is committed to creating opportunities for emerging artists living and working in Japan to contribute to a vibrant cultural life in their own country and gain recognition in the international art community,” said Paolo Degola, President of Philip Morris K.K. “Supporting P.S.1 in the development and presentation of First Steps advances this effort to encourage aesthetic dialogue and the exchange of ideas across cultural divides.”
The artists featured in First Steps were selected by a distinguished international jury of art curators and critics, including Alanna Heiss, Director of P.S.1/MoMA; Gary Garrels, Chief Curator of Drawings, MoMA; Klaus Biesenbach, P.S.1 Chief Curator and Artistic Director of KW, Kunst-Werke Berlin; and Susan Sontag, Writer and Critic. Members of the jury also include David Thorp, Curator of Contemporary Projects, Henry Moore Foundation, London; Yuko Hasegawa, Chief Curator, Kanazawa 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art; Christiane Germain, modern art, design, and architecture critic, France; Hou Hanru, independent curator and critic, China; and Akira Tatehata, Professor at Tama Art University, Japan. Kazue Kobata, Professor at Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Adjunct Curator for P.S.1, moderated the selection process.
“Exploring truly diverse crosscurrents of art being created in Japan, this exhibition counters the assumption that Japanese art is preoccupied with technology and pop culture,” said Alanna Heiss, Founding Director of P.S.1. “In First Steps, artists reject or reconsider the globalized world by infusing a deep sense of the personal, naturally employing a wide range of media but ultimately allowing content to dictate form.”
Works in the exhibition include Chelin's installation, Mellow House ver 5 (2003), a room constructed of cookies sprinkled with sugar, creating a heightened sensory experience. Mika Funaki’s video installation, What always happens on the very next day the cat from down stairs visits my room (2003), projects images of neurotic animals continuously pacing among artificial stones and an iceberg in the Tokyo zoo. In Fumimasa Hosokawa’s Anonymous Scapes, Hello, The 20th Century (2001), black-and-white photographs of sites where anonymous bodies have been discovered are juxtaposed with public announcements requesting the identification of the bodies. For each year of the 20th century, Hosokawa presents an example of anonymous death, providing an alternative history. Chiharu Shiota's installation, fear of...(2001), consists of a bed in a web of thread creating physical and psychological tension. Yasuhiro Suzuki’s installation, inter-reflection (2001), displays miniature chairs on a moving turntable, which are also projected on the wall. The viewer is invited to move the chairs around, thus transforming both the sculpture and the projection.
TANY's video works, Dedicated to my ex-lover (2001) and She loves SEX, and she hates SEX (2001), use violent imagery to address Japanese stereotypes of desirability and the sex industry. In the video, The plastic models break into pieces (2000), Satoru Tamura strikes plastic models with a baseball bat and a golf club. Kaori Yamashita’s wriggling (2001) is a kinetic sculpture consisting of motorized balls, which relentlessly wind and unwind their fabric coverings. For Utsusemi (2003), Motoi Yamamoto constructed a self-supporting wall of salt as a ritual of purification for the deceased. For Yuriko Yamamoto’s Yuriko Yamamoto + Yukako Okamuro Project—Kyosei muriki jyotai sochi (2001), participants enter a clear compartment within an isolated constructed environment, where they strike a lever with a hammer, causing them to fall through the compartment floor. After completing their own physical journey, they witness the next unsuspecting participant’s experience.