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Since the late 19th century, Japanese art has been schizophrenically split into yoga (Western-style) and nihonga (Japanese-style). The latter arose as a self-conscious response to the inroads of the former. Nevertheless, when nihonga took up the challenge of Western art, it was unable to avoid borrowing some of its ideas, most notably the romantically inflated concept of the “divine” artist. But instead of Michelangelo or van Gogh, nihonga found its role models in the elite artist/craftsmen of the Rinpa school. The Yamatane Museum of Art’s exhibition What Did Nihonga Learn from Rinpa? uses 50 mainly large works to look at echoes of the school in the works of 20th-century nihonga artists. Particularly worth seeing is Kaii Higashiyama’s vast seascape Rising Tide and Gyoshu Hayami’s Falling Camellias.

Through Dec 25. See exhibition listings (Ginza/ Kyobashi/ Tokyo) for details. CBL

Metropolis is offering readers ten free tickets to “What Did Nihonga Learn from Rinpa?” For your chance to see this excellent exhibition, email the following information by Wednesday, December 17, to

1. Name; 2. Address; 3. Age; 4. Home country; 5. Last exhibition you visited

Include the text “Nihonga” in the subject line. Winners will be selected at random.


449: Between Reality and Dreams: 19th Century British and French Art from the Winthrop Collection of the Fogg Art Museum
448: Quobo: Art in Berlin 1989-99
447: Scandinavian Landscape Painting in the 19th Century
446: Peter Bellars: Par for the Course
445: Doug Aitken: New Ocean
444: Andrea Zittel: A-Z Garments Series
443: Sebastiao Salgado: Exodus
442: Dumb Type: Voyages
441: Tadanori Yokoo: All Things in the Universe
440: Jean-Marc Bustamante: Private Crossing
439: Joan Miro : 1918-1945
438: Modern Paintings of Mongolia
437: Manit Sriwanichpoom: Bangkok in Pink
436: French Drawings from the British Museum: From Fontainebleau to Versailles
435: Muneteru Ujino: Japan Series
434: Photography Today 2: Site/Sight
433: Rirkrit Tiravanija and Raymond Pettibon
432: Three Young Artists from Korea
431: Dynastic Heritage of Korea
430: Seoul Pop
429: Dreams & Goals
428: Since Godzilla
427: Yoshihiro Suda + Tetsuya Nakamura: Un Monde Revé de la Main
426: GA Houses Project 2002
425: Sesshu: 500th Anniversary
424: Luis Barragan: The Quiet Revolution
423: The Mori Arts Center/Young Video Artists Initiative
422: The Adventures of Tintin
421: Session - Super Eccentric of Japan's Warring States Period
420: Jorge Pardo
419: Artists Without Borders
418: Dennis Hollingsworth
417: Masterworks from the Prado Museum
416: JAM: Tokyo-London
415: Digital Beauties
414: Arika Someya
413: MOMAT
412: NW House
411: Mariko Mori
410: Sonia Delaunay
409: Buckminster Fuller
408: Wusheng Wang
407: Tokyo Architecture #2
406: Tokyo Architecture #1
405: The Art Ahead
404: Table Manners
403: Tom Sanford at Tomoya Saito Gallery
402: Nambanga: An Anthology of World Manga
401: Masterworks from MoMA
400: Spencer Tunick: Nude Adrift

Issues 500+
Issues 499-
Issues 399-

By John McGee

Doug Aitken: New Ocean

new ocean, 2001, video installation

Venice Biennale? Whitney Biennial? Been there. Fatboy Slim music video director? Done that. Now LA-based artist Doug Aitken, 34, takes on Tokyo with new ocean, a group of seven multi-screen video installations at Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery.

Entering the blackened interior of the museum is like stepping into a movie theater after the show has already started; with an eye on the screens, you try not to step on anybody while looking for a place to sit. These are not films so much as stylish video music boxes: short, rhythmic clips of sound collage and landscape synchronized and projected onto sculptural arrays of screens.

Water stars in three of the pieces. It's a well-loved actor with great range and decorative properties. In the three-screen thaw, giant glaciers groan and crunch while ice crystals snap, crackle, pop and shatter. In one second expansion, dueling water drips mirror and invert each other across the room.

New ocean debuted at London's Serpentine Gallery last year, but Aitken re-mixed and modified the installations for Opera City. He says he tried to connect the works by opening a dialogue between them. "I wanted to create a virtual architecture through film, editing, and sound to create a psychological topography without physical tangibility," he says.

new ocean floor, 2001, video installation

The four waterless pieces in the middle of the show interrupt the flow. In Window 2 (set to a relentless taiko drum beat), the camera zooms in quickly on a series of white circles set in store fronts, street scenes, and construction sites. Projected onto four sides of two intersecting, round, translucent screens, the different circles and their backgrounds become disjointed overlaps.

The large light box photo Rise is an out-of-focus postcard view of the L street grid just past dusk. The picture glows with strings of streetlights and speeding cars.

New ocean floor and new ocean new machine, shown on separate pairs of intersecting, rectangular screens, feature isolated figures wandering in natural and artificial wildernesses. A solitary man walks through empty landscapes-the desert, parking lots, escalators, etc. He falls through the bottom of the screen and drops into another scene. A woman rides the subway, walks, falls into a black space. There, she grabs the intersection point of the projection screens with both hands, swinging around it like a gymnast. There's no narrative in either video, just motion in emptiness.

The final installation, new ocean cycle, summarizes the weaknesses of new ocean. A 360¡ Disneyland Circle-Vision style panorama of screens envelops viewers in a series of watery landscapes-a Sugimoto-inflected endless ocean horizon, dark rivulets running along asphalt, slowly rotating shots of thundering waterfalls. The main thing separating the video from a UNESCO World Heritage Sites documentary or late night Japanese TV "healing time" music and landscapes is an ambiguous figure-a struggling swimmer treading water seen from far below-projected onto an overhead screen. But even he fades into shifting blue diamonds.

While the "dry" pieces have some of the intriguing narrative suspension and ambiguity of Aitken's earlier photos and videos, his watery videos are all wet. Uncritically combining Romanticism and stoner kaleidoscope gazing is more appropriate in nightclub chill-out rooms.

There's an old cliché that drowning is supposed to be a pleasurable way to die, once your body stops fighting. Most visitors to this exhibition recline on the floor, zoning out.

Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery
Until Nov 17. In Project N, Yasuko Otsuka (painting). Hatsudai stn (Keio New Line), east exit. Tokyo Opera City Tower 3-4F. Tue-Sun noon-8pm. Tel: 03-5353-0756.

Adm: Adults ¥1,000, students ¥800, children ¥600 (visitors to the Dumb Type exhibition in the ICC in the same building receive a discount).

Photos produced by the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, presented in association with the Serpentine Gallery, London. Courtesy of the artist, the Serpentine Gallery, London, 303 Gallery, New York, Victoria Miro Gallery, London and Galerie Hauser & Wirth & Presenhuber, Zurich. Photos ©Stephen White