We went to see Makoto Aida’s exhibition this last weekend, currently on display in the Mori Art Museum. Me and my wife both left feeling impressed – ‘brilliant’ was the word that encapsulated it for us. The works on display and perhaps the cumulative exhibition as a whole seemed to capture our perception and understanding of Japan, which is something that we struggle to articulate ourselves.
Aida Makoto – the Non-Thinker
There are about 100 works of the artist on display, ranging from some of his very early works in the 1980s (while still being at arts school) to current works-in-progress. He is famous for his often controversial displays – of naked young girls, war scenes and Bin Laden performances (a Google Image search is enlightening).
Surprisingly, while Aida covers a huge array of contemporary topics (Fukushima, unstable domestic politics, economic challenges etc.), he actually says very little about them. He is (seemingly) not interested in politics, he struggles to understand philosophy and his Bin Laden personification is lamenting the shallowness of Japanese society in a way that isn’t very deep either if that makes any sense.
After thinking about the exhibition a bit later and looking at different pieces on their own, we felt that there was something lacking on top of that. His art is in-your-face obvious, created with meticulous skill and would probably have scored full marks in my wife’s IB art exam.
Maybe this is why we got the feeling that Aida may not be a revolutionary artist but rather an excellent pupil who knows which areas to cover to bash that marking scheme. A great creator of exhibitions, a very clever PR agent who gives you – as a Westerner – exactly what you want from contemporary Japanese art.
He is devoid of “traditional” depth that I feel artists should poke their fingers at. But so is perhaps his country when it comes to dealing with these difficult issues. Monument for Nothing, thus, may be the perfect title for this impressive exhibition.