The official catalogue for the “Cosmo-Eggs” exhibition at Japanese Pavilion on occasion of the 58th Venice Biennale Art Exhibition. Designed by Yoshihisa Tanaka (Tokyo Art Book Fair, Takeo Paper Show), the book provides an overview of the exhibition itself and – with many notes, commentary, explanatory texts and essays – allows for an in-depth understanding of the thoughts and ideas put forward by each of the participating four artists and their curator. The book “Cosmo-Eggs” is a culmination of hand-in-hand efforts by artists, curator, art directors, designer, publisher, printer and book binder (thereby exemplifying the fundamental theme of “collaboration” at the center of the project) which aims to expand the possibilities and significance of the book as a medium beyond its limits.
“Cosmo-Eggs” takes its title from a concept commonly found in world creation myths, in which humankind and the world are born from a “cosmic egg,” and suggests the possibility of a co-existence between human and nonhuman people with multiple diverging mythologies and histories. Cooperation is another vital element of the exhibition, which forms a collective effort to explore new meanings and new possible forms of co-existence between diverse beings. Further, the exhibition examines the potential of unknown ideas and experiments that are created through artists’ mutual inspirations (during opportunities such as group exhibitions or artist-in-residence programs).
The book collects the writings and visual notes by all four participants as well as curator Hiroyuki Hattori (associate Professor at the Akita University of Art): artist Motoyuki Shitamichi, who has participated in numerous group exhibitions such as the 2012 Gwangju Biennale or the 2013 Asian Art Biennale in Taiwan; the composer Taro Yasuno, known for his “Musicinema” (spoken word performances based on simultaneously exhibited videos) and “Zombie Music,” in which instruments are played without human involvement; the anthropologist Toshiaki Ishikura, who focuses his research on mythologies told on islands in Taiwan, Japan, Korea and Oceania; and the architect Fuminori Nousaku, who gained public recognition due to his involvement in the 2016 Venice Biennale Architecture Exhibition.
“Since the Industrial Revolution, we humans have expanded the theater of urban life across the Earth with extraordinary vigor, having a major impact on the environment and driving various plants and animals to the brink of extinction. At the same time, given that the Earth has a diameter of around 12,700 km and is some 4.6 billion years old, the existence of humans is an insignificant blip. The aim of the exhibition is to create a space where people can turn their thoughts to and ponder the question of how we can live together with plants and animals and the land within this spatiotemporal environment. Can we as people living in Japan, a country plagued by natural and manmade disasters, question anew the very existence of humans in the Earth’s ecosystem, reconsider the coexistence of humans and nonhumans and our growth-oriented society whose limits are beginning to be exposed, and present new ways of living?
The exhibition takes as its starting point the “tsunami stones” artist Motoyuki Shitamichi came across in the Yaeyama Islands in Okinawa in 2015 and has been researching and photographing for several years.These stones are natural rocks that retain memories of disasters, but they have also become the subject of local religious beliefs, elements of mythology and folklore, colonies for migratory birds and homes for insects, creating unique landscapes in which nature and culture are co-mingled. Shitamichi likens tsunami stones, which look like meteorites or giant eggs, to public squares or monuments. While Shitamichi’s artwork “Tsunami Stone” is central to the exhibition, by expanding on the comparison with a public square and working together with a composer, an anthropologist and an architect, the artist will create a variety of physical experiences in a single, unified space, with music and speech echoing through an otherwise quiet, tranquil visual world. This is an attempt not by a single artist representing his country but by a collective of specialists with different occupational abilities to create an experiential place to imagine and think about the fundamental issues of today.”
— from Hiroyuki Hattori’s curator’s statement