Trans(cool) Tokyo

Andrew: I initially wanted to check out the Singapore Art Museum for its latest Cheong Soo Ping collection, recommended by one of the art teachers in my school. However, upon searching for exhibitions there, I found out about SAM@8Q’s latest exhibition, “Trans-Cool Tokyo”, which featured contemporary Japanese art. Jasmine and I are normally quite averse to contemporary art, but this one looked rather cool and it was indeed an interesting and ‘culturally enriching’ afternoon once again at the Art Museum (though Jasmine often argues that she gets ‘cultural enrichment’ when she goes shopping too!).

If you are keen on ‘understanding’ more about the pieces, you can click the Trans-cool Tokyo link above and there’s a Adobe Acrobat document on the website explaining these pieces. We will be blogging more about our personal responses to these pieces.

Kohei Nawa’s PixCellDeer #17


KoheiNawaPixCellDeerPicture courtesy of

This was the exhibition’s feature-piece or the piece that was most prominently featured on the brochures and website. Nawa’s intention in this piece was to render this taxidermied deer (which he purchased online) in pixel form, as if it were a graphic on a computer.

In fact, my first response when I saw this was Christmas decoration – I thought of the ‘beads’ as the decorations we often see on Christmas trees and the deer as well, a reindeer. As I viewed the piece, I asked Dearie, ‘Why did he choose to vary the size of the glass beads?’ If he really wanted to represent how it looked in our computer screen, wouldn’t they all be of equal size – which would then be a representation of how computer screens ‘flatten’ and ‘deaden’ our natural world? Jasmine mentioned that it reflected the distortion of reality which technology brings. I have to admit though that I didn’t quite see it. I was fascinated by the piece, but it was too inaccessible for me and ultimately didn’t achieve the kind of commentary that Nawa was hoping to achieve.

(Jasmine: I thought that the piece was successful because it made the big, small, and made the small, big. It amplified something very small and miniscule –cells, or pixels– while downplaying the monumental size of the deer.)

Data-Matrix by Ryoji Ikeda

Picture courtesy of

Andrew: This is a piece that needs to be ‘experienced’ more than seen. The screens featured in the picture above keep changing and there’s also an accompanying sound-track to it. Dearie and I spent a rather long time at this piece, trying to unlock its meaning and understand what was going on. Compared to PixcellDear, I found this piece more fascinating as it really drew me in and I wanted to know what the artist was trying to do. I felt it was rather beautiful the way in which Ikeda managed to ‘orchestrate’ and somehow weave together screens of data, which we usually find static and lifeless and create a kind of synchrony and beauty to them. Although every screen was different, I could sense a progression and an intriguing unity in the movement of lines, characters and various patterns. It made me realise that technology can be ‘interpreted’ and understood ‘artistically’, even if we did not necessarily understand what was on the screen. I understood the piece, even though I didn’t ‘understand’ what was being presented on the screen. Great piece!

Sayon by Yoshitomo Nara


Picture courtesy of

Jasmine: Nara’s childlike drawings drew both of us in. The intriguing thing was that these childlike characters clearly possessed very adult emotions, such as rage, frustration and menace.

Takashi Murakami, DOB series


meltingdob Images taken from this site

Jasmine: My favourite pieces in the exhibition were Murakami’s. The Mickey Mouse or anime-like character in the pictures above is called DOB, or Dobojite.  DOB serves as Murakami’s artistic alter-ego, a way for him to comment on the relation between new media and traditional art forms.

murakamiflowerImage courtesy of

Jasmine: The latent art geek within me was thrilled to find an artist of Murakami’s calibre on display. Murakami pioneered a technique called Superflat, in which he strove to achieve three-dimensional images within a two-dimensional canvas. This is done by layering multiple flowers in various sizes to give the illusion that some are receding whilst others are advancing. More crucially, Superflat refers to the “flattening” of rich forms of Japanese fine arts and traditions by modern Japan’s consumer culture, which he considers to be shallow and empty.This is an idea that is reinforced by the sheer inundation of the canvas by the repeatedly maniacally grinning sunflowers.

Like Andy Warhol or Clae Oldenburg, Murakami manages to take “low” art and elevate its kitschiness into something museum-worthy. Interestingly, I was first exposed to the Murakami name through his highly commercial collaboration with Louis Vuitton.

Now you can namedrop when buying LV knockoffs at a seedy street market: “Oh uncle, do you have the Cherry Blossom Speedy by Murakami?”

Airboard 8 by Kazuhiko Hachiya

Picture courtesy of

Andrew: I found this piece interesting because of how odd it was that it was found in a contemporary art museum. The description of this piece talks about how the inventors were trying to create a flying board which would allow humans to ‘fly’ on their own, without the use of aeroplanes. It succeeded in allowing humans to stay in air for about 10 minutes, but ultimately couldn’t achieve its aim. I thought it was interesting how the failure of this scientific device led to it being relegated to ‘art’ in a museum. Is art ultimately seen as a ‘failure’ of science & technology? What qualifies this as being a piece of ‘contemporary art’ rather than a piece of failed technology? Or, does art represent, like this failed invention, a feeble/weak attempt to supersede the capabilities of science and technology?

(Jasmine: I thought that the way the piece was exhibited in conjunction with used flight suits provided a clue to its significance. The flight suits were displayed almost reverentially, much like a highly-prized samurai armour or expensive  silk kimono. I also suggested to Andrew that in Japan, creativity was expressed through technological advancement. The overall framing seemed to eulogise the the anti-gravity skateboards.)


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