New exhibits at Haifa’s Tikotin Museum showcase unique Japanese art

When Japanese designer Yasuhiro Suzuki discussed which works would appear in “Blinking,” his new exhibition at the Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art in Haifa, he asked curator Etty Glass Gissis what attitude Israelis have to waiting.

This news drew a wave of laughter from the audience: Art journalists headed north on Thursday to cover the new exhibition and were presented with Suzuki’s pre-recorded talk in the museum’s auditorium. Israelis, it seemed to mean knowing laughter, are not famous for queuing.

Suzuki’s tender works, an apple with a constellation on the skin, scales that weigh lightly, seem to humbly approach the Israeli public and offer them something wonderful, if they can shut up and wait a while.

Suzuki spoke of a well-known Japanese anecdote about military generals and swallows. The first general says, “If he doesn’t sing, we will kill him.” The second general says, “If he doesn’t sing, we will force him.” The third general says, “If you don’t sing, we’ll wait until you do.” It was filmed holding a bird model. Now, perched on the branches of the Tikotin garden, a large plastic cuckoo was built as part of the exhibition. In fact, sing for those who wait.

While we were still in the auditorium, Ambassador to Japan Gilad Cohen, who took office in October, praised the role of the Tikotin Museum in his own prerecorded message as building “a bridge between these two splendid ancient civilizations.”

Haifa Museums Director General Yotam Yakir, who came in person, called Tikotin “a pearl” and hinted at the need for an expansion of the museum. “An additional story or two should be built to expand this space, which offers something that no other place has.”

Writing about Suzuki’s work for this article in 2005, which was later shown as part of the Israel Museum’s group exhibition “Rising Sun, Melting Moon,” the late Meir Ronen referred to the flickering leaves of Suzuki, a tree artificial in which visitors are invited to insert sheets of paper. They represent an eye open on one side and one closed on the other. A stream of air within the tree carries the leaves up and down, causing them to “blink” as they rotate as they descend.

Ronen tied the Suzuki eye motif to the Anima characters’ round eyes and the “stylized cuteness” that the Japanese call Kawaii.

His intuition was correct; Suzuki offers works of Kawaii style. Their Ginkaku-ji chocolate, a foil-covered chocolate model from the 1490 Zen Temple of Shining Mercy in Kyoto, is one. Called the Silver Temple, it is not actually covered in silver. In contrast, the Kyoto Zen temple Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Temple) from 1397 is covered in gold.

“So tourists always ask why Ginkaku-ji isn’t covered in silver as well,” Glass Gissis told us, making work a fun and cute answer to that question.

In 2004 Suzuki created the Rack Railway and created an illusion on Lake Hamana. The two lines of foam created by the passage of the boat created the image of the lake as a huge fly that was opening.

Yasuhiro Suzuki Zip Lock Boat (Credit: Courtesy)

All these works and more are now on Tikotin. They were previously featured in the 2011 exhibition “BORDER – Earth, Blinking, Apples, Me” at the Hamamatsu City Museum of Art and featured in the 2012 Blinking and Flapping Japanese catalog.

In my opinion, the cuteness of Suzuki’s works does not preclude a deadly sense of purpose.

Your 2011 Japan Island Compass, a tiny magnetized model of Nippon floating in a glass of water, will always point to true north. The work is shown along with other artistic shots of the Japanese homeland; the Bank of the Japanese Islands from 2014 is one example.

These are creative approaches to something very real, the homeland, its defense, and the cost of that security. When World War II ended, the Imperial Japanese Army dumped Type 4 Chi-To tanks into Lake Hamana; they were never found. Suzuki’s “fly” would discover them, if it had been real.

A similar work, representing the Jewish homeland, would raise very disturbing questions about what will be the edges of the model floating in the glass of water.

THE OTHER exhibition on offer now, “The Japan of Dani Karavan”, is totally different, as it explores the deep connection Karavan felt with Japanese culture and introduces audiences to his little-known open-space works (here) at Muro Art Forest. in the city of Uda (historically, Muro was a town and is now part of the city) and in the Sapporo Art Park in Sapporo, Hokkaido.

Bereshit, at the Kirishima open-air museum in Kyushu, marks the impact that Karavan had on Japan: His works are presented in the islands from the south (Kyushu) to the north (Hokkaido).

Kirishima means “Island of Mist”, and when one stands in the corridor that leads to the view offered by Bereshit (Genesis) the eye sees what the Japanese call emptiness (Ma), the artist pointed out in an article included in the catalog of this exhibition. .

For this exhibition, the Tikotin workers uncovered the marble floors that originally adorned the room, offering a living connection to the history of this important museum.

In describing the massive work at Muro Art Forest, Glass Gissis used the presented large-scale model to explain how deeply it connects with Japanese culture. It was built for a practical and artistic purpose – to prevent landslides – for which it was funded by Japan’s National Land Ministry, and hundreds of trees were planted in the park over the eight years it took to complete. that (1998-2006).

It is also deeply spiritual, with the 8th century Wall Temple, an important site in Shingon Buddhism, close by. Even before the dharma reached China, and later Japan, from India, the land was sacred to a dragon spirit (Zennyo Ryuo), which is still worshiped today.

Writing in the catalog for this exhibition, the director of the Setagaya Museum of Art, Sakai Tadayasu, quotes Karavan as saying that “only in that space can I contribute.”

What Karavan did is an elaborate journey, which includes The Tower of Heaven. Visitors can climb it to reach the sky and then walk into the darkness within. The work combines sunlight and darkness to allow the visitor’s eye to adjust and then contemplate the rice fields that stretch out in front of him. These fields are still cultivated today, creating a link between the natural world, art, and food.

In her own article, Glass Gissis recommends visiting the Wall Temple and climbing its steps, before visiting the tower built by the Israeli artist.

Karavan’s skillful use of “clear geometric shapes of circle, triangle and square” reminds him of the famous Edo period ink drawing The Universe by Buddhist monk Sengai Gibon. Together, he explains, “they are the basis of the entire universe.”

These two exhibitions bode well for Tikotin. Perhaps future shows will allow Israeli art lovers more comparisons between the two cultures. Personally, I’d love to see the 2019 video and instillation work Los Angeles from Meiro Koizumi’s testimony, based on his interview with a war veteran of the Second Sino-Japanese War, along with, say, David Reeb’s paintings. Perhaps, with a little luck and grace, we could all afford to look beyond Kawaii.

“Blink” will be on display until April 23. “The Japan of Dani Karavan” does not have a closing date. The public is invited to enjoy guided tours of both exhibitions on Saturday, November 20, at 11 am and noon, free of charge. This is part of the Israeli Saturdays initiative, which offers the public free tickets to museums during the weekend upon registration.

Ticket prices start at NIS 35 for an adult, NIS 25 for those between the ages of five and 18, children under five are admitted free. So do the olim during their first year of immigration.

Call (04) 838-3554 or email: [email protected] for tickets. The Tikotin Museum is at 89 Hanassi Boulevard, Haifa. Hours: Sunday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday from 12 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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