FLOATING MONUMENTS: MOTOYUKI SHITAMICHI
Thursday, January 19 through Wednesday, March 1
Opening Reception with the Artist: Thursday, January 19 from 5:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m.
Alison Bradley Projects – 526 W. 26th Street (between 10th and 11th Avenues), Suite 814
Alison Bradley Projects presents FLOATING MONUMENTS, the first solo exhibition of Motoyuki Shitamichi in the United States. Eimi Tagore-Erwin is the curator.
Shitamichi has been incorporating intensive historical research and fieldwork into his art practice for more than two decades. The artist has traveled extensively throughout the Asia Pacific, investigating fragmented and forgotten aspects of Japanese history and nationhood. Working across a wide range of mediums, Shitamichi’s artistic approach can be described as a form of archeological assemblage, in which he avidly collects, photographs, and films material traces of the past that embody new resonances in the present.
FLOATING MONUMENTS presents work from three of Shitamichi’s ongoing series: Tsunami Boulder, Okinawan Glass, and torii. The exhibition’s title is translated from hyōhaku no hi (漂泊之碑), a concept that Shitamichi harnesses to reveal the malleability of historical significance itself. The artist focuses upon material objects that have drifted through time, as if floating in the sea that surrounds the many islands of the Japanese archipelago.
Tsunami Boulder (2015-Present)
Tsunami Boulder ruminates on the fragile ecology of human and non-human life in a locale where national boundaries have fluctuated for centuries. Deeply affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, Shitamichi depicts massive boulders that ancient tsunamis carried up from the bottom of the sea throughout the Okinawan island chains of Yaeyama and Miyako, located to the south of mainland Japan. In four black and white videos, Shitamichi’s lens charts the present relationships between these transplanted natural monuments and the inhabitants of their new environments.
Okinawan Glass (2014-Present)
Okinawan Glass engages with the history of Ryukyuan glassware, a practice that originated with local craftsmen repurposing glass bottles littered on beaches during the US military occupation of Okinawa (1945-1972) and selling them back to Americans as souvenirs. By enacting this process, Shitamichi reconsiders the conditions of a craft that is now considered “traditional.” On view are three cycles of his annual project: Each set of four glassworks are made up of unique compounds of glass, with varying material constitutions.
torii (2006-2012; 2017-Present)
In his photographic series torii, Shitamichi explores the instability of national borders by documenting torii, or Shinto gates, that the Japanese Empire inserted throughout the Pacific in the first half of the 20th century. He has spent years tracing the remains of torii in the Northern Mariana Islands, Taiwan, Saipan, Sakhalin, South Korea, and Northeastern China. Haunting yet beautiful, his photographs capture the echoes of the past still encased in the familiar shapes of these torii today. Now overgrown, disguised, and abandoned, many of these symbolic structures have gained afterlives that contest their original function as monuments of imperial expansion.
The archeological approach presented by the artist in the gallery space is dialogic and open to interpretation. Rather than offering one particular stance or critique, Shitamichi manages to image history in our present moment, exposing the fragility of fixed values like national borders, canonized narratives, and even the division between art and viewer.
For more information about the exhibition, please visit Alison Bradley Projects.
About Motoyuki Shitamichi
Born in Okayama in 1978, Motoyuki Shitamichi is a contemporary artist, curator, and researcher. Shitamichi graduated from Musashino University in 2001 with a BFA in painting, followed by postgraduate studies at the Tokyo College of Photography until 2003. He has been actively publishing photo books since 2005, and he was a visiting researcher at the National Museum of Ethnology from 2016 until 2019. Shitamichi presented Tsunami Boulder as a representative of Japan at the 2019 Venice Biennale and exhibited at the 2018 and 2012 Gwangju Biennales. In 2020, he received the 21st Okayama Arts and Culture Award Grand Prize, as well the Tokyo Contemporary Art Award in 2019. Shitamichi has been based in the village of Honmura on the art island of Naoshima in the Seto Inland Sea since 2019, when he started the Setouchi “ ” Archive at Miyanoura Gallery 6. He fills the quotes to match each new project’s theme.
He has exhibited extensively throughout Japan and abroad, including solo exhibitions at Kunsthal Aarhus (2022), Ohara Museum of Art (2019), and Kurobe City Art Museum (2016). His works are included in the collections of the Kadist Art Foundation, California; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; the National Museum of Art, Osaka; Takamatsu Art Museum, Kagawa; Ishikawa Foundation, Okayama; and the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, among others.
About Eimi Tagore-Erwin
Eimi Tagore-Erwin is a doctoral candidate of East Asian Studies at NYU and an emerging curator. Her research focus is contemporary Transpacific art engaging with colonial history, memory, and politics. She is a curator at Alison Bradley Projects and a 2023 Curatorial Fellow at the Shigeko Kubota Video Art Foundation. Tagore-Erwin’s winning exhibition proposal from apexart’s New York City Open Call will open in Tribeca at the end of March 2023. She was also a 2021 Wikipedia Fellow for PoNJA-Genkon and Asia Art Archive in America, where she focused on Japanese artists who have faced censorship.