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15 March - 9 June 2024
Title: Wild Grass: Our Lives
Artistic Directors: Liu Ding, Carol Yinghua Lu
Organizers: City of Yokohama, Yokohama Arts Foundation, Japan Broadcasting Corporation [NHK], The Asahi Shimbun, Organizing Committee for Yokohama Triennale
In the past few years, in the face of epidemics and politics, the individual has been placed in a situation of danger, irrelevance, defenselessness, with nothing to fall back on. In their search for an exhibition theme that speaks of humble humanism, courage, resilience, faith and solidarity, the Artistic Directors Liu Ding and Carol Yinghua Lu found a point of reference and empathy for the present situation in the work of the Chinese writer Lu Xun (1881 – 1936). The theme of the 8th Yokohama Triennale Wild Grass: Our Lives, is taken from his anthology Wild Grass, published in 1927. Lu Xun penned the 23 essays compiled in this book from 1924 to 1926, during the turbulent period in Chinese history as well as his personal life, and through it found a thin thread of hope in times of despair.
Liu Ding and Carol Yinghua Lu
© Photo: Ohno Ryusuke. Courtesy of Yokohama Triennale
According to Liu Ding and Carol Yinghua Lu, "the exhibition theme Wild Grass: Our Lives aspires to Lu Xun’s philosophy of the universe and life. It doesn’t just call to mind the image of a fragile and defenseless existence, inconspicuous and alone, in the wilderness, with nothing to fall back on. It is also a symbol of a life force that’s unregulated, irrepressible, defiant, self-motivated, and prepared to fight alone at all times. Furthermore, there is no ultimate state of existence to arrive at. Every state of being is a mediation and a process in itself, where there is no victory or failure but only a perpetual state of internal movement. Thus, every state of being is potentially a messenger for each other, mediating for each other. These philosophical propositions are not abstract; they exist vividly in the world of experience, and are the experiences themselves. 'Wild Grass' signifies a philosophy of life that elevates the irrepressible force of individual life to a respectable existence that transcends all systems, rules, regulations, and forms of control and power. It is a model for flexible expression of subjectivity."
By juxtaposing works by contemporary artists from different parts of the world with historical artworks, starting from the period of Lu Xun's antology, the exhibition will trace several historical moments that have consequently shaped today's oppressive conditions, inviting visitors to reflect on their way of life and search for hope.
"In the 8th Yokohama Triennale, we wish to revisit a selection of historical moments, events, figures, and trends of thoughts since the beginning of the 20th century. Some examples include the resonance of Japanese and Chinese leftwing woodcut movements in the early 1930s, the rise of subjective imaginary in the postwar cultural construction in East Asia, the reflection on modernity after the global radical movements of the late 1960s, and the critical and emancipatory energy of postmodernism in full swing in the 1980s. On this basis, we draw inspiration from the anarchist practices and thoughts that have emerged since the proposal of the end of history, to explore options for possible dialogue between individuals and established rules, and institutions. In this Triennale, we prioritize the relationship between art and its intellectual underpinnings and champion the engagement of art with reality. We hope to generate a new imaginary of global friendship in the name of art, and call for the promising union of the spirit of individual internationalism and weak signals," state Liu Ding and Carol Yinghua Lu.
The 8th Yokohama Triennale consists of seven thematic chapters, featuring 94 artists/groups from 31 countries/regions, with 20 new commissions.
The main exhibition venue is the Yokohama Museum of Art, where it begins with the first section, Our Lives, which is a landscape where multiple challenges are intertwined with a disorganized yet irrepressible force of life. Here, various states of emergency and precarious existences are considered an everyday norm, instead of exceptions. It sets the tone of the entire exhibition, confronting our crisis-ridden reality while emphasizing the resilience and agency of the individual in the face of despair.
At the heart of Our Lives, is the Directory of Life. It is a selection of essays by artists, thinkers, and social activists who have been reflecting on our time, history, and life in their specific situations since 2000. Their writings outline the political, intellectual, and cultural energies that lurk in everyday life. These practices and ideas allow us to discover utopian possibilities in our own historical situation.
It is followed by two chapters, My Liberation and All the Rivers, which look at subjective agencies, attempts, imaginaries, and actions that create horizons of possibilities for individuals within confined systems. Three remaining chapters, Streams and Rocks, Dialogue with the Mirror, and Fires in the Woods, align with these promising horizons by highlighting the symbolic power of youth, awakened self, and cracks in the flows of life. The chapter, Symbol of Depression, echoes Our Lives through a profound critique of modernity. The exhibition makes visible the correlation between art and reality and the importance of ongoing and critical engagements with life and society for artistic practitioners. Overall, it is a timely response to the current art world where the intellectual capacity and the political agency of art are at risk as a consequence of the prevailing capitalization of art and the logic of the art industry.
From press information.
© Cover image on top: 8th Yokohama Triennale design concept by Okazaki Mariko
© Photos: Courtesy of Yokohama Triennale