Vik Muniz:Gibi

Vik Muniz:

2023.4.14 - 6.3

Collateral Talk Event:
4.26 (Wed.) 18:00 – 19:30
More info | Online registration
gallery hours:
5/27 (Sat.) 11:00 – 19:00
5/28 (Sun.) 11:00 – 18:00

©Vik Muniz
Press Release

Venue: nca | nichido contemporary art
Date: 4. 14 (fri.) – 6.3 (sat.), 2023
Gallery hours: tue. – sat. / 11:00 – 19:00 (closed on sun., mon., and on national holidays)
*Open during “ROPPONGI ART NIGHT 2023” (hours are as above)
Supported by: Embassy of Brazil in Tokyo

Since the 90’s, Vik Muniz has been exposing what really lies hidden in the background of images, we can call it their real essence, and he does so by recreating globally recognizable pictures – famous works of art, historical news photos – out of a variety of materials which includes chocolate sauce and diamonds, among others.
What Muniz has created for the viewer is a visual world that transcends by far their imagination, focusing on the specificity of the original scale, as illustrated by his series Pictures of Earthworks (2016) where pictures of large-scale line drawings carved in vast landscapes are photographed from a helicopter, or yet by his series Sand Castles (2014), where, as literally suggested by the title, through a collaboration with MIT castles are etched on sand grains using an Ion Beam machine (a device used for editing motherboards 1) and a camera lucida (a 19th century optical device). Likewise, in Colonies (2014), the artist presents works that reproduce and transform cancer cells, arranged through the use of a photolithographic process, into representations of semiconductor devices, circuit boards, or into some sort of traditional tapestry patterns. Tearing down the stereotypes that dictate the way in which we perceive the scales of reality, Muniz makes the invisible visible. We can clearly see this as Muniz’s constant effort to expand the visual horizon and override the limitations that comes with the technology photography embodies as a medium.

Then, as illustrated by his series Waste Land (2010), if on one side Muniz is no stranger to the concept of “rarity” in contemporary art, understood in terms of future cultural heritage, and to the high economic value it generates 2), on the other he surely must have a firm grasp of how that world cannot possibly come close to experience the strong appeal and propagation power that manga and animation possess. Starting in the midst of the pandemic, from 2021, Muniz has been presenting his new series of works focusing on Cubism in the solo show Fotocubismo, for instance, at gallery Nara Roesler (San Paulo, Brazil/ 202110.11-12.23). The idea to break down objects from multiple perspectives and to eventually merge them to make up the composition on a unified plane, as conceived by Picasso and Braque, can be interpreted, without exaggeration, as the anticipation of today’s 3DCG (a computer-generated graphic that translates a three-dimensional object on a two-dimensional surface).

Whereas, the new works on view on occasion of his solo exhibition Gibi (Portuguese for comic book) at nca | nichido contemporary art (2023 4.14-6.3) draw inspiration from Disney’s comic books and cartoons.
When elaborating on what pushed him to create the new series, Muniz explained: “Disney has always represented for me the greatest American contribution to the culture of humankind. In giving life to mice, monsters, brooms and candlesticks, he rescued a primal and fantastic animism 3), repressed by the ostensible pragmatism that prevailed in the period between the two world wars”4). Bearing in mind his words, we can easily think of The Sorcerer's Apprentice 5) segment from the animated feature Fantasia (1940). The story, where Mickey Mouse impersonates the sorcerer’s apprentice whose clumsy magic results in the flooding of the castle’s floors, resonates, for instance, with Japanese animism of which the traditional concepts of Yaoyorozu no kami6) (Eight Million Gods) and tsukumogami7) (everyday objects that become inhabited by a spirit), are examples.

When it comes to Disney’s creativity, Muniz also relates to the words of Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein (1898-1948), the Soviet moviemaker best known for his work Battleship Potemkin (1925): “This man seems to know not only the magic of all technical means, but also the most secret strands of human thought, images, ideas, feelings. (…) He creates somewhere in the realm of the very purest and most primal depths. There, where we are all children of nature”8). Incidentally, Eisenstein defined a generation with his montage theory 9) that attempted to produce emotional response in a viewer by conflicting different images created from juxtaposition.

I was quite surprised by Muniz’s keen insight and approach that led him to choose as stage for his new Disney series Japan, the land where the sun rose first on the animation and manga culture, whose early expressions are represented by the picture scrolls Ban Dainagon Ekotoba (12th century) and Choju Jinbutsu Giga (12th-13th century) 10), where animism and anthropocentrism become one, or yet by Japan’s first animated short film The Dull Sword (Namakura Gatana, 1917) 11).

As the Russo-Ukrainian war unfolds in front of our eyes, the world has entered an era of increasing polarization, a new Cold War between East and West. In light of the current events, Muniz’s works strongly feel as if breaking away from the dichotomy rooted in monotheistic values, giving voice to mutual respect for others’ beliefs.

Recognizing at the same time COVID 19’s ambivalent nature (described as potentially both a friend and a killer by philosopher and ecologist Timothy Morton (1968-) 12), in a moment when the conventional meaning and function of photography have transitioned from ‘recording something that already happened there’, to ‘spreading/sharing the moment as it unfolds here and now’ through SNS and other platforms and devices that allow the creation and spreading of contents in real time, Muniz seems to be seeking new possibilities that can bridge the gap between that ‘living in the moment’ and the ‘recording of the past’ within the contemporary art’s system.

Daisuke Miyatsu
(Art Collector, Professor at Yokohama University of Art and Design)

1) The main printed circuit board within a computer.
2) A series of large portraits that “paint” the catadores (garbage pickers that resort to picking valuable recyclable materials) made out of the garbage they sorted through together at the world's largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, in the artist’s birthplace, the city of Rio de Janeiro. The documentary depicts the activity in support of the catadores and their achievement of self-support, by allocating all the proceeds generated by the auction sales where the works were eventually sold.
3) The belief that natural objects other than humans have souls, a distinct spiritual essence. The idea of animism was developed by anthropologist Sir Edward Tylor (1832 -1917) through his 1871 book Primitive Culture.
4) From Vik Muniz’s statement about the solo show Gibi/コミック (March, 2023).
5) Fantasia is an animated feature film produced and released by Disney composed of eight animated segments set to pieces of classical music conducted by Leopold Stokowski (1882- 1977) and performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra. The Sorcerer's Apprentice is a symphonic poem by the French composer Paul Dukas (1865 - 1935), completed in 1897.
6) An old, traditional expression that alludes to the infinite places and items in which gods dwell.
7) Long-lived objects (household objects, etc.) that become inhabited by a spirit.
8) Sergei Eisenstein On Disney, Seagull Books; New edition, 2017.
9) Broadly, Soviet montage theory approached montage in terms of how to combine each different sequence as material, and eventually how that ensemble of sequences should produce as a whole a response in the viewer. From Montage Theory - Encyclopedia Nipponica:モンタージュ理論-1601507 (Retrieved March 10, 2023).
10) Ban Dainagon Ekotoba is an emakimono painted according to the 'Iji Dozu Gaho' method, a composition method used to show successive events within a united background. Choju Jinbutsu Giga scrolls is credited as being the oldest work of manga in Japan as some of the scenes it depicts display a technique very similar to contemporary animation.
11) Officially released on June 30th, 1917, Namakura Gatana became famous as the oldest, animated short film in Japan. In the same year, Marcel Duchamp (1887~1968) presented his work Fontaine marking the origin of contemporary art.
12) "The COVID-19 is not an “enemy”. A philosopher’s theory of “symbiosis” with viruses”, Forbes JAPAN, April 18th, 2020: / (Retrieved March 10, 2023).

Vik Muniz (born in São Paulo, 1961) is a prolific, internationally recognized artist, whose signature style appropriates and reinterprets iconic images of our time. Since early in his career Vik has had solo exhibitions in major American and international organizations, such as the ICP, NY, his first major solo exhibition, Whitney Museum of American Art; Museum of Modern Art, NY; Moscow House of Photography; Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro; Mauritshuis Museum, the Hague; The Long Museum West Bund, Shanghai; Belvedere Museum, Vienna, among others. Vik has been a guest speaker at Harvard, Yale, TED Talks, the World Economic Forum, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Princeton University, among others. He has written a book: Reflex: A Vik Muniz Primer (Aperture, 2005). Waste Land, a documentary about his work in the favelas and landfills around Rio de Janeiro, was nominated for an Academy Award in 2010.
Vik is also involved in educational and social projects in Brazil and the US, partnering for instance with Artolution, a global non-profit organization that seeks to strengthen communities experiencing crisis through collaborative art-making, and has consistently contributed to many humanitarian campaigns, more recently Humans Right Watch, Imazon, a small Brazilian non-profit dedicated to conserving the Amazon rainforest, among others.

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