Photo gallery: Makoto AidasMonument for Nothing

Sex, chaos and 3/11: the ‘genius’ artist lets it all hang out at Mori Art Museum

Photo gallery: Makoto Aida’s ‘Monument for Nothing’

From fetishism to the Fukushima meltdowns, there are few controversies that Makoto Aida has left untouched in the course of his two-decade career. His retrospective show at the Mori Art Museum, Monument for Nothing, is certainly generous in its provocations. There's the Japanese title, for starters: Tensai de Gomennasai, literally 'sorry for being a genius'. Then there's pieces like 'Ash Color Mountains', a seven-metre canvas depicting enormous slag heaps of salarymen (pictured above), or 'Dog', a series of nihonga paintings of a barely pubescent girl with her lower arms and legs amputated, a collar and chain around her neck.

Aida adopts a huge range of techniques over the course of the show. His 'War Picture Returns' series mimics the work of wartime propaganda artists, using old fusama screens and deliberately crude painting for images that simultaneously embrace and upend the nationalistic sentiments that inspired them. Aida repeats that approach in his 'Minna to Issho' paintings, replicating the public information posters that he was forced to make as a schoolchild, but with the messages replaced by joyous obscenities. Elsewhere, there's the cardboard castle that he once built for Shinjuku's homeless people (it was cleared away after four days, sadly), a statue of Aida's onigiri-headed alter ego sat atop a golden pile of pooh, and a vividly red room that you might almost mistake for something by Yayoi Kusama – at least, that is, until you realise that the colours come from pictures of human intestines.

Excluding pieces that are now held by private collectors, the exhibition contains almost all of the work that Aida has produced to date. Some of it isn't even finished: 'Jumble of 100 Flowers', a spectacular, 17.5 metre-long painting in which naked girls are apparently being shot and disintegrating into clouds of stars, strawberries and butterflies, is probably going to take another couple of years to complete (though it's already pretty mind-blowing). Visitors are even free to contribute to 'Monument for Nothing II', the work-in-progress cardboard installation at the end of the show which Aida first started as a collaborative project in 2008.

If this all sounds like frivolous provocation, the exhibition does strike some more somber notes. In one of the most recent works on display, 'Monument for Nothing IV', Aida captures the sense of turmoil that followed in the wake of last year's Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns, pasting an entire wall with nuclear-related messages taken from Twitter. At the press event for the show, he admitted that he didn't have a clear position on the nuclear issue, but just wanted to convey the 'mental stoppage' that so many people experienced in the months afterwards. Overwhelmed with information, he says, 'I think many Japanese just couldn't think any more'.

Whether you love it or hate it, though, Monument for Nothing is guaranteed to make you think at least something.

Aida Makoto: Monument for Nothing runs from November 17-March 31 at Mori Art Museum, Roppongi

Photos by James Hadfield
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.



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