April 25, 2008
XXIst Century Man
Nendo, Cabbage Chair, 2007-8, recycled paper
Courtesy of Masaya Yoshimura / Nacása & Partners Inc.
Issey Miyake is a futurist. While his cutting-edge clothing shapes future fashion trends, his concerns about recycling and the environment are often embedded in the design, materials and mechanics of his creations. Now Miyake tackles the current century with a warning call in an exhibition he directs at 21_21 Design Sight.
“How will we live? How will we create? How will we be in the 21st century? These are the questions Mr. Miyake is asking,” says Dui Seid,
a New York-based artist who helped organize the show.
The 10 installations are all made with recycled materials, creating synchronicity among the artists and design teams. “We were given essentially no direction from Mr. Miyake and told to create whatever we wanted,” said Seid. “So the outcome was quite remarkable.”
“XXIst Century Man” opens with a large ink painting on assembled pieces of wrapping paper titled Dragon, by the LA-based artist Tim Hawkinson. “The dragon is a mythological creature that contains the power of the universe and order, says Seid. “When Mr. Miyake was conceptualizing the exhibition, this was one of the early seminal pieces.”
A small flexible lamp called PizzaKobra, designed by Ron Arad, lights the way into the large powerful installation titled Myth of the 21st Century, created by Miyake and members of his staff. Based on the Japanese legend “Yamata no Orochi” and the Stravinsky ballet The Rite of Spring, eight maidens dance under a frightening dragon-like snake. “The serpent in the Japanese myth represents impending danger,” explains Seid. “This installation represents Miyake’s concern about the crisis that humanity faces in the 21st century, that we must do something to ward off this crisis.” Handmade with paper, the work “reverts back to a primitive time, perhaps contemplating the primordial that exists in all of humanity, the collective unconscious.”
Visitors then step from mythology back into the realm of the human. Seid’s installation titled Stickman—created with kozo (mulberry) sticks used to make washi paper—is paired with an unusual ink painting by Isamu Noguchi titled Standing Nude Youth. Following this are the ingeniously simple Cabbage Chairs created by design office Nendo using paper left over from Miyake’s Pleats Please clothing line.
Around the corner, man meets machine: mannequins made of Dyson vacuum cleaner parts display Miyake’s Spring/Summer 2008 collection. The innovative and humorous assemblages were designed by the Issey Miyake Creative Room team, with the support of Dyson’s founder and CEO, James Dyson. (Business-designer collaborations are a mainstay of 21_21 Design Sight.)
Elsewhere, a curious pedal-pushing vehicle titled Monocycle, by Ben Wilson, stretches the definition of transportation, while Yasuhiro Suzuki’s Beginning of Time installation employs tree branches and stumps to examine how the human body absorbs and expels water.
The show ends with the lively 7.5-meter-tall tower called It’s a Departure at a Bright Night, by Koutarou Sekiguchi, and a simple kite made of used coffee bean bags called Dunan Endeavor, by Yazou Hokama. Sekiguchi has said that part of his inspiration comes from the disabled children he teaches. Made from newspaper and duct tape, the intricate structure includes images of insects, plants, boats, animals and rock stars, and is tied with what looks like Tibetan prayer flags.
It’s a befitting visual ending to Miyake’s metaphorical message about our precarious, environmentally-challenged 21st century.“But it is not all doom and gloom,” says Seid. “There is still hope.”