World Sculpture News
Vol. 11 No. 2 Spring 2005
By Lucy Birmingham
"Masako Sato at Design Festa Gallery"
Japanese installation artist Masako Sato has a green thumb. And it’s not just from paint. It’s the dirty kind. Not just any dirt but the good stuff – with all the bugs and bacteria – on display underneath sprouting sculptured vegetables, moss, and fresh organic vegetarian cuisine at her exhibition-cum restaurant called “La Restaurant du Sano” at the Design Festa Gallery in Tokyo’s hip Harajuku. The table is set for two. But don’t take a seat as you’ll crush the moss and delicate flowers growing from the cushions. The menu beckons: Mixed Baby Salad, Bean Sprouts, Carrot, Parsley, Strawberries, Melon and Watermelon…seeds. It's not exactly gourmet fare but it's guaranteed fresh from the stalk before you, and thoroughly organic — edible art with a message to digest.
Each plant has been carefully nurtured from seeds over a 6-month period, with various successes and failures. Sato's canvas is nature in real time. The bounty she produces has it"s whimsical elements and she's tried to approach it from a fun, playful angle. She offers guests matchbook-look-alikes made with melon seeds. She herself will dress in the exact replica of a waitress but will wear a pair of black wellingtons and an apron and cap made of fresh cabbage leaves. She is a popular photo request at the Tokyo Design Festas where she has previously exhibited her work.
At first glance it's fun and creatively inspiring, but the underlying message is serious. It's well known that Japanese are clean freaks. And they're getting even cleaner. The use of antibacterial and antiseptic creams and gels, agrichemicals, bug sprays, detergents and anything else that will kill bacteria, bugs and living dirt is a growing obsession here. Combine that with all the junk food being consumed and the prognosis doesn't look good. As a farmer's daughter, the 29-year-old Sato found consolance is the Slow Food movement which is finding a subtle but growing hold here. Simply put: if we don't eat living things, we can't live.
This inspiring young artist with an eye for important environmental issues brings us art in a most delicious and meaningful venue.