His work has a strong transnational and universal orientation. He said that living so close to Korea while growing up formed his concept of porous borders.
Yanagi Yukinori was censored in the 1990’s by a gallery in Japan because of a series of prints that dealt with imperial identity and official discrimination against Korean nationals.
Located in Tokyo, Japan
Can you see what is so different about this piece?
What about now?
Probably his most famous work
The ants tunnels create a unique experience for the viewer in that it catches the eye and makes one follow the path rather than stay constricted to the boundaries. I believe Yukinori understood this concept very well and created a captivating, unintentional, dynamic within the hidden meaning of the art.
The ants pathway is clearly depicted within this piece from Yanagi however I find it interesting, personally, the ants avoided the main center point of the artwork and left the sun completely intact.
What does this piece say about borders? What is he trying to truly get across especially in this piece considering post-war Japanese history? What do you see the middle representing? I think this piece is unique in the contrasts it portrays especially given the significance of U.S-Japanese relations. What does it say about our history?
Collaboration of 36 colored sand paintings in individual plastic boxes flags depicting the melting pot that is the United States and the world and the connections between them.
Here is an enhanced picture of the America piece created in 1994. How do the ants move? Is it more about maintaining national identity or is it about “tunneling” through those borders to create a unifying identity in which borders don’t exist?
In 1997, Yanagi created a limited edition multiple, Loves Me/Loves Me Not, which is a smaller version of his 1994 sculpture Chrysanthemum Carpet. In the center of the deep red carpet is an impression of a chrysanthemum, the Japanese imperial crest, with its petals—made from brass—torn off and scattered across the surface. Also woven into the carpet is the text “s/he loves me” and “s/he loves me not,” written in the languages of countries once dominated by Japanese imperial rule. With this piece, Yanagi confronts a Japanese myth that a homogenous people were united as one during the emperor’s reign.
Pacific K100B (1997), exemplified his interests in nationalism and Japanese society and exploring the events, psychology, symbols, and objects of the war. Consisting of models of several ships active in the Pacific, his installation reflects his fascination with rusted warship wrecks discovered on the ocean floor. The two-dimensional work Pacific shattered blue, employing map imagery, recalls Yanagi’s previous ant farm flag pieces and continues his statements about the myths and problems of nationalism.
The Japanese Voltaire for his ideas regarding government and social institutions which sparked change during the Meiji Era.
In order to make this piece, Yanagi placed himself and an ant in a five metre square enclosure. For several hours each day the artist crawled around tracing the paths made by the ant with a red crayon. The artist and animal share their confinement but the ant’s worker status is enforced, it’s meanderings around the enclosure at the service of Yanagi’s art.The piece “Wandering Position” has also been made by Yanagi in several different locations and each time its meaning changes.It was initally created at Alcatraz, the ex-prison island in San Fransico bay. When the piece was created in his studio in North America he said it reflected”…the borders I have had to cross or barriers I have confronted in trying to define myself as Japanese.”The piece alludes to the state of confinement in a literal sense but also in a social sense.Yanagi is interested in the way people frame themeselves and are framed by social systems like class and gender as well as by ethnic or national identities. He is also interested in fundamental philosophical questions such as why we are here.
In “Into the Atomic Sunshine,” curator Shinya Watanabe presented the work of 12 artists—eight Japanese and four international—who respond to war, peace, national sovereignty and collective humanity, issues addressed by Article 9 of the Japanese constitution. Implemented by the United States’ occupying forces in May 1947, Article 9 affirms Japan’s renunciation of war and its right to maintain land, sea and air forces. First held at the Puffin Room in New York in January, the exhibition opened in Tokyo on the 63rd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6.Focusing on the relationship between art and the nation-state, curator Shinya Watanabe explained that through this exhibition he wished to “carefully contemplate the ‘otherness’ that Article 9 itself contains,” here referring to the paradox of a constitution that negates the absolutization of national sovereignty and yet was written by a foreign power using nation-centered terms.In some works, such as Yukinori Yanagi’sBanzai Corner (1991), the invisible “other” is the authority of the state. Standing on a rectangular white plinth, rows of red Ultraman and Ultra Seven figurines have been arranged in an arc, their bodies facing the corner of the room where there are two mirrors. Their reflections complete the circle, and the differing shades of red in their outfits create a radiating pattern within the installation that recalls the Japanese Kyokujitsu-ki flag, with its red bars reaching out to the edge of the white background. Yanagi’s use of this character is not incidental: Tetsuo Kinjo, the author of the Ultraman series, grew up in Okinawa during the US occupation. Thus, these toys are imbued with political symbolism: in their infantry-like ranks, the figurines have their right arms raised in an implied cry of “Banzai!” However, the focal point of the troop arrangement is an illusion, an empty center reflected on itself.
Yanagi first immersed himself in Japanese history and WWII at Yale University, where he received his MFA in sculpture in 1990. A year later he created “Banzai Corner,” a fascinating piece that “mirrors” the Japanese flag using ultramen figurines.Yanagi creates an illusion of the iconic “hinomaru,” or circle of the sun, by arranging roughly 350 ultramen figurines in a quarter-circle against two mirrors in a corner. Aptly titled “Banzai Corner,” the superheroes can be seen raising both arms in the air, demonstrating the gesture used when shouting “Banzai,” a traditional Japanese celebratory exclamation meaning “ten thousand years.” But it’s also worth noting that “banzai” or “banzai charge” was a term used by the allied forces during the war, referring to the Japanese military tactic of mounting suicide attacks.
ultraman – a superhero who rose to fame in the 1960s and remains highly popular amongst kids even today – has helped the piece sustain its relevance over the past 20 years. It’s currently on display at the Benesse House Museum on Naoshima.When speaking to the New York Times back in 1995 about Japan’s emperor system, Yanagi said, “All these people died for the emperor because they thought he was a god, and it turned out that he was just a small man with a human voice.”
A better view of Bonzai corner
n 1995, he created The Forbidden Box, an installation of two large-scale Iris inkjet prints depicting the mushroom cloud created by the explosion of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. Yanagi selected the image from a 1946 Japanese newspaper. Printed on sheer fabric, the panels are embellished with the words of the Japanese constitution’s Article 9, which renounces the nation’s ability to wage war and was originally drafted by General Douglas MacArthur after the end of World War II. The MacArthur version is printed in English on the rear panel, while the Japanese version— which is written in a much more conciliatory tone—and its English translation can be found on the front panel. The juxtaposition of the two texts allows for a comparison of the cultural differences between the United States and Japan. Below the billboard-size prints, Yanagi placed an open lead box with the words “Little Boy”—the name of the bomb—inscribed on the lid. The box is a reference to a Japanese folktale called Urashima Taro, taught in elementary schools from the time of imperial rule up until World War II. Urashima Taro was a fisherman who achieved immortality by rescuing a turtle from a group of cruel children. Taro eventually goes to live with a sea goddess in an underworld palace; when he misses his home, the sea goddess gives him a box that will allow his return to the palace as long as he does not open it. Taro opens the box, releasing a great cloud of white smoke that turns him into an old man.
Biography 1959 Born in Fukouka, Japan 1983 BFA in painting, Musashino Art University 1985 MFA in painting, Musashino Art University 1990 MFA in sculpture, Yale University 2005- Associate Professor, Faculty of Art, Hiroshima City University