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Cosmo-eggs: Japanese experiments on Anthropocene at Venice Biennale Japan Pavilion

Questioning Ecologies of Co-Existence through Converging Collaborative Resonances and Dissonances

by Giacomo Donati

The ecology and coexistence of human beings with creatures and elements that inhabit the planet earth have always been central themes in Japanese thought.

Japan's particular exposure to the forces of nature in all its most destructive forms - earthquakes, eruptions, tsunamis - have made it the privileged and ideal center of this reflection, which has become even more relevant since we discuss the advent of what is defined among scholars as Anthropocene, namely: a new geological era brought on by the explosive growth of human activity on the planet.

To further explore this theme, the Japanese Pavilion of the Venice Biennale of Art (May 11th - November 24th, 2019) presents this year the work of a team composed of personalities belonging to different areas, tangent and complementary to each other: an artist, a composer, an anthropologist and an architect.

The project, called Cosmo-eggs and curated by Hiroyuki Hattori, is inspired by the work that the artist Motoyuki Shitamichi has been leading for years on the so-called tsunami-ishi, giant stones thrown on the shores from the depths of the ocean due to tsunamis.
Present almost everywhere in the world and retraceable in Japan in the Miyako and Yaeyama islands in the Pacific Okinawan archipelago, these boulders, similar to meteorites, occupy spaces long reclaimed by man and have inevitably become also a shelter for new plant life and colonies of migratory birds.

The composer Taro Yasuno thus presents a composition that recalls bird songs, performed automatically by a series of mechanical arms that activate keys of oboes scattered around the Pavilion.
The air needed to activate the instruments is provided by a large orange balloon, almost a giant bellows, which extends from the foundations of the Pavilion into its main hall.

The Cosmo-Eggs title derives from the various myths spread all over the world regarding the birth of human and non-human creatures from the Cosmic Egg.
The anthropologist Toshiaki Ishikura, specialized in comparative mythology, therefore combines tsunami-related local beliefs, mythology and folklore retraced in various parts of Asia (such as the Ryukyu region and Taiwan) to develop a new mythological allegory that reconsiders the relationship between humans and nature.

Finally, the architect Fuminori Nousaku blends the different elements of the project into space: while pieces of the composition are sporadically reproduced by mechanical arms, shootings of these boulders/eggs, part of the surrounding life and at the same time indifferent as cosmic entities from another world, are projected in loop on several screens and excerpts from the new mythology of man and nature are engraved in the surrounding walls, creating an enveloping and multi-faceted narrative.

Sometimes, in an unpredictable way, videos, music, text and space as a whole come together in a harmonious resonance while conversely there are moments of dissonance when everything is in conflict and these elements clash fiercely against each other.

Through a collaboration that opens up a place for continuous generation and change by means of overlaying heterogeneous creations by individuals of different areas of expertise, the ecology of symbiosis and coexistence is questioned.

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