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Makoto AZUMA: AMPG vol.25, The 4th Stage (08-24/May/2009)
Written by Satoshi KOGANEZAWA   
Published: June 29 2009

     Makoto Azuma dislikes nostalgia intensely. When AMPG, which he had been operating for two years, closed in March 2009, he said, “…this means neither a starting point nor an ending of something”,*1 which means that Azuma is looking towards the “present” or the “future” in creating his works. Such a perspective gives viewers a solid intense impression of his works, which are created by using flowers and which often have a gushy image. From the first to the third stage in his solo exhibition entitled “Makoto Azuma: AMPG vol.25” (Mitsubishi-Jisho ARTIUM, 18/March/2009-24/May/2009), he presented works which had been shown previously. Nonetheless, since he used different plants as materials to create all of these previously-presented works, they could be considered as his new creations. Above all, the two works entitled “Botanical Sculpture #1 Assemblage” and “Botanical Sculpture #2 holding”, which were shown in the second stage of this exhibition, seemed to be innovative in that they had been made by using white lilies. His work named “Plants of remembrance_0-21 Fukuma”, which was presented as a new work in the fourth stage of this exhibition (08/May/2009-24/May/2009), created the most unexpected impression among the others shown in this exhibition.

fig. 1 view from the movie "Plants of remembrance_0-21 Fukuma" in the exhibition 'AMPG vol.25, The 4th Stage' at Mitsubishi-Jisho ARTIUM, courtesy of AMKK copy right(c) Makoto AZUMA

fig. 2 view from the installation "Plants of remembrance_0-21 Fukuma" in the exhibition 'AMPG vol.25, The 4th Stage' at Mitsubishi-Jisho ARTIUM, courtesy of AMKK copy right(c) Makoto AZUMA

fig. 3 view from the installation "Plants of remembrance_0-21 Fukuma" in the exhibition 'AMPG vol.25, The 4th Stage' at Mitsubishi-Jisho ARTIUM, courtesy of AMKK copy right(c) Makoto AZUMA

     In the exhibition hall, we found that a film in which Azuma visited his hometown of Fukuma in Fukuoka Prefecture was being aired [fig. 1]. In the film, he visits the elementary school and the junior high school which he used to attend, he eats at a ramen shop and shouts towards the sea, standing on the Fukuma Coast. Although there is no sound used with the pictures, we can see some parts of Azuma’s daily life and imagine how he was raised in his hometown through the film, which is similar to a road movie. Nevertheless, the film made me feel as if Azuma had aimed to convey a reminiscent feeling about his past. Wasn’t this nostalgia, which he always dislikes?

     When I was looking at the film, partly wondering about its nostalgic image, the scene on the screen changed from a relaxed to a more attentive atmosphere when Azuma was shown walking in thickly-wooded forest. In this scene, he finds a fallen pine tree and he loads it onto his car, despite its weight. In addition, there is a scene in which he cuts down an extremely high bamboo sapling, which is to be used in a new creation. In the exhibition hall, there was an installation that had been created by using the pine tree and the bamboo sapling shown in the film. The installation was displayed on the floor, where Azuma had also made drawings and sprinkled black and white paints [fig. 2][fig. 3]. Although the bamboo sapling had been standing vertically on the floor at the beginning of this exhibition term, it became gradually dry and started to lean. Viewers who visited this exhibition several times would have noticed that there were some changes in the appearance of the installation.

     I saw this work on the last day of this exhibition term, while listening to Azuma and Shunsuke Shiinoki’s final live show which was held at this exhibition site. They played music in front of the screen, sitting on what looked like chairs. In contrast to the opening event, in which a drum had been used, the final live event featured a relatively simple composition that used only a guitar. Since the hall was dark, I did not notice at first that the performers were sitting on a pine tree, a part of Azuma’s installation. At first, I assumed that the event was being held in a place where there was only a screen and from which his installation had been removed. Nonetheless, as soon as I noticed that a part of his installation was being used for seating, the past scenes which had been shown on the screen and the present situation suddenly connected with each other in my mind, which evoked for me an intense impression of the plants before me.

     My earlier question has been already clarified. What Azuma wanted to convey through his installation by using plants which had been growing in his hometown was not to represent his nostalgic feelings but to express the opposite. He shows us a pine tree, which exposes its rough and rugged surface after being damaged by being exposed to the elements, and a bamboo sapling, which has grown so high that it can be described as a “soon-to-be bamboo”. Each of these has been living in its own time - the past. Indeed, the present exists based on the past, but Azuma places an emphasis on not being reminded of past experiences but on trying to find current relevance from history even, using violent methods to do so. Azuma’s installation, which had been created by combining a pine tree and a bamboo sapling, evoked for us a real fierce impression of the materials themselves without giving us any nostalgic image of them.

     Indeed, some viewers would have been familiar with the scenes in Fukuoka that were shown on the screen since this exhibition was actually held in Fukuoka, but it would be truly regretful if they believed Azuma’s works were intended to represent his nostalgic feeling, as I did when I first saw them. Let me rephrase as follows. Staying away from past memories and experiences while cherishing them - this is exactly what generates the firm intense image of Azuma’s works.
(Translated by Nozomi Nakayama)

“Flowers for Praying - Base Point of Makoto Azuma”, written by Satoshi Koganezawa, http://www.kalons.net/e/interview/articles_649.html
Last Updated on October 24 2015

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