Yokohama Triennale 2017: “Islands, Constellations, & Galapagos”

Yokohama Museum of Art
3-4-1, Minatomirai, Nishi-Ku
August 4, 2017–November 5, 2017

Yokohama Port Opening Memorial Hall
1-6 Hon-cho, Naka-ku, Yokohama City, Kanagawa
August 4–November 5

Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse No.1
〒231-0001 Kanagawa-ken, Yokohama-shi, Naka-ku, Shinkō, 一丁目1
August 4–November 5

The Propeller Group, AK-47 vs. M16, 2015, fragments of AK-47 and M16 bullets, ballistics gel, vitrine, single-channel digital video. Installation view, 2017.

With thirty-eight artists and two collectives represented, the 2017 Yokohama Triennale is kitted out in cheap plywood scaffolding and furniture, courtesy of architect Teppei Fujiwara, in aid of its mission to tackle flotsam, jetsam, and aftermath. The show holds all this up as if to query whether, in a future comprising a bit of land, some people, and quite a lot of ocean and trash, we might want to prepare ourselves ahead of time and learn how to read today’s excess and tragedy to anticipate tomorrow’s reality and refuse.

Reappearances and returns make a strong case here for a circulation that fosters less redundancy and more contextual elaboration. The collective Don’t Follow the Wind, whose inaccessible, Fukushima-based 2015 group exhibition has been written about before in these pages, is now made accessible via A Walk in Fukushima, 2016–17, a 360-degree video experience of what has been, since the 2011 nuclear-plant disaster, an uninhabitable area, with crafty headsets made in collaboration with artist Bontaro Dokuyama and three generations of a Japanese family who live in a zone deemed “safe to live” by the government but still subject to restrictions due to its proximity to a radioactive locale. Fresh off its turn in the 2017 Whitney Biennial, Tuan Andrew Nguyen’s video The Island, 2017, shows up next to an array of works by the Propeller Group, a collective of which Nguyen is a principal member (a context that American audiences might have benefitted from knowing about). The Group offers AK-47 vs. M16, 2015: fragments of bullets from both weapons encased in ballistics gel, protected by a vitrine, as well as a digital video of the same and a surreal series from 2013 of oil- and embroidery-on-canvas portraits of Lenin as various Leonardo DiCaprio–played characters in Hollywood studio pictures of recent vintage.

Artworks are shot through real-life channels and media streams, taking damage and inflection as they pass on. See Japanese artist Mr.’s anime-girl—a superior technology if there ever was one—installation extravaganza My Apologies, 2017, which brings out the latent apocalyptic timbre of a shy geek’s fantasy, complete with a Giacometti-esque statue of a kawaii miss. Ai Weiwei (I know, I know) puts in his two cents via Safe Passage, 2016, two columns wrapped with life jackets—recovered from actual refugees fleeing regional destabilization, though whether the items hail from the successfully emigrated or the lost at sea seems intentionally ambiguous—looming outside a large window of the Yokohama Museum, perhaps the most drastic image of recycling attempted in a triennial yet.

Paige K. Bradley