Artist installs with materials from Tokyo Bay reclamation

On any number of sites overlooking Tokyo Bay you feel like you are standing at the beginning of time. The land is virgin and full of mystery. As reclaimed land, it is really the only new space in town. Initially it appears as natural as the breezes that blow and the wild grasses that away. But soon there is the realization that the entire sweep is construction filled with garbage in a continuous pour from the discards of society. Both the paradox and the setting open the window on exploration. The journey is for the mind and the senses. One artist who works on both is Tokio Maruyama. He uses installation, objets d'art and photographs in his latest show, "Tokio Maruyama Exhibition: Tochi no Kei," or the system of land, at Gallery Lunami Ginza, Tokyo, from February 27 to March 4.

I have followed his exhibitions since 1983. That year he went deep into the urban jungle of Tokyo to gather what he wanted. The results he placed in holes in panels over four walls. It was a presentation on a macro-scale that considered the total environment in which we strangely crowd in order to live. In each hole was a specific reference to life at the macro-level. Each was an objet. With Maruyama these come flesh and handpicked in an aesthetic zip code of color, form and texture; full of delicacy and refinement. They are not out of the pristine and formalistic living tradition, but the unexpected. They are the day- to-day ordinary: a simple and eloquent sampling of plastic, tin, glass, fabric and paper. All of it is from the ground, including the dirt itself. Maruyama's eye is as sharp as any antique collector's who sifts treasure of vast wealth from mediocrity. But Maruyama's sense of the exquisite reaches beyond the market place. It measures value in human terms. It relates to life and the environment.

Therefore, his objets are much more than decoration; they attract the eye but they are cameos for consideration and reflection. The way he works is to select a site to visit and search in order to present the results of his find. He calls these exercises his "field" work. They are the work of the urban anthropologist. Maruyama is a new breed --- he is an anthropologist. For his latest show he puts the focus on land related to rivers. For the fieldwork he visited wedges of reclamation on Tokyo Bay. The collection of what he found comes from Wakasu, at the mouth of the Arakawa River, and a mud patch at the head of the Tamagawa River. He presents this the micro-perspective and encourages the viewer to refer to the macro-scale. To do this he has installed 13 "sites" that vary in size.

The viewer steps up to carry out a site inspection. In some instances it is necessary to peer in through a grid of holes in order to scrutinize the contents. What is attractive about Maruyama's work is that one goes in first with the eyes but discovers in the process the nose, the ear, the skin. He also awakens our unseen eye, the third one on order dimensions to life and particularly the fourth dimension: time. He wants us to see the time flow, the transition in life, its continuity. He is interested in the fact that nothing is permanent, everything is subject to change in the cycles of birth, decomposition and revitalization. The impact of the process shows up in his code of color, form and texture, enrichened by chemical reaction, friction, exposure, the water worn, sunscorched cycles and aging, fading and discoloration.

Maruyama's consideration of time flow is not only relevant to past, but to the "future factor" as he calls it. Newly reclaimed land like a playing field, even and flat, will only change in a matter of time; hours, days, months. It will acquire new features. A new road or a building will be constructed, and both space and time will in some way be altered as a result. These events will reopen another chain in the endless cycles of change.

25. Feb. 1989 The Japan Times Weekly

HomemaruyamaCopyright (c) MARUYAMA Tokio. All rights reserved.