From Inujima onward to Oshika Peninsula and Tokyo:
Kohei Nawa's "Forms of New Life"
"From the Archives" is a blog series which presents archive records from Benesse Art Site Naoshima, in operation since the 1980s. In this article, we will be introducing Kohei Nawa's Biota (Fauna/Flora) (2013), which is open to the public at F-Art House of the Inujima "Art House Project." We will also look at how this work developed into further works by Nawa that are now on display in various locations around Japan.
Inujima "Art House Project" is based in the local area of Inujima in Okayama Prefecture. With Yuko Hasegawa as its artistic director and Kazuyo Sejima as its architect, the project exhibits the works of various artists with a focus around five galleries and the "Former site of a stonecutter's house." Hasegawa directed the experience of enjoying the island scenery while visiting the project's scattered works to resemble a series of stories. The theme of the stories is the "Togenkyo", which is used to name something common to everyday life, but unique and full of richness. The theme of the project contains the hope that visitors will be able to "experience the beauty of the everyday and feel the nature that exists just beyond the artworks."
The first gallery--the F-Art House--exhibits Nawa's Biota (Fauna/Flora), which plays the role of "Big Bang: Birth of Life" in the story series. The term "biota" refers to all the organisms that inhabit a particular region, including its "fauna" and "flora." Nawa's exhibit features a dynamic arrangement of multiple works throughout the F-Art House and its courtyards. The work includes objects resembling fauna and flora and sculptures with surfaces made of a multitude of materials. With a backdrop of the environment of Inujima, Nawa presented the forms of new life.
In 2013, when the work was released, Nawa said the following about the influence that his work on Inujima had on him.
"I think that, by creating this work, I was able to connect the various things inside of me and find a path to what I should do next." (August 21, 2013, Inujima Artist Talk)
As Nawa then stated, works evolved from Biota (Fauna/Flora) have been developed and exhibited in various locations.
His work White Deer (Oshika) was exhibited in 2017 at the Reborn-Art Festival that was held at Oginohama on the Oshika Peninsula, which is part of Miyagi Prefecture's Ishinomaki city. The motif of the work is the deer, a motif that also appears in Nawa's work at Inujima. Since ancient times, deer in Japan have been considered as messengers of God. However, in recent years, the number of deer in Japan has grown. The deer that sometimes appear in areas of human habitation are called "lost deer." Nawa created a story of how such a "lost deer" leaves its place of origin in Inujima and wanders to Tokyo before finally arriving at the Oshika Peninsula. The deer is a permanent installation that symbolizes a wish for recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake. Looking up at the distant sky, it faces Inujima, the starting point of its trip.
In April 2021, Nawa released his exhibition "Metamorphosis Garden" at the GINZA SIX shopping complex in Chuo-ku, Tokyo. Built on the foundation of his Inujima work, the exhibition--suspended in the complex's atrium space--contains sculpture groupings that feature subjects ranging from irregular islands and water droplets to life-symbolizing "Ether" and "Trans-Deer." For the exhibition, Nawa also produced an AR performance in collaboration with the Belgian choreographer and dancer Damien Jalet.* Viewers can hold up a smartphone app to a physical sculpture to reveal an overlapping AR image that transforms its appearance. The spread of COVID-19 led Nawa to rethink what it was he should create. He further developed the theme of "forms of new life" used in Inujima to express a world not centered around humans, where life and substances continuously transform and coexist.
*The 2016 Inujima Performing Arts Program featured a performance titled "VESSEL" co-produced by Kohei Nawa and Damien Jalet.
Developing on his roots in Inujima, Nawa went on to produce works that reached other places. Currently, it is hard to tour Inujima due to restrictions relating to COVID-19, but we hope that you can reflect on the deer's journey and, when the time is right, visit us in Inujima.