21st Biennale of Sydney (2018)
SUPERPOSITION: Equilibrium & Engagement
Artistic Director: Mami Kataoka
Yukinori Yanagi explores fundamental questions of human existence through site-specific installations that negotiate a diverse range of media. Interested in questions of identity, both on a social and national scale, many of Yanagi’s earlier works have examined individuality and the ways we are defined by constructs such as class, gender and ethnicity. More recently, his increasingly ambitious, large-scale installations pose questions that relate to the consequences of technological advancement and globalisation.
At Cockatoo Island, Yanagi exhibits a series of three interconnected artworks that investigate industrialisation and progress in a time of global capitalism.
In the Turbine Hall, Icarus Container, 2018, takes the form of a labyrinth of shipping containers repurposed by the artist to represent global networks of distribution. Inside the linked containers a series of mirrors reflect the sky and a video projection featuring a burning sun; a reference to the development of nuclear technology. Each mirror features text drawn from Yukio Mishima’s poem, ICARUS, which concludes F-104, the epilogue of his 1969 collection of essays titled ‘Sun and Steel: Art, Action and Ritual Death’. In F-104 Mishima describes the experience of ascending high into the sky in an F-104 Starfighter, a single-engine supersonic aircraft.
Continuing his investigation into the development of nuclear technology, Yukinori Yanagi’s video installation Landscape with an Eye, 2018, features an enormous eye floating suspended in space. Gazing into the iris, the viewer is presented with archival film footage depicting the violence of nuclear tests conducted at different sites in the Pacific Ocean including Bikini Atoll, Enewetak Atoll and Mururoa Atoll, from 1946 to 1996.
Yanagi’s third work, Absolute Dud is a one-tonne iron replica of Little Boy, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 during World War II. More than 300 nuclear explosions occurred in the Pacific Ocean region between 1945 and 1996, commencing with Little Boy and concluding with Xouthos, a nuclear test at Fangataufa Atoll at 11.29 am on 27 January 1996. Suspended from the ceiling of the former Rectifier Room, the ominous shape provides a haunting, physical reminder of the ultimate consequences of war and the misuse of power in the name of progress.