Kunstsammlung NRW
Kim Insook, Great-grandmother and I (from the series SAIESEO: between two Koreas and Japan), 2008, Digital C print, 118 x 150 cm, Copyright MORI ART MUSEUM, all Rights Reserved.

When Exhibition Titles Awaken False Expectations.

A Visit to the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, by Cornelia Heising

What does the package tell us about its contents? When it comes to advertising art exhibitions, the same mechanisms are effective as in other sectors – but the container should promise nothing it does not actually contain. With many years of experience in the field, Cornelia Heising – who is head of Marketing for the Kunstsammlung – has a very special perspective concerning the exhibition promotion.

For #32, she shares her impressions of an exhibition – one with a potentially misleading title – she visited during a trip to Japan.

At a time when the theme of the aging of society is a perennial topic not just in Europe, but in Japan as well, an exhibition with the title Go – Betweens: The World Seen through Children can expect to elicit considerable interest. The auspicious title of this show, currently on view at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, entices visitors with the promise of seeing the world through the eyes of children.

When we enter the museum galleries, however, it immediately becomes obvious that the title promises more than the exhibition is able to provide: there is no art by children, whose perspective, as the exhibition title suggests, is supposed to be brought closer to us. Instead, internationally recognized “full-grown” children devote themselves to the theme of the “child” in his/her life situation within the family, in society, and along the boundary zone between various cultures.

It may well be that these artists’ perceptions and experiences of childhood form the basis of these works of art, guiding their hands in pictorial confrontations with various themes of youth, i.e. relationships between grandparents and grandchildren, the furnishing of children's rooms, birthday celebrations, or traumatic experiences in childhood and adolescence. But unavoidably, they interpret the point of view and sensations of children in family life, among friends, or in relation to a fateful event retrospectively, based on their experiences as adults. To be sure, children are actually interviewed in one or two videos, but here too, it is adults who determine the focus and choices about sequencing and editing.

My conclusion: with works by internationally respected artists such as Christian Boltanski (France), Nara Yoshitomo (Japan), Won Seoung Won (Korea), Fiona Tan (Indonesia), and Rineke Dijkstra (Netherlands), and featuring high levels of artistic quality, the exhibition hardly benefits by being marketed under a title that awakens expectations it cannot fulfill. Remaining afterwards was a stale aftertaste that could have been avoided through the use of a more “authentic” exhibition title.

The exhibition Go – Betweens is presented and documented in detail in English on the website of the Mori Art Museum. Dominant here as well are ‘childish’ effects, for example the luminous, multicolored elements that assemble themselves playfully to form the title in Japanese characters in the exhibition trailer. For those planning a trip to Japan, the touring exhibition Go – Betweens will be on view at subsequent venues in Nagoya, Okinawa, and Kochi, and will close in summer of 2015.


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