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A work by 1234 Collective member Fujiwara Satsuki. Photo supplied
A work by 1234 Collective member Fujiwara Satsuki. Photo supplied

Neo-digital Japanese art comes to Siem Reap

A radical rejection of Japanese norms of culture and design, the 1234 Collective’s show offers a futuristic, and often comical, look at outsider culture.

This week, Peddy Pot and Higo Soma, two artists from Japan, will journey to Siem Reap to showcase the work of the 1234 Collective. Comprising four artists, including Soma and Pot, the graphic art collective’s name is a play on the use of “1234” as a Japanese slang word for “crazy”.

Their work takes aim at several pillars of Japanese society – the business culture of overwork, as well as the artistic notion of Gendai Shogyo Bijutsu Zenshu, or “The Complete Commercial Artist”: a graphic design template coined in a seminal guide written in the late 1920s. The concept for the artists represents the “domineering powers of commercialism and product design”.

In Exploring Phantasmagoria, the artists explore questions surrounding technology and the social implications of artificial intelligence.

According to Oona Hoon, the assistant archivist at the 1961 Gallery, the collective depicts a new generation of youth immersed in technology, where “youths live their lives online, in game worlds, science fiction and fantasy, rarely talking to other humans in the flesh”.

“This culture is often called hikikomori in Japanese, which refers to a form of antisocial psychosis,” she explains.“It is the antithesis to the typical ‘salaryman’ identity of Japan, where it is viewed as honourable to stay in an office job working long hours and remaining loyal to the company for the duration of one’s career.”

It was artist Peddy Pot, in between design jobs and in a state of despondence, who sought out The 1961 Gallery. At the time, he was travelling throughout the region to showcase works that ended up being included in the Busan International Design Festival last month.

A piece by graphic designer Higo Soma. Photo supplied
A piece by graphic designer Higo Soma. Photo supplied

From humble beginnings, Pot finished art school and explored his options to show his work internationally. The opportunity arose to work with two other members – Prog666 and Fujiwara Satsuki – and the decision to come to Cambodia was made. Later, Higo Soma joined the group as the fourth member.

“Creating this exhibition was tough and challenging but all of the pieces have integrity and a powerful story to tell,” Pot says.

Pot creates colourful collages, and in this exhibition, his subject is a series of watching eyes. Also using collage, Prog666 often explores the irreparable environmental damage caused by industrialised agricultural. Perhaps the most controversial of the four is artist Fujiwara Satsuki. The only woman in the group, her artwork is also the most erotic, conveying a mix of humour and perversion, while riffing off of themes of Japanese hentai. Meanwhile, graphic designer Higo Soma has created a series called Serena, the Italian word for “serene”, and depicts elegant geometric designs with a variety of animal and human subjects.

For archivist Hoon, the exhibition is an opportunity for the audience to enter an unfamiliar universe, and in doing so, to examine their own preconceptions.

“The artists invite the viewer into their world but also to consider the norms and cultural challenges of the viewer themselves,” she says.

Exploring Phantasmagoria opens at 1961 Gallery at 211 Osaphear Street, Siem Reap at 8pm on Sunday and will run until February 14.

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