I was lucky enough to attend the preview of Super Ukiyoe – The Edo Code. The exhibition is far from your typical art exhibit where you look at stationary art in a room. It’s a vivid and interactive experience where you are taken through a journey to uncover the secrets of this fascinating art form.
The fusion of technology with traditional art forms has boomed recently. Artificial Intelligence is being used to create music. Wearable technology is being used in fashion to project images and video on to high end clothing. And now huge animated art installations take the beauty of Ukiyoe to a whole new level. You start your journey in the very location of the exhibit – Nihombashi, but not as you know it. This is the trendy Nihombashi capture hundreds of years ago. You can walk across the bridge and feel like you’re in the painting, stepping into the mysterious world of Ukiyoe.
Just like how we use social media these days to discuss the latest trends, news and gossip – Ukiyoe was the Instagram of its time. Famous actors, fashion trends and scandalous secrets were captured through the art form. There are many rooms to explore. Early on you can see a large animated screen depicting fashionable kimono of the time, in many colours, patterns and sceneries. In one room, you can explore the layers that make up a piece of Ukiyoe art – it’s definitely more complicated than it seems! Another wall exhibit shows two seemingly different artworks – but if you pay attention to the detail, you can see one is from a balcony picturing exactly the same road from a different angle! One of my favourite rooms is the ‘Ikemen’ room – where handsome Kabuki actors, the Ryan Reynolds of the Edo period, are all displayed on flickering screens.
But by far my favourite room had to be the Hokusai waves installation. Hokusai’s ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’ has long since been a symbol of Japan – and one of the famous images foreigners will know when they think of Japan. These days having large scale Hokusai prints in your house is also quite trendy. The animated installation shows not only the waves but the impressive Mount Fuji in the background. You can experience the build up to the storm with many fish and other creatures… including a ghost (Obake) that only appears at certain times, so see if you can spot it! You can also feel like you are part of the foreground, by carrying some fish or squid! For those who are interested in the scarier aspects of Ukiyoe, you’ll love the Obake room, where various depictions of these mysterious and frightening creatures are displayed. Don’t get caught out by the Obake who has come to life in the final room… complete with sound effects!
Super Ukiyoe truly does live up to what I expected – it was super! Afterwards you really feel that you’ve learnt something interesting and relatively unknown through such innovative technology. I would highly recommend it. The exhibition runs until May so if you’ve got a trip to Tokyo planned definitely fit it into your itinerary.
Super Ukiyo-e “Edo no Himitsu” Ten (スーパー浮世絵『江戸の秘密』展)
Exhibition dates: Saturday 28th January 2017 〜 Sunday 21st May 2017
Venue: Nihombashi Kayabacho Tokusetsu Kaijo ー 日本橋茅場町「特設会場」
Super Ukiyo-e “Edo no Himitsu” Ten official website: https://superukiyoe.com
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