On Other Surfaces│1│

Table of Contents

Kurose examines the motif of the unconscious and its newly emerging imagery in contemporary art. The 55th Venice Biennale (2013) took as its theme The Encyclopedic Palace. It draws on the motif of the unconscious used to refer to the exterior of existing art while it ends in exposing its limits: that global contemporary art can only seize the unconscious through the traditional medium, that is the imagery of encyclopedia.

In contrast, the unconscious in Japanese contemporary art has often been displayed through images of war, especially the experience of defeat in World War II. As evidenced in Noi Sawaragi’s conception of Japan as a warui basho (“bad place”), using the trauma of wartime defeat as a symbol of the unconscious encloses our imagination in the isolated episteme of post-war Japan. Kurose presents examples of important post-war works that combine the representation of war with the mythical imagery of ocean (kaijo takai, an undersea world that the deceased return to). Incorporating Jungian psychologist Hayao Kawai’s analysis of the Urashima Taro myth we are able to understand the ocean (kaijo takai) and “anglers” as motifs of the unconscious in the Japanese cultural database of the representation of afterlife.