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Placeless Geography; Japanese Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale 

Author : Nafiseh Saleh Abadi

Reading Time : 3 Minutes

The 59th edition of the Venice Biennale, with more than eighty pavilions of different countries, has been running since late April 2022, displaying works by artists from all over the globe. During this biennale edition, the Japan pavilion presented an artwork by the Dumb Type, a group of Japanese artists who produce installation, video art, and performance and have exhibited their works in national and international museums and theaters. Dumb Type was founded in 1984 and, because of its members' diversity in the field of expertise, has produced interdisciplinary works ever since. Each member's background in areas like music, video art, design, and performance affects their work's basic idea and final execution.  


Dumb Type | 2022 | Installation View | Photo: Yuki Seli | © Dumb Type

The visual identity of the Japanese Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2022 is designed through the cooperation of several members: Shiro Takatani, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Ken Furudate, Satoshi Hama, Ryo Shiraki, Marihiko Hara, Hiromasa Tomari, Takuya Minami, and Yoko Takatani. The pavilion consists of a hall in which four metal stands are installed with small mirrors attached to their top. The mirrors reflect texts created with laser beams in the same room. The texts projected on the walls include answers to simple yet universal questions and are derived from a geography student book from 1850. Moreover, some voices that are actually reading the reflected red texts are played from rotating speakers placed in the hall; these are directional sound rays moving in the pavilion. In an overall look, the Japan pavilion does not have a crowded space, and more than conventional media like painting, sculpture, installation, etc., it relies on verbal and vocal variables.  

The hall's middle space in front of the walls is empty. In the center, there is a glass, window-like, empty space formed in the shape of a square which, according to the available descriptions, refers to a placeless place that does not belong anywhere and can be named as any part of the world. With this explained, we may find connections between the geographic texts on the walls and the empty, placeless space in the middle of the pavilion. The Dumb Type group has referred to their work as a "sound installation," formed by parametric speakers and lasers. During the biennale, in response to a question about their inspiring artists, the group members said, "Many artists influenced us in our 20s. Now we learn a lot from nature." 

This show generally aims to present an installation focused on the "post-truth." It refers to a society in which objective realities are replaced by personal feelings that affect public opinion. By using its diversity of artistic media, the Dumb Type group has addressed a wide range of subjects, including gender, race, illnesses, death, life, etc., since its inception in Kyoto, Japan.  


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