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Aya Takano explores the post-apocalyptic future with her fascinating digital art piece, "The World After 800000000 Years", hosted by MOCA.
Aya Takano's latest project at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) called "The World After 800000000 Years" cannot be found on the walls of any of its four locations. Instead you must visit their website to view her digital artwork from your very own computer.
"800000000 Years" is a digital playground where a girl named Yona lives in post-apocalyptic times. Takano's work is featured under MOCA's "digital gallery" section. After clicking on her link, one will be lead to a portrait of Yona who stands center stage, blinking, hands akimbo, a white bird on her head. In the background is a landscape of two mountains full of windows. In this portrait, the viewer is intended to move their mouse around the portrait to reveal the different links. Some will release tunes, some will move Yona, some will display text passages, and some will lead to other art pieces which will further the experience. The links are not obvious, but fun or frustrating to discover as it sometimes feels like a video game.
The style in her art is typical of Takano as seen in her mangas, Japanese comics, such as "Spaceship EE." Similarily,Yona, appears to have a pre-pubescent body although she ages to be past 80. Yona has a typical cute face with large eyes and no nose. Proportionally, Yona always looks like a young girl even when her hair becomes gray.
Takano has established her style under Takashi Murakami's supervision as a member of the art group, Hiropon Factory. (Murakami, a renowned Japanese artist, is best known in American culture as the Japanese artist who helped Marc Jacobs design the new, coveted Louis Vuitton bags which showcase his trademark smiling flowers and eyeballs with long eyelashes.)
This is not the first time Takano has shown her work at MOCA. Takashi Murakami had premiered "Superflat" in 2001 at MOCA where Takano was one of the featured artists. "Superflat," a word coined by Murakami is a philosophy that is also shown in Takano's latest work. Murakami sees the transition from a traditional Japanese culture to a current obsession with mass consumerism as a process of flattening. Also, Takano's aesthetic has a two dimensional quality, a forthright flatness in her art. It combines techniques of mass production and media manipulation, which is especially appropriate considering it is shown over the internet.
While Takano's art is very appealing and striking in its images, it is confounded by the text attached. The text often is distracting in their grammatical mistakes and nonsensical sentences. Such mistakes as misspellings of "fashion" are not nearly as distracting as trying to decipher certain sentences: "However, the follows the way of the evolution [word obscured by image]. Curious things were done, and it evolved even to the creature who was about the same as the human being of the spider present."
The whole experience is a puzzle that is more puzzling than it should be. A puzzle that does not have a direct ending or point. It is at one turn a fascinating anthropological portrait as to how life will be similar and different from the present -- such information as, we will store food on our head and travel by unicycles, is imaginative and inventive. However, while other elements feel more deliberate and perhaps clever, such as a link to Yahoo in Japanese, if you do not understand Japanese, its function is lost on you.
It is hard to discern what Takano's true intention is with this piece other than telling a story about Yona and the future. Most interesting about Takano's presentation is the interaction between viewer and art piece. Unlike paintings or sculptures where the artist is responsible for the museum-goer's view, with "800000000 Years" the viewer is solely responsible for his/her own view of the art, literally. Takano forces the viewer to work hard to find new links, to maintain their patience as she sometimes fools the viewer to return to the beginning. Given that the internet allows mass access to the art piece, perhaps Takano makes the viewer work so hard to weed out viewers who will not truly appreciate her work. If the viewer misses a link, they will miss part of the art and not experience Takano's entire vision. Time also has a strange element to her work as it is non-linear and cyclical. Like the symbol of the unicyle's wheel, viewers begin with an anticipation of the future and end discovering Yona became the ancestor to a new civilization. Perhaps the opening portrait reveals this, but one is never certain. Several links take the viewer back to the same place, so the viewer's time there is also cyclical.
Overall, Takano's piece is fascinating, but enigmatic and cryptic. It feels like a strange, vivid dream where the images are whimsical and unforgettable, but one is left trying to figure out what it all means.
View Aya Takano's digital gallery here.
Date Posted: 2/6/2004