Japanese artist Kengo Kito’s installations are contemporary in their materials, forms and scale, but some of the concepts they explore relate to ideas rooted in Japanese traditional culture. In particular, the lines, circles and space in his hula hoop installations echo concepts that are important in Zen Buddhist teachings and practice. Contemporary Japanese art historian Miwako Tezuka and Zen Buddhism scholar Duncan Williams discuss the affinity between Kengo Kito’s hula hoop installations and traditional ideas found in Zen Buddhist art and philosophy and how both contemporary art and Zen Buddhism can offer us ways to experience and understand the world more deeply.
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Dr. Miwako Tezuka is Associate Director of Reversible Destiny Foundation, a progressive artist foundation in New York established by Arakawa and Madeline Gins. Previously, she was Gallery Director of Japan Society in New York (2012–15) and Curator of Contemporary Art at Asia Society Museum in New York (2005–12). She is also active as an independent curator and her current curatorial projects include the 2022 Hawai’i Triennial.
She has curated numerous exhibitions; on Maya Lin, Robert Indiana, Ikeda Manabu, Tenmyouya Hisashi, teamLab, Mariko Mori, U-Ram Choe, Yang Fudong, Chen Chieh-jen, among many others. She has also co-curated a ground-breaking exhibition Yoshitomo Nara: Nobody’s Fool at Asia Society Museum in 2010. Tezuka holds a doctorate in postwar Japanese art history from Columbia University, and is Co-Director of PoNJA-GenKon (Post Nineteen forty-five Japanese Art Discussion Group-Gendai bijutsu kondan-kai), a global online network of post-1945 Japanese art scholars and curators.
Duncan Ryuken Williams was born in Tokyo, Japan to a Japanese mother and British father. After growing up in Japan and England until age 17, he moved to the U.S. to attend college (Reed College) and graduate school (Harvard University, where he received a Ph.D. in Religion). Williams is currently Professor of Religion and East Asian Languages & Cultures and the Director of the USC Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture. Previously, he held the Shinjo Ito Distinguished Chair of Japanese Buddhism at UC Berkeley and served as the Director of Berkeley's Center for Japanese Studies for four years.
Williams has also been ordained since 1993 as a Buddhist priest in the Soto Zen tradition and served as the Buddhist chaplain at Harvard University from 1994-96. He is the author The Other Side of Zen: A Social History of Soto Zen Buddhism in Tokugawa Japan (Princeton University Press, 2005) and American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War (Harvard University Press, 2019). He is also the editor/co-editor of seven volumes including Hapa Japan (Kaya Press, 2017), Issei Buddhism in the Americas (U-Illinois Press, 2010), American Buddhism (Routledge/Curzon Press, 1998), and Buddhism and Ecology (Harvard University Press, 1997).
RECONNECTING: A Vision of Unity by Kengo Kito
Faced with unprecedented challenges this past year, people have been yearning to reconnect with families, friends, and communities. In his first U.S. hula hoops exhibition, Japanese artist Kengo Kito – known for repurposing everyday objects into conceptual art installations – uses hula hoops to create a unified structure, symbolizing the interconnectedness of humanity.
06.16.2021 (Wed.) - 09.06.2021 (Mon.)
JAPAN HOUSE Gallery, Level 2