Art Installations Unfolded at 8Shrines and Temples in Nara

From September 3 to October 23

The introduction of Buddhism to Japan brought along with it the introduction of academic, philosophical and social systems, having great influence on Japanese culture.
The project will see the installation of artworks at Nara’s shrines and temples, the symbols of the most internationally opened period in Japanese history, by well-known artists from countries which visited Japan.

Todaiji Temple / Cai Guo-Qiang (China) Now exhibiting

  • Artist: Cai Guo-Qiang (China)
    Todaiji Temple is known for its Rushana Buddha statue (Great Buddha, national treasure), a project that took the full-scale effort by the then government and Kondo (Colossal Hall of the Great Buddha, national treasure), which is one of the largest wooden buildings in the world. The artwork is exhibited on the Kagami-ike Pond, which is substituting for the ocean. The pond is located between Nandaimon (south gate), which was revived by Chinese technology during the Kamakura Period (13th century) and the Colossal Hall).
  • Ships are the symbol of cultural exchange through oceans. The traditional style ship which sailed on the East Asian ocean was publically built by 10 ship carpenters from China. The completed ship is exhibited as the symbol of “Culture City of East Asia 2016, Nara”.

Kasugataisha Shrine / SISYU+teamLab (Japan)

  • Artist: SISYU+teamLab (Japan)
    Kasuga Shrine is celebrating the 60th transfer of a deity to a new shrine building, a reconstruction of the main shrine building, conducted once every 20 years. The artwork will be exhibited in the Chakutoden Pavilion (important cultural property) where the “Chakuto-no-gi” (arrival ceremony) is held prior to the ceremony celebrating the visit of the imperial envoy at the main shrine at the time of the Kasuga Festival in March.
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    Story of the Time when Gods were Everywhere
    Letters projected on the screens change their form into the shapes each letter means when one touches them, and living things start to move. It is an interactive artwork related to Nara.

Kohfukuji Temple / Sahand Hesamiyan (Iran)

  • Artist: Sahand Hesamiyan (Iran)
    Kohfukuji Temple originated from Yamashina Temple which was built in 669. In the summer to autumn 2016, two national treasures, the 5-story pagoda and the 3-story pagoda, which are also the symbols of the communities of Nara, will open their doors at the same time for the first time in history. The work will be exhibited near the 3-story pagoda.
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    Forough: Brightness
    Sahand Hesamiyan has been working for years to combine historical ornamental motifs of the mid-West with Modernist’s ideal of abstraction and simplicity from the Western world.  In the Biennale of Venice in 2015, the artist exhibited a large sculpture which may remind viewers of a flower blossom.  For the work for Kohfukuji, the artist is presenting a lotus motif which is sharing a popularity in many countries, such as Egypt, Iran (Persia), or China along the silk-road, and imported from China to Japan along with Buddhism.

Gangoji Temple / Kimsooja (South Korea)

  • Artist: Kimsooja (South Korea)
    Gangoji Temple was separated from the oldest temple founded in Japan in the 6th century, Asuka-dera Temple, when the capital moved to Heijo. It is well-known that roof tiles from the Asuka Period (6th century) are still used for the main shrine (Gokuraku-do) and Zen-shitsu (meditation chamber, national treasure). The artwork will be exhibited at 2 locations; in the sitting room of Shoshibo (prefectural designated cultural asset) and at Ishibutai (a stone stage).
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    One of the leading artist from East Asian countries, Kimsooja has considered the theme of the work imagining of the beginning of the universe.  Based on the traditional thoughts of “yin and yang”(light and shadow) shared among East Asian countries, the artist focused on the “time”  which Gangoji Temple has experienced since the long history of Nara Period in the 8th Century. Through the artwork for the temple, by seeing what we are able to see today, viewers may imagine of landscapes and memories which have already disappeared in the history.

Daianji Temple / Tadashi Kawamata (Japan)

  • Artist: Tadashi Kawamata (Japan)
    Daianji Temple was originally Daikandaiji Temple, which was the head of Kanji Temples (state-sponsored temples) having its roots to Kumagori dojo (learning place) founded by Prince Shotoku in 7th century. At its peak time, it was called Nandaiji Temple and had large scale monastery as a general university with 889 learning monks. The work will be exhibited around the remains of the tower in rice paddies.
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    Tower of scaffolding
    He is exhibiting his work at the area neighboring the remains of a huge 7-story pagoda that runs from east to west, where ruins investigators assume it stood. Using the scaffold log technique, which has been handed down at the restoration sites of cultural assets, the artist has produced a contemporary tower, reminiscent of the previous one.

Yakushiji Temple / Shilpa Gupta (India)

  • Artist: Shilpa Gupta (India)
    Yakushiji Temple was built as Emperor Tenmu prayed for the recovery of his wife from illness, who later became Empress Jito. When the capital was transferred to Heijo-kyo in 710, the temple was moved from Fujiwara-kyo (current Kashihara City) to its present location. In the venue, there are the East tower (national treasure, currently dismantled and under repair) was built in Nara Period in Hakuho Style and Toindo (national treasure),which was during the Kamakura Period (13th century).
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    Shilpa Gupta is the leading figure in Contemporary Art scene in India which is becoming highly focused today.  For the work for Nara, the artist has considered a long history of cultural transportation and transformation of Buddhism which has originated in the artist’s country to finally arrive 1000 years later in Japan.  By walking through the temple to find and interact with the work, viewers will also lead to rediscover the temple.

Toshodaiji Temple / Diana Al-Hadid (Syria)

  • Artist: Diana Al-Hadid (Syria)
    Toshodaiji Temple was founded by Ganjin, a Chinese priest as a temple to learn the precepts of Buddhism. It has many buildings from the Nara Period including Kondo (Main Hall, national treasure) and they bring the winds of Tenpyo (8th century). The work will be exhibited at the pond worshipping the dragon god, said to have been created by Ganjin.
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    As found from the life and history of Jiàn Zhēn, the founder of Toshodaiji Temple, people had to overcome many difficulties, crossing mountains and ocean, transporting culture from one place to another in old period.  Through years of centuries, there must have been many stories of people already faded away from our memories.  Diana Al-Hadid working in the U.S., who has immigrated from Syria in her childhood, is working with large installations and sculpture which would remind viewers of stories behind the work.  Her work for Nara is based on Western tapestry from the middle age.  Viewers may be able to feel layers of stories and culture of people transporting the motif and its meaning from one end of the world to another.  

Saidaiji Temple / Ayşe Erkmen (Turkey)

  • Artist: Ayşe Erkmen (Turkey)
    Saidaiji Temple was founded at the wish of Emperor Shotoku. The temple had grand buildings which was comparable to Todaiji Temple in the Nara Period, but many were lost in repeated fires. The current buildings are from the mid-Edo Period. The work will be exhibited in the area surrounding Chashitsu Rokusouan, located what was once the site of the West Tower during the Nara Period and the pond.
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    Past work: PlanB, 2011, 54th Venice Biennial
    Seeing the pond in Saidaiji Temple as a symbol of the Eastern end of the silk-road in the old times, the artist creates a Western style swimming pool next to the pond. Invited from Turkey, old capital area of Eastern Roman Empire located on the opposite Western rim of the old silk-road, the artist connects the pool with the pond with pipes, circulating and purifying its water. This mechanical device is also visually one of the main part of the work. Through the work, viewers may able to imagine of the cultural exchange between the West and the East, and discover the interesting combination of the tradition and modern technology.