The Mori Art Museum in Roppongi is not yet two years old but the two new Mori shows that opened last weekend — “The Elegance of Silence: Contemporary Art from East Asia” and “The World is a Stage: Stories Behind Pictures” — suggest a space now comfortable with its potential and its limitations.

“Silence” features work in a variety of media by 26 artists from Japan, South Korea, China and Taiwan. As the title suggests, it takes as its point of departure an apparent cliche about East Asia, that image of Zen and minimalism found in the Western imagination but not in the streets of Tokyo or Seoul.

The first room of “Silence” is about as good a display as you are going to see in any museum. Replete with art, the atmosphere nonetheless remains light, the pieces complementing one another with uncommon effect. It turns out the Mori did the layout of the room and this show according to the principles of feng shui, the 3,000-year-old Chinese art of arranging toward an invisible and elusive harmony.

What I particularly enjoyed here was Yoo Seung Ho’s work, which resembles ink-on-paper landscapes in the Chinese style, but on close inspection is seen to be composed of thousands of tiny letters and characters that spell out their own, apparently incongruous, messages. Also treating old art is Whang Inkie, who uses new digital technology to lend a ’70s disco look to scans of traditional Korean landscape paintings — quite striking.

Bringing much of the lightness to this room is a hanging fabric reconstruction of a wall from Suh Do Ho’s family home. (We saw Suh just a couple of months back at the Hermes gallery in Ginza.) Shon Jeung Eun’s countless plastic drinking cups occupy much of the floor space, bringing more transparency as they surround the artist’s artificial forest island.

Nearby, Cho Duck Hyun’s 14 fiber-reinforced plastic dog behinds provide a heavy note of dissonance, these from one of the mock “excavation” projects the artist has documented.

The second room of “Silence” concerns interiors, and although it can at times look too much like a furniture showroom, there are plenty of good moments: For example, Akira Yamaguchi’s charming one-tatami-mat portable tea ceremony room, this slapped together with cheap plastic and cardboard, and Yoshitomo Nara’s big peer-in crates, which see the artist continuing to develop the presentation of his leitmotif — impish kids.

Also fun here is Jin Ham’s life-size white-tiled bathroom, complete with sink and toilet. Visitors can enter and, using a magnifying glass, hunt for the insectlike creatures Ham has hidden on the walls, on a tube of toothpaste, and so on.

The companion exhibition, “Stories Behind Pictures,” explores the stories the participating artists communicate through their mostly photographic and video works. This is a thought-provoking show. It starts with the Jeff Wall-meets-David Lynch staged photographs by Gregory Crewdson, these both amusing and unsettling, and in total features work from 14 (mostly Western) artists.

Tracey Moffatt’s highly stylized comic book-like photographic panels revisit the television shows she took refuge in during her troubled childhood; and Karin Yasinsky has a mysterious claymation video that sees a couple of frightened airline passengers being comforted by a flight attendant. Motohiko Odani, meanwhile, continues to impress, here with a two-channel black-and-white video installation, which features, on one screen, a storm-wrecked farmhouse, and on the other a mangy CG dog, presumably inside the same farmhouse. The dog endlessly circles the room in a manner both lonely and desperate.

I think my favorite piece in either show is Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler’s “Single Wide.” This is a six-minute single-channel video, with one long Steadicam shot of a woman and a trailer house in Texas. The woman is walking through the home, distraught. She sits before a mirror, examines the cut on her forehead, the phone rings, she ignores it and walks outside, gets into her pickup truck, screams and pounds the steering wheel, then hits the accelerator and rams her way through an exterior wall into the kitchen.

Startled, she climbs out, walks through the home to sit before a mirror and examine the cut on her forehead, the phone rings and the cycle seamlessly continues.

This piece is, I think, the best answer yet to a very real problem with showing narrative video art in museums — the “when did it start and when does it end?” syndrome. Not knowing where one has joined a video loop can be frustrating for museum-goers, but because “Single Wide” has no beginning and no end (and yet it does have a cathartic moment), it tells a compelling story that works for the viewer, regardless of when they enter the projection room. The interpretation of this work, that is, whether one sees, for example, the pickup truck as a male symbol co-opted by the woman who smashes into the kitchen that symbolizes her role as a trailer-park housewife; or whether one feels instead a general sense of underclass alienation, is determined in part by when one starts watching — that is, by chance. This is an excellent video and, overall, a superior pair of shows with a wide range of talent making good use of the Mori’s space.

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