Nanzuka Gallery
Closes in 4 days

With all the development, consumption and sheer movement in Tokyo, it is hard to believe a few large jolts from the earth could bring this city to a standstill. If a magnitude 7 quake hit Tokyo, it has been said, 11,000 people would die, thousands more would be injured and 39,000 vending machines would fall over. Thus earthquakes are like giant white elephants in the room — lived with but never discussed.

At Nanzuka Gallery (www.nug.jp), though, Naohiro Ukawa is promoting discussion with his exhibition “A Series of Interpreted Catharsis #2.” For him, tremblors may destroy but they equally provide society with a chance to “erase and reset” its aspirations.

In Ukawa’s eyes, society’s obsession with shopping needs to be re-evaluated. Through serialized photos, he attempts to do this by re-creating imagined scenes from past quakes. By presenting us with what might have happened inside two imagined interiors — a cluttered living room and a playfully stereotypical office (complete with sexual tension), Ukawa hints at the superficiality of consumption-driven lifestyles. In a few large jolts, precious junk and objects of personal identity are turned into mere detritus. Gameboys, Dior handbags and carefully selected books all become pointless as their owners dive for cover.

Ukawa’s point of view may not be unique, but his media-savvy treatment makes this show refreshingly hip. Through a photographic style that is more orientated toward magazines than art — think Italian Vogue — Ukawa speaks cleverly to the younger generation in their own cultural language. Will this show stop them shopping? It’s hard to say, but for a moment at least it’s sure to make them think.

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