MONO! MONO! MONO!

Teppei Kaneuji was born in Kyoto, Japan in 1978, and graduated from the Sculpture Research Institute, Kyoto City University of Arts. He collects objects that can be seen everywhere in daily life, creates sculptures through a method similar to collage, and uses multiple media such as painting, video and photos to explore new expressions of sculpture. As a representative of the younger generation of Japanese artists, Teppei Kaneuji has exhibited his works in prominent art institutions in China and abroad. His solo exhibitions include "Melting City / Empty Fores” in Yokohama Museum of Art (2009), “Teppei Kaneuji: Towering Something” in UCCA Center for Contemporary Art (2013), “Cubed Liquid, Metallic Memory Kyoto Experiment” in Kyoto Art Center (2014), “Teppei Kaneuji's ZONES” in Marugame Geniciro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art (2016), “Symbols are not Symbols” in Ueno Royal Museum (2017) and “Eraser Forest” in 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (2020), etc.

In the thread of contemporary art, collage has long lost the avant-garde meaning of the last century, and has become a type of, what we can even call a traditional method of creation. Therefore, viewing Kaneuji's works should not look for a certain new paradigm to be established, a certain innovation, but a more personal and intuitive expression of the artist. As he says, to blur the boundaries of objects, then when everything is blurred, there is a broader sense of creative clue. These objects together are treated as rhetoric and material, and eventually they become like poetry.


"I am accustomed to wandering between binary oppositions, such as cities and suburbs, inevitability and contingency, light and shadow, plane and three-dimension, illusion and reality, etc. Sometimes I also create opportunities to blend these opposing phenomena. In this process, the originally meaningful things lose their meaning, and the meaningless things gain meaning again, and so on, until a certain moment when these tiny phenomena of opposition change, I capture a collective."

This passage exemplifies Kaneuji's ambition: the intention to eliminate all borders. Simultaneously, it is consistent with a certain lyrical quality presented in his works. Where extremism is rampant, everything is predicated on anti-intellectualism. Many advocate a simple concept of right and wrong and a violent moral stance, so they cannot be ambiguous, only black and white. Ironically, such a standard immediately failed after encountering a complicated life, and the utopia is ambiguous and dualistic. Hence, in the secular world, judging value has become a difficult issue. As a result, the meaning becomes extraordinarily important. The audience is looking for a clear meaning, afraid of being fooled. They open their eyes wide, on the verge of an explosion, whispering inquiries. Otherwise, they slide to the other extreme, walking around silently, taking pictures, and act on their wills. As for feelings, these things that cannot be appealed language or constitute clear meaning are of little importance to them. Most humans only need meaning. They need to speak loudly, and feel assured by clarifying their spoken content, as long as they deviate from what people call vague and neutral.

The essential difference between Kaneuji's collage and the avant-garde art form of the last century lies in “viewing” and “viewed” these two different tenses. Kaneuji's collage is instant, and this creative form became his choice after it has been established for decades, so he does not have a distinct slogan and manifesto, and is not as shocking as a bicycle wheel. Kaneuji's collages resemble paintings, poetry, and a type of work that bursts out of a given form. It may be a feeling, which is a type of direct communication. He avoided the circuitous and banal storytelling narrative, from one order to another, and from one dimension to another. As for those great meanings, those that can be transcribed belong to the ones that have been viewed, the past. The their meaning occurs after completion, bordering on the comparison between a film and a painting. The film needs to be viewed and the painting is always being viewed.

A 17th-century Frenchman, Spanish or Polish, can write a history-inspired poem about Roman ruins without knowing each other. Their common source can be the unknown Latin authors, or the canons like Ovid and Horace. Hence, many can face pop culture with the same confidence as they face such classicism, because communication has become faster and convenient, and many seem to share the same source of information more and more, whether it is Star Wars or Evangelion. The question is, do we still quote Odyssey and Metamorphosis as always? If we don't want to beg classics for spirits, then reconciling classics and pop will be a typical contradiction for all modern humans. Cartoon images and street graffiti can easily become another type of clichés and anecdotes. The great avant-garde movement and artists have established in the audience a form of fanaticism, a kind of optimism that leads to the future, as if art had always been like this, or even would stay like this.

The public are not regarded as participants in art, but as consumers and occupants of some negligible parts of art. They are the dominated, to be more explicit. In a business environment that promotes conformity, we are faced with cultural poverty and narrow-mindedness. Commodities full of trendy symbols confine people in a limited territory, leaving them clear and narrow passages. You come, you see, you pay the money, and you take away a piece of cotton fabric that symbolizes the completion of the ritual. These information are what you know and what the products make known to you. By contrast, only the works of art will surprise you. The mediocre model of the petty bourgeoisie, the middle class and the kitsch, from patriots, workaholics to family-happy conservatives, self-satisfied seculars, care about trivial things without caring about everything that happens around them. So you can't help but treat them without hostility, to refute the popularized general life, that is, in the hypermarket, what Flaubert said, as dull as a worm.

Flaubert also has a metaphor, saying that Amazon female warriors would cut off their breasts to facilitate the use of bows and arrows. He is probably praising a spirit of concentration and of achieving at any cost, because there is always a price, isn’t it? This analogy is becoming anachronistic, and life in the paradise of fools always requires more circles. Back to Metamorphosis, back to the original human metaphor, and back to when Daphne can become a tree, Io can become a cow, and back human again. What ended this ancient metaphor? In the simplistic judgment of modern humans, if the sinner of all is not male supremacy, then it must be environmental pollution. We seem to suppose that the metaphor of plastic is to allow Io to become a cow without being able to change back.

Plastic is the ultimate enemy of the earth, and the greatest villain is always everywhere, recurring again and again unexpectedly within our expecting sense. On the one hand, we must believe in the catastrophe of environmental pollution. Starting from a certain piece of news you read, your plastic bags and packaging boxes have all become your original sin. On the other hand, the individual suffers from the difficulty finding the basis for rebuttal. The religious would not think that God created you to make plastics, but now scientists may argue that humans are a transitional product of artificial intelligence. It's difficult to figure out the absolute answer, so I always sway between lyric poetry and skepticism. I hope that the spokespersons of baby penguins can see this plastic disaster in front of them, at least I believe that they and these plastics will not meet in the ocean they swim in.

When talking about Mallarmé, Gide said that all the poems that Mallarmé wrote were what he had wanted to write in his dreams. Therefore, while loving Mallarmé, he seemed to have never loved him, and worshiped as if he had never worshiped, so he could only "melt self on him." Is "White Discharge" such a work? Is it an affirmation and eulogy to objects? It is not difficult to guess that he was influenced by the Japanese school of Mono ha. We can also suppose a connection to "objectify objects without being objectified” in Eastern philosophy. We can even make erotic associations with the whiteness, but this cunning artist is still very vague. It seems that we are playing two sets of games simultaneously, formal and intellectual, and we cannot only know the answers without knowing the questions like the Greeks.

Let us recall that since modernism, collage has been an effective language, a form that audiences are accustomed to interpreting and understanding. Collage and ready-made products are not the same. The criticism of ready-made products tends to be a bit bitter and harsh. The prototype of most of Kaneuji's creation is everyday life. His works demonstrate a childlike innocence with a sense of play outside the commodity society, and a pleasure of creating things like building blocks. In the idealistic imagination, we hope that an artist retains some type of children’s characteristics, some lasting, children's perception. While in a degenerate material world, everything is off, upside-down, and removed from eternity. As a consequence, the coquettish cartoon patterns and the provincial exoticism are conflated, and Kaneuji is far more vibrant, dynamic and profound than these. He shows a poetic and fluid response to the former standards. Therefore, in such an environment, we can only hope for great creativity and imagination to assist our visual journey. "MONO! MONO! MONO! "Is not an artist’s slogan or manifesto. Like the film title of TORA, it is just a foreigner’s imagination, an imagination of imagination.

——Curator / Zhu Sha