@MusingMutley: In conversation with the artists behind the Gucci 4 Rooms installation

@MusingMutley: In conversation with the artists behind the Gucci 4 Rooms installation

Take me to Tokyo

Text: Norman Tan

From the art of chaos, to fashion as art, Norman Tan speaks to two of the artists behind the Gucci 4 Rooms installation in Tokyo

Unless you've been hiding under a bridge in Ang Mo Kio or had your phone stolen by a monkey at MacRitchie Reservoir, you will know that last Tuesday was all about #GucciGhost and #Gucci4Rooms — that is, four unique art installations commissioned by creative director Alessandro Michele for the Gucci Ginza store and Dover Street Market Ginza, Tokyo. 

Say what? Your Samsung Note 7 exploded in your hot little hands and you have no idea what I'm talking about? Everything is a bit lost in translation? Well, get yourself up to speed by reading our story outlining the virtual and real Gucci 4 Rooms installations right here. Do it.

Having had the pleasure of attending the Gucci 4 Rooms launch in Tokyo — up close and personal with the installations by Chiharu Shiota (Gucci Herbarium Room), Daito Manabe (Gucci Words Room), Mr. (Gucci Garden Room) and Trouble Andrew (Gucci Ghost Room); each room a visceral interpretation of the themes and motifs that Michele has injected into the luxury house — I spoke to two of the artists about their bespoke work for Gucci.



Gucci Garden Room in Gucci Ginza by Japanese artist MR.

When you walk into the space, the first thing you see is a swirl of different colours and there's a lot of things going on. What do you want the audience to feel?
I think drawings can be more powerful with a bit more colour, and I personally like it too. I feel that people should be surprised of what I'm presenting here. It's like peeking into my secret chamber. Like, "Oh, this is what you have inside." That kind of feel. That't the impact that I want to give to people when they walk into the room.

What about the use of manga in the installation. What's the purpose of incorporating children?
I think the background of animation and cartoons in Japan is from the lost World War II. I think that was the background that we have, sort of as a Japanese victim. So if you know about any history of Japan, everything was damaged pretty badly by the war. And animation enlarged. And these animations after World War II, their main characters are usually young boys, young girls, trying to be successful. So I think from the adult's point of view, they think, "Oh, we lost the war". But for children, we're trying to reflect and predict the future in them and I think that's what people want to convey through animation films or cartoons. So that is why in art I've used children. What's very interesting is that the heroes of animation or cartoons are no longer young boys. Most anime is young girls, becoming heroines, fighting against bad things. That's the reason why I draw girls.

Gucci Garden Room in Gucci Ginza by Japanese artist MR.

When you were asked to collaborate with Gucci for this project, how did you approach it? How did you come out with this whole idea and concept?
This installation is an extension of my painting style. I've been working on these kind of things for the past two years. But for this Gucci collaboration, I did a different interpretation, I tried to deteriorate it and show the chaos in our minds. It took three of us working on this piece for two weeks to complete the installation.

Talking about chaos and destruction, is this your view of the future?
It's kind of like a dark future. After the high growth period of Japan, people have become tired of capitalism, so I think that is the current state of Japan. Now everything is organised and beautiful, so tidy, but inside of your hearts... there is a chaos.

Gucci Garden Room in Gucci Ginza by Japanese artist MR.

You're an artist asked to express or explain the house of Gucci, which is a fashion brand. Do you think fashion can be art?
Not sure, but it could be right?

I think it depends how you define 'art'. Because to me, art is meant to inspire and make you think about things a different way. Do you think fashion has that same power to make you think about things differently?
I'm not too sure about that, because to me art is something that's easy to be used as a material to express ideas. But how about fashion? I'm not too sure. T-shirts as a part of art? That doesn't really make sense to me, it hasn't really hit me that way.


Gucci Words Room in Gucci Ginza by Japanese artist Daito Manabe

Mr. Manabe, your installation is by far the most interactive of the rooms, it almost reminds us of Pokémon Go, because you have a tablet in the room that invites the audience to throw digital balls at the Gucci products hanging from the wall. Was that intentional?
There are two reasons why I put in that ball-throwing gesture on the tablet: First, I like Pokémon Go; and second, it's difficult to think of another gesture that's suitable for tablets. Of course, I could've just used buttons, but it's less interactive than swiping the screen on the tablet to throw a ball. 

How did Alessandro Michele's work inform your own? What is the relationship between fashion and what you do, which is so digital?
You might think of fashion and digital as something opposite. But what good is digital if it doesn't connect you with other things or humans? So if there's only digital technology, it might mean nothing — it's just digital technology. But, by connecting with Alessandro's artworks, through the game, there's some kind of chemical response to it and it became something different.

Gucci Words Room in Gucci Ginza by Japanese artist Daito Manabe

You've collaborated with musicians in previous projects. But what was it like collaborating with a fashion designer for this project? What's the difference?
I was born into a music family, so collaborating with musicians was natural because I understand the language, especially since I did music myself. And, of course, I love clothing and I actually was once an apparel buyer, but I've never created clothing myself. So there are difficult parts in collaborating with fashion designers since I am a software engineer and a digital creator. But maybe because I used to create controlling programmes for sewing machines in the past, I could draw on some common language there.

What do you want people to remember when they leave the room?
When I completed the installation, I still don't know what to think about it truly. And I still want to adjust some parts of the installation. But seeing people experiencing the installation today, I'm happy that it connects the product and the viewer. And I hope people came out with some kind of idea, or they thought about something new after seeing that installation. 

Gucci Words Room in Gucci Ginza by Japanese artist Daito Manabe

What does the fire in the installation represent?
The fire has several different meanings: Maybe someone who saw the installation and thought that the fire was burning the product, whilst others saw animal figures in that fire, so it differs from person to person. I have some thoughts about what the fire represents, but I'd like to leave the interpretation open.

The Gucci products are integral to your installation, do you think fashion can be art?
I think fashion can be art, of course. And probably some artists don't want to include fashion in their field, and they want to just contain art as art. I know those kind of artists, but I think it's meaningless to make some kind of wall between fashion and art. The categories are only useful when you search for things on the Internet, that's it. I don't think there should be any genre or wall between fashion and art or anything.

Gucci 4 Rooms is open to the public from 12 October to 27 November at Gucci Ginza's seventh floor in Tokyo. The Elephant Room installation at Dover Street Market Ginza ends on 24 October 2016.

Related stories:
Interview with Trouble Andrew about Gucci Ghost
Gucci 4 Rooms: A look inside the art installation in Tokyo


Check back every Monday for another @MusingMutley column from Norman Tan, Editor-in-Chief of Buro 24/7 Singapore. For more columns from @MusingMutley, click here.

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