An examination of Japanese contemporary art through the lens of ecocriticism and environmental historyCollectively referred to by the word tsuchi, earthy materials such as soil and clay are prolific in Japanese contemporary art. Highlighting works of photography, ceramics, and installation art, Bert Winther-Tamaki explores the many aesthetic manifestations of tsuchi and their connection to the country's turbulent environmental history, investigating how Japanese artists have continually sought a passionate and redemptive engagement with earth.
In the seven decades following 1955, Japan has experienced severe environmental degradation as a result of natural disasters, industrial pollution, and nuclear irradiation. Artists have responded to these ongoing catastrophes through modes of "mudlarking" and "muckracking," utilizing raw elements from nature to establish deeper contact with the primal resources of their world and expose its unfettered contamination. Providing a comparative assessment of more than seventy works of art, this study reveals Japanese artists' engagement with a richly diverse repertoire of earthy materialities, elucidating their aesthetic properties, changing conditions, and cultural significance.
By focusing on the role of tsuchi as a convergence point for a wide range of creative practices, this book offers a critical reassessment of contemporary art in Japan and its intrinsic relationship to the environment. Situating art within the context of ecology and urbanization, Tsuchi shows artists striving to explore and reprocess raw forms of earth beneath the corruptions of human activity.