IT. I will admit a small secret – I am a ‘super-fan’ of Japanese contemporary art. So I was thrilled when the Miyajima show was announced last year! Miyajima is one of my favourite artists and I remember being introduced to his work in Japan, when I lived there for the first time in my early twenties.
Back then, Japan was in pretty poor economic shape, and I remember the first major new development opening in Tokyo, Roppongi Hills, which restarted the redevelopment boom in Tokyo, and which continues to live on to this day. It was a big statement at the time. Japan showing once again that it was able to rebuild, even at the bottom of an economic calamity, and as it has done many times in its history. As part of that, Miyajima-san created Counter Void, a five-metre-tall installation at the bottom of the development. I cycled past this artwork at least a few times each week and I would regularly stop for a moment of contemplation, especially late at night. What did the numbers and the seemingly endless counter represent? Humanity? Life? Death? Endlessness?
For me, living in Tokyo was the ultimate contrast. I was living in the largest metropolis in the world, yet some days as a non-Japanese expat, I felt completely alone. Having a few minutes with other people staring silently at this huge work and sharing that experience was very impactful. Those of us who have lived in Japan know this feeling well. The work is meant to represent life, death, and rebirth, which are strong themes in Buddhism as well as Japanese heritage. I learned a lot from that experience, about my own penchant and desire for change.
Miyajima-san’s almost megalith-sized counter somehow made me think about my life and the connections we all share on a regular basis. I still remember it today, and feel both saddened and respectful that it was turned off after the March 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, in homage to the many victims of that great tragedy. My hope is that like the city and country it was built for, it will be reborn someday. What a symbol of resilience of the Japanese people. I would like to be there to see it when it is turned on again for good.
IT. After spending six years working and living in Japan, I learned a lot about who I am, and about what we can bring to our own culture and society from the Japanese ethos. A complete blog post about what I learned from living there would fill many, many pages, and leave many more unwritten. The one thing that strikes me the most – especially when I am standing at the MCA staring at one of Miyajima-san’s other works (Life (Rhizome) No. 3 is my favourite) – is that I can see so clearly the purpose and meaning Japanese people put into their work. It’s that thing that separates an artisan craftsman from just another builder and for those of us lucky to realise our own purpose in our work, it is something that deeply resonates.
I think a lot about purpose, and I know that all of us, as human beings, strive to identify and then achieve whatever we feel is our true purpose in life, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, in the words of Viktor Frankl. Some of us think we have found it, others are still looking and many more are not yet sure. Yet Japanese people, more than any other I have ever had the privilege to work with, put meaning and purpose deeply into their work no matter what their role. It does not matter whether you are a famous chef or a small-time restauranteur, the pride and passion that you carry in your work is something that I respect and have tried to emulate. I see this mentality often in the work of Japanese art too, the precision and attention to detail is just incredible and the purpose and meaning explodes out of even the subtlest work. Spend some time in Miyajima-san’s Mega Death at the MCA and you will know exactly what I mean.
Having a few minutes with other people silently staring at this huge work and sharing that experience was very impactful.
Itay Tuchman, Citi Head of Markets and Securities Services
IT. As Head of Markets and Securities Services for Citi Australia, I am proud that Citi is the Presenting Partner for this remarkable exhibition. Sponsoring the Sydney International Art Series (SIAS) at the MCA, and this exhibit particularly, fits seamlessly with our bank’s core mission around connecting our clients globally and bringing products, services, and importantly innovation from abroad, for the benefit of Australia.
I know and always share that it is the globalism of our company which is its most defining and unique character. In a world which seems to be moving further away from interconnectedness, we are proud to represent the positive value of ensuring that we are open to different countries, cultures and ways of doing business across borders. Citi is proud to highlight the best of Australia and the best of the world, and the MCA I know is proud to champion both Australian and international contemporary art here in Sydney. Our values fit extremely well together. This shared set of values sits at the heart of our partnership, and we love helping, in our own small way, bring great art to Australia for the benefit of the entire community.