The real world is not an object – it is a process.
John Cage’s thinking has profoundly influenced and moved a whole generation of artists and has participated in defining conceptual art. In the exhibition tout le monde in 2015, we presented a work by William Anastasi entitled Sink (1963-2010). This work, a square steel plate of 50 cm wide and 2 cm thick, was given by Anastasi to John Cage for his bir- thday, with the protocol of putting water on its surface every day until his death. Gradually, rust would alter and erode the steel plate.
Introducing living things into art is a way of anchoring creation in the real world, which is “not an object”. Shimabuku’s work began in the 1990s and followed the work of Joseph Beuys or Jannis Kounellis, who in Europe introduced live animals in art in the 1960s and 1970s, or Ágnes Dénes, on the American continent, who placed the protection of the environment at the centre of her actions, or Robert Smithson concer- ned about the idea of entropy and growing disorder.
“To discover the meaning that circulates among things, between what composes them and what they compose, in us, outside us, with or without us […].”  This is the promise of Shimabuku’s work, who, by choosing the unpredictable as to the final form that his work will take, defines the process as a priority over the formal result. Meticulously produced and documented, his sculptural works, writings and photographs, videos and performances, articulated together or separately, reveal the modalities of their design and the important part left to chance. The works produced by Shimabuku are based on a profound attention to his environment, to Japan where he lives and works, but also to the different contexts in which he is invited to exhibit.
Shimabuku’s actions are positive. These are gestures of care, offering, and sometimes even reconstruction, which are not without evoking kintsugi, a traditional Japanese technique known since the 15th century, which consists in restoring ceramics or porcelains with gold or silver. These scars thus sublimate the accidents that have punctuated the life of objects. In the larger room, through an action he carried out
on the Japanese coast, Shimabuku straightens up the landscape after it has been devastated. He creates a conversation between the film of this action, Erect and fragments of two houses destroyed in July in the Gagarin social housing estate in Ivry-sur-Seine. Where Robert Smithson’s Upside Down Tree (1969) was a transcendental gesture (which consisted in replanting a tree in the ground with the roots towards the sky), Shimabuku sets up the possibility of a second life. Concern about climate change and the need to become aware of our natural environment remind us of the fragility of ecosystems. Also the question of the living world and of animism is central today and regularly finds its place at the heart of the Crédac project. Mathieu Mercier had made in 2012 Untitled (couple of axolotls), a kind of diorama, at the crossroads of the vivarium and aquarium, which raised the question of the evolution of species; in 2015 we invited Michel Blazy to showcase his Collection of avocado trees (started in 1997) in the collective exhibition tout le monde. In 2017, Nina Canell introduced slugs into the heart of one of her installations made of “disarmed” electrical cabinets, for her solo show.
for more than twenty years, Shimabuku has been one of the most recognized among this generation of artists interested by the living and animism. For him as for Pierre Huyghe, Tomás Saraceno or Nina Canell, the exhibition space has been transformed into a refuge for a new ecosystem of organisms.
-Claire Le Restif
Text/Press release and images provided by the event.
© Le Crédac-Le Centre d’art contemporain d’Ivry, Ivry-sur-Seine FRANCE E.U.