Anarchive n°5 - FUJIKO NAKAYA 中谷 芙二子


Fujiko Nakaya was born in Sapporo, Hokkaido, in 1933. She is the second daughter of the physicist and Hokkaido University Faculty of Science professor Ukichiro Nakaya whose pioneering works on snow and ice are world famous. After graduating from Japan Woman's University High School in Tokyo, she attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where she majored in art. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from Northwestern in 1957, Nakaya then went on to study painting in Paris and Madrid through 1959. In 1960, her oil paintings were shown in a two-person show at the Sherman Art Gallery in Chicago. She returned to Japan that year and in 1962 had her first solo exhibition, featuring twelve of her paintings, at the Tokyo Gallery.

The 1960s: From E.A.T. to Expo '70

In 1966 Nakaya participated in a series of performances by ten New York artists created in collaboration with more than thirty engineers and scientists from Bell Telephone Laboratories, entitled "9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering", organized by Bell Labs research engineer Billy Klüver and artist Robert Rauschenberg. The same year, Klüver, Rauschenberg, and engineer Fred Waldhauer and artist Robert Whitman, founded Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) to bring together artists and engineers in collaborative projects, and Nakaya joined the group. Leading artists such as John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Jean Tinguely, and Andy Warhol were among those who participated in E.A.T. projects. In 1969, Nakaya became the Tokyo representative of E.A.T., and, working with other E.A.T. members participated in the design of the Pepsi Pavilion for Expo '70 in Osaka, working with artificial fog for the first time as she created a large atmospheric sculpture (fog sculpture) blanketing the entire exterior of the building.

Since then, she has created an extended series of fog sculptures incorporated in the designs of public spaces, buildings and parks, and often in collaboration with other artists and scientists.

The 1970s: From Video Art to Process Art

In 1971, the year after the world exposition in Osaka, Nakaya organized E.A.T. Tokyo and collaborated with fellow members Hakudo Kobayashi and Yuji Morioka, in the organization's first international project, "Utopia Q&A 1981" (Sony Building, Ginza). Visitors to the exhibition sites in the four cities of Tokyo, New York, Stockholm, and Ahmadabad, India were encouraged to communicate with each other by free Telex lines, which were part of the installation, by asking and replying to questions about the year 1981, a decade into the future. A precursor, in a way, to the Internet, the project promoted a network of global communication based on individuals.

In parallel with her participation in E.A.T. works, Nakaya began to produce video works. Her first, "Friends of Minamata Victims—Video Diary" (1972), recorded on video a demonstration and sit-in at the headquarters of Chisso Corporation located in the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries building in central Tokyo. The demonstrators were protesting the company's mercury pollution that had caused Minamata Disease. Nakaya installed a video monitor on the scene allowing the demonstrators to watch recordings of their actions on a closed circuit, making this work into an experiment with video feedback and its effects.

In 1972 she also founded VIDEO HIROBA with Katsuhiro Yamaguchi, Yoshiaki Tono, Nobuhiro Kawanaka, Hakudo Kobayashi, and others. The aim of the group was to break through the established notions of art and explore video as a process and means of communication. In 1973, she collaborated with Hakudo Kobayashi and Yuji Morioka on "Old People's Wisdom—Cultural DNA", a collection of video interviews with the elderly in the homes and community centers, as an attempt to record and share the wisdom of the elder generation. She also produced the "Hands" video series at that time, which includes such works as "Statics of an Egg" (1973), an uncut video record of the attempt to stand an egg on its end, and "Coordination: Right Hand/Left Hand" (1979) which recorded the action of sharpening a pencil with a knife—suggested by a public controversy at the time over the finding that Japanese children no longer possessed this very basic skill. In 1979 Nakaya established Processart Inc. to distribute artists's video works.

The 1980s: Expanding Horizons

In 1980, Nakaya opened Video Gallery SCAN in Harajuku, Tokyo. In addition to exhibiting the works of Japanese and international video artists, the gallery sponsored a twice-annual competition for new works by artists, thus introducing many promising new video artists. From 1987, Nakaya organized the Japan International Video Television Festival at Spiral in Tokyo, presenting video works and installations from around the world and conducting symposiums. During this period Nakaya created her video installation series, including such works as "Waterfall: An Integrated River" (The Miyagi Museum of Art, 1981), "Meltee-vee" (Museum of Modern Art, Toyama, 1983), and "Four Wells" (Tokyo International Museum, 1990-91).

At the same time, in her fog sculpture series, in 1976 she produced "Earth Talk" (the 2nd Biennale of Sydney) and "Cloud Lake" (The 11th International Sculpture Conference, 1980). That same year she expanded her horizons by collaborating with other artists, creating "Opal Loop/Cloud Installation" (New York, recreated in 1981, 1996, and 2010) for the Trisha Brown Dance Company and "Fog Sculpture Kawaji" set at the Kawaji Hot Springs, with music by Bill Viola. In 1983, Nakaya's Earth Talk, renamed "Foggy Wake in a Desert", was permanently installed in the Sculpture Garden of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, when the gallery opened. The work had been developed originally as part of a project to explore causes of desertification in collaboration with Dr. Yasushi Mitsuta of Kyoto University.

The 1990s: Public Works

In 1992, after the success of the JAPAN '92 International Video Television Festival at Spiral in Aoyama, Tokyo, Nakaya began producing fog sculptures for a variety of venues, ranging from private residences to national parks. In 1992 she completed her largest permanent work, which she had been designing since 1985: "Foggy Forest", installed at the Children's Forest, Showa Kinen Park, Tachikawa, Tokyo. For this completely innovative public park facility, which allowed children a multisensory experience of nature within ever-shifting patterns of fog, she was awarded in 1993 the Yoshida Isoya Award Special Prize. The following year, Nakaya designed "Greenland Glacial Moraine Garden" for the courtyard of the Nakaya Ukichiro Museum of Snow and Ice. Located in Kaga City, Ishikawa Prefecture, the museum is dedicated to the achievements of her father, the world renowned physicist, on snow and ice. Overseas, her "F.O.G." (1998) (which she had created for the opening of "Robert Rauschenberg: A Retrospective" at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain, became part of the museum's permanent collection in the following year.

2000 and On: Responding to Changing Times

As new directions emerged in the attempt to find ways to coexist in symbiosis with the environment, Nakaya's fog sculptures have attracted growing attention and approbation both in Japan and around the world for their innovative and dynamic impact and their accessible expression of the theme of interaction with nature and the environment. At the same time, Nakaya began to be even more proactive in collaborating with other artists, a trend that has been conspicuous in her work since the 1990s.

For several years she has been collaborating with multi-media artist Shiro Takatani on installations around the world, among them IRIS (Valencia Biennale, Spain, 2001); the fog promenade "Olas del Cielo" (Forum Barcelona, 2004/ Proposal); and "Cloud Forest" (Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media, 2010). In 2008, at the third Yokohama Triennial, Nakaya created "Tales of Ugetsu" at the famous Sankeien Garden, working with Sota Ichikawa/doubleNegatives Architecture, who developed a program for controlling fog based on atmospheric feedback, and light artist Takayuki Fujimoto. The concept that she first addressed forty years earlier at the Osaka Expo '70 Pepsi Pavilion, with fog wafted around by the natural force of the wind controlling the operation of pumps in real-time, was fully realized in this work. "Tales of Ugetsu" earned wide acclaim for the way in which it tapped the powers of nature, made viewers newly aware of the relationship between human beings and their natural environment, and encouraged us to change our way of looking at the world around us.

The interaction of art and nature, art and technology, and the underlying fundamental approach across all genre of expressions strongly shape Nakaya's work. That spirit of questioning and cutting-edge experimentation embodied by Nakaya and her colleagues has now become the shared heritage of many artists and specialists in other disciplines.
1976 Australian Cultural Award  -Fog Sculpture #94768 "Earth Talk"
1983 Finalist, The First International Water Sculpture Competition -Fog Performance "Louisiana Dump"
1990 Laser d'Or, Locarno Video Festival -Contribution of SCAN
1992 Minister of Construction Award -"Foggy Forest"
1993 Yoshida Isoya Special Award -"Foggy Forest"
2001 Minister of Communication Award -Artistic contribution to HDTV Programming
2006 Descartes Science Communication Prize, nominee, EU Commission -Curation of a science and art exhibition "Conversations with snow and ice" in Latvia
2008 Media Arts Festival, Special Achievement Prize -Contribution to Media Arts
1989 "System/apparatus for making a cloud sculpture from water-fog" Patent #1502386