May 3–July 10, 2022
“Kacchu Anatomy: The Aesthetics of Design and Engineering” is a new exhibition at Kanazawa’s 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. It intends to curatorially update the cultural assets of historical Japanese armor, Kacchu, and is being presented in Kanazawa, a city rich in the tradition of the Maeda clan of the Kaga Domain. Invoking Jacques Derrida’s concept of the revenant, the exhibition places Kacchu in a modern setting.
Kacchu, which was brought to Japan from mainland China, has undergone a stylistic evolution that is unique to Japan, dating back to the Kamakura period. Kacchu’s design and delicacy reached a pinnacle during the Azuchi-Momoyama and Edo periods, when he became symbolic of samurai dignity and might. The beauty and uniqueness of Kacchu’s patterns, colors, and techniques, as seen in its design, metalworking, lacquering, dyeing, and braiding, place it in the history of Japanese crafts and fashion. Meanwhile, with meticulous, anatomically-minded design, Kacchu has evolved in parallel with changes in military weaponry and techniques, such as the move from horse to firearms warfare.
Emerging digital-age innovators collaborated to create the exhibition setting for this exhibition, bringing the attraction of design and practicality to the present. Rhizomatiks CT-scan Kacchu’s internal structure, transforming the armor’s inner “structure, beauty, and activity” into a digital video enabled by data-visualization. The video divides these aspects into three sections: anatomy, seduction, and fighting. The final part, which takes place inside the armor, is a visualization that eerily resembles the body’s battle against a virus. Nile Koetting, a Berlin-based artist, created an exhibition setting that subtly channels Kacchu’s aspects to our modern bodies. Koetting’s scenography uses performative installation as a means of expression, with both humans and matter performing in the same space at the same time. In ambient lighting, Kacchu appears as a “mirror to the physique” in front of the observer, displayed in transparent acrylic fixtures positioned at eye level. Samurai machismo is deconstructed here, revealing a frail physique in a hyper, fluid world distinguished by translucency, lightness, and ambiguity.
Moreover, the exhibition presents sneakers as a contemporary Kacchu—a medium connecting contemporary individuals to the historical armor. Sharing symbolism, aesthetics and engineering in common with Kacchu, sneakers have come to symbolize spiritual survival in contemporary life the way Kacchu used to in its era. On display are artworks that embody such engagement with sneakers: Shinichi Miter’s artworks are entirely made of sneaker parts, while the first collaboration between HATRA × MAGARIMONO manifests as newly-created 3D-printed sneakers inspired by Kacchu’s patterns and designs.
The exhibition attempts to renew the presence and performativity of Kacchu in order to bring the armor to the present. The visitors are invited to encounter an unpredictable phenomenon created by the collaboration between the historical and the contemporary.
Website specially designed for this exhibition by featuring artist Rhizomatiks.
Exhibition Catalogue (English/Japanese bilingual) will be published in June, 2022 by Culture Convenience Club. Co., Ltd.; Printed in Japan; ISBN: 978-4-568-10546-9; Sales Contact: Bijutsu Shuppan-sha Co., Ltd. (5F, Meguro Central Square, 3-1-1 Kamiosaki, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo 141-8203 JAPAN, T +81 3 6809 0318).
Organized by: 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (Kanazawa Art Promotion and Development Foundation), Japan Arts Council and Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan. In special cooperation with: Eastern Culture Foundation, Ii Museum, Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of History and Osaka Castle Museum. Curator: Yuko Hasegawa. Assistant Curator: Yuu Takagi. Conservator: Kunihiko Aizawa.