One of the museums I visited while in Japan was the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art. They were holding an exhibition on the Micropop artistic movement. Micropop was first coined by an art critic in Japan, Midori Matsui. Here is how Matsui describes Micropop:
The term “Micropop” is used to describe the attitude or approach to life that creates an unique and original path of living or aesthetics by combining fragments gathered from various places, without relying on institutional morals or major ideologies.
It refers to the stance taken by people who have been relegated to a “minor” position vis-a-vis the major culture that surrounds them, in the same manner as immigrants and children do. Those people – forced to function within the major culture without having sufficient tools to do so – make do with what they have, trying to fill in the gaps through leaps of imagination, thereby coming up with a peculiar amalgam or composite. The process of developing such a strange culture bears close resemblance to the way that children or immigrants, ignorant of the grammar of the major tongue and deficient in terms of vocabulary, come up with their own new language characterized by neologisms and deviant grammatical constructs.
Micropop also focuses its attention upon those places inside the city that people have forgotten, as well as upon obsolete, time-worn things. By adding something to those things and places – that is, often the minor act of inserting them within a new chain of relationships, or the setting up of a new site for gathering – Micropop evokes their hidden meaning, creating the impetus for the fostering of a new consciousness of community.
I will be the first admit, I did not like all the pieces at the Hara. Some of the work was small scale pencil drawings or uninteresting video and audio or just unpleasing aesthetically. On the other hand, I was drawn to some of the pieces. I will be looking at some of those artists over the next couple days. Plus, I was really intrigued by the explanation of Micropop. It might seem easy to group artists together by saying they do not share any major ideologies, but I think Matsui does it particularly well. In some ways, it casts Micropop artists as outcasts who are trying to get their voice heard. In this day and age where we are inundated with visual images, I know that is difficult. While I am not Japanese, I sometimes feel the same way when creating my own artwork. Like, it does not fit in and it can not (or should not) be pigeon-holed. It is almost refreshing that Matsui is recognizing that artists exist that are trying to figure out a way to be part of the “larger culture” any way they can. I would bet that encompasses a lot of artists around the world.
To learn more about Micropop, check out this book.