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Print Picks: Aida Makoto: Monument for Nothing Tensai De Gomen Nasai

by Taylor Slattery | December 29, 2021

Aida Makoto: Monument for Notion Tensai De Gomen Nasai is a companion book for the artist’s solo exhibition, Aida Makoto: Monument for Nothing, which was held at the Mori Art Museum in 2012. Put simply, Aida Makoto is a Japanese artist. Take one look at his work, however, and you’ll quickly understand that such a simple introduction doesn’t come close to doing him justice.

The problem lies in finding the proper words to describe him and his approach to art-making. You can’t simply describe him as a painter or a sculptor, because his works take the form of whatever medium they require, whether that be painting, video, or installation. The problem then becomes how does one describe what it is Makoto does? Looking at his body of work as a whole, it’s impossible to find a succinct label.

The subject matters Makato explores range from various points throughout history and into the future. He explores humanity in times of peace as well as times of war. Like the man himself, his works are full of contradictions, but one thing they all have in common, though—is that they are unmistakably Japanese. So, simply put, Aida Makoto is a Japanese artist.

Despite his success as a contemporary artist in Japan, managing to build a resume strong enough to land him a four-month installation at one of Tokyo’s most prominent art museums, Makoto is a name that few outside of Japan may be familiar with. This is in part due to the Japanese nature of Makoto’s works, which western audiences will lack the proper context required to appreciate or engage with, but also in part due to Makoto himself.

His works are chaotic and full of ambiguity and contradiction. Makoto changes styles and mediums on a whim. In this sense, he’s a shapeshifter, allowing the work to take whatever form it must in order to tell its story, letting only the narrative of the piece guide its direction. As a result, his works are at times refined and precise, and others, crude and unfinished.

Side by side, it may be difficult to discern that any two works of his were created by the same hand. In concert, however, the connection is clear. This outwardly seeming lack of cohesion along with the highly contextual and at times vulgar and absurd contents of his work place Makoto in stark contrast with his Japanese contemporaries such as Yayoi Kusama and Takashi Murakami.

Makoto’s works aren’t easy to digest, nor do they feature any characters or motifs that make them easily recognizable. In fact, his approach to art is markedly anti-commercial, often using provocation and discomfort as a means of challenging audiences and examining social issues from his unique viewpoint.

Thematically, Makoto’s works explore Japanese culture through an honest and at times critical lens. He examines the dualities present throughout the various facets of life in his country, the impacts of the past upon the present, and their echoes into the future. Makoto ventures into extremes, touching down on both ends of the spectrum briefly, but settling in neither. Like the culture explored in his works, Makoto too seems to occupy a space in between, existing somewhere in ambivalence.


Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.


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