“Flowers” Series 2012, 2013

Hong Kong 2015
Michael Janssen
Installation view
Yanagi Yukinori “Flowers” Series 2012, 2013 Installation view Appropriating iconic images, Yanagi first pours colored sand into Plexiglas boxes to recreate these images before releasing live ants into them. Roaming freely, these ants tunnel through the sand, transporting and mixing sand grains, creating patterns that inadvertently transform these images. Representing larger ideals, each image in the Ant Farm Project is a charged visual icon whose very nature, definition, function and meaning Yanagi disrupts and undermines by placing them at the mercy of an active, organic and (sometimes) random system: an ant colony. Based upon the flawless coordination of specialized duties, the societal structure of an ant colony is a perfectly organized system that espouses efficiency, order and productivity. Traditionally considered a “righteous” insect, the dutiful hardworking worker ant is a popular metaphor in many Asian cultures and folklore. Yanagi’s art however subverts this and the worker ant is instead used here to highlight the discrepancy between the self and the collective that is present in human society. In “Money”, a series comprising solely of images of currency notes, the ant becomes an allegory for urban life and social organization; bringing up issues of entrapment, forced accommodation, migration and constraint- a reality and consequence of today’s restless urban culture as they go about what they have been programmed to do, unwittingly dismantling these normally static and rigidly protected power symbols as a result of mindless industry. Reproducing the work of Andy Warhol in colored sand, Yanagi’s Flowers (2012), is part of the series Study for American Art which he first began when he was invited to the Whitney Biennial 2000. A Japanese-born conceptualist living in New York at that time, Yanagi studied and investigated American Art before eventually deciding to reproduce these iconic images in his own unique style. Introducing another element to these iconic works, Yanagi’s ant farm version enhances their existing ability to evoke certain social truths.