Flag Ant Farm - 1990. Ants, coloured sand, plastic boxes and tubing. (2)
Yanagi's work explores themes relating to his position as a Japanese artist
living and working in an international context, as well as broader issues
about identity within social or national constructs.
Flag Ant Farm
The World Flag Ant Farm, he created a series of interconnecting boxes,each
filled with coloured sand in the pattern of a national flag - representing
the nations of the world - and linked by plastic tubes. He then released
ants into this system who were able to travel between all the networked
flags, transporting food and sand. These 'border crossings' eventually
resulted in an intermingling of colour throughout the system, each flag's
integrity being slowly degraded, creating in a sort of 'cross-cultural'
a Japanese context the idea that the nation state might have this sort
of cultural permeability goes against the traditionally held view that
Japan has its own very distinct and isolated culture. But in fact Japan
has historically been influenced by several other Asian countries - particularly
China - and America currently has a strong impact on Japanese popular
piece was originally made in 1990 and shown at the 1993 Venice Biennale.
Yanagi has subsequently re-created or made new versions in a number of
sites around the world.(See Union Jack Ant Farm 1994, below)
has said that he frequently played with ants and other insects as a child
growing up in rural Japan. Now he uses them in his art as a symbol of
work, order and collective activity.
Yanagi, 'Union Jack
Ant Farm (detail), 1994 (3)
Jack Ant Farm
A collection of boxed 'flags' bearing the British design
which breaks down as the ants go about their business. "...it simultaneously
depicts the spread of a tribe and the decline of an empire."
the travels of the ant show us anything, it is that he wanders to resume
the task he has been programmed to perform, not to aquire freedom."
Position" (edge detail) 1998. Ant, crayon, steel video.(4)
order to make this piece, Yanagi placed himself and an ant in a five metre
square enclosure. For
several hours each day the artist crawled around tracing the paths made
by the ant with a red crayon. The artist and animal share their confinement
but the ant's worker status is enforced, it's meanderings around the enclosure
at the service of Yanagi's art.
piece "Wandering Position" has also been made by Yanagi in several
different locations and each time its meaning changes.It
was initally created at Alcatraz, the ex-prison island in San Fransico
bay. When the piece was created in his studio in North America he said
"...the borders I have had to cross or barriers I
have confronted in trying to define myself as Japanese."
The piece alludes to the state of confinement in a literal
sense but also in a social sense.
is interested in the way people frame themeselves and are framed by social
systems like class and gender as well as by ethnic or national identities.
He is also interested in fundamental philosophical questions such as why
we are here.
feel that the incarcerated lack liberty, and that all of their activity
is controlled and watched and we assume that this is completely opposite
to the way we live our daily life, but I ask myself... Is what I watch,
what I watch by my will? Is the direction I am walking determined by me?
Is what I am thinking really thought by me? What drives our journeys through
OUT OF THE FRAME...Yanagi's
work uses the frame as both a physical device to enclose his work, reflecting
a formal tradition, and a metaphor for borders or partitions. He refers
to framed spaces as 'ghettos'. He very often uses materials such as steel
or glass to encase or enclose the image (and sometimes the ant.)
would you make, inspired by this artist's work?
with framing to explore how images are displayed or how objects are
encased. Examine how different materials give different meanings to
your framed piece (metal versus string etc.).
the shape of your frame or breaking out of it can also create new meanings.
The frame determines what is in the image and what is not, just like
borders they can enclose but they can also exclude things.
You could explore the idea of framing as a social construction using
objects and space as metaphors for people and places. Play with different
categories or groupings. How is 'the self' defined within the community?