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MAT Exhibition vol.3
Yoshinori Niwa
"Against Name"
Review | Natsu Onodera


The installation show consists of the film work which was entitled Selling the Right to Name a Pile of Garbage based on the project implemented by the artist in the Philippines in 2014, together with diverse texts each associated with the act of naming.
Although it seems impossible for one to have control over social systems and historical tendencies that appear to exist apart from the context of art in general, Niwa has been attempting to intervene them through his actions since the early days of his career. By behaving as if to rearrange and invert social norms, the artist agitates our practical sense to make social contradictions and absurdities visible.
Declarative titles are distinctive among elements of Niwa’s work. The title Selling the Right to Name a Pile of Garbage enables us to see the artist remarking a task of arising a paradoxical action to be dealt within the work. A language philosopher J.L. Austin (1911–60) who is known for his development on analyzing characteristics of utterances, described sentences that could affect others and change the situation “performative”. He also indicates that the speaker’s position and its context significantly influence the effects of utterance. It is known that ever-growing landfills has been a serious social issue in the Philippines due to the unmethodical law to prohibit the incineration of trash. By referring to Austin’s theory, it is apparent that what the title indicates in this context is particularly functional.
Although the naming right was successfully sold at auction eventually, the film work being exhibited doesn’t include the actual effects at landfill sites by utilizing the auction profit. The artist aims rather to examine the nature of naming and possessing itself, through reactions brought from his proposal to name unnamed object. Making promotional goods and holding public discussions must have contributed to make the auction official, and secure public interest of the project on the whole. Conversely, each effect of the project derived from the performative validity that the title conceives, which has enough strength to demand audience to determine their future actions.

Natsu Onodera

Doctoral course, Keio University