This exhibition, curated by Alicia Chillida, offers a survey of works from different periods, continents and disciplines based on the theory of the "eternal modern" proposed by Mirei Shigemori (1896–1975), a noted Japanese landscape architect, calligrapher, theorist and master of the tea ceremony and the art of ikebana.
The idea for the show came to Chillida while contemplating the Zen garden at Ryoan-ji in Kyoto. The musical term "variations" is used to present a dialogue between very dissimilar authors and explore the repositioning of the arts after 1960 in a disjointed narrative that evokes different times and spaces, ranging from East to West and from the 19th century to the present day.
The notion of the micro-macrocosm reflects the existence of the garden and the observer as one indivisible work of art and points out the mirror-garden's artistic function as a place of contemplation and self-knowledge. Shigemori exemplified the central artistic conquest of his time. His theories were derived from the "modern primitive" school of thought, which sought to channel the energy of the Jomon (ca. 10,000–300 BC) and Yayoi (ca. 300 BC–AD 300) periods in Japanese prehistory. The goal was to cast off the lyrical naturalism and refined elegance of Japan's past and recover the primitive, elemental force of earlier times in order to radicalise existing practices and transcend the hackneyed notion of the dynamic West versus the changeless East, as well as the dichotomy of Japanese tradition and Western modernity. This project attempts to reciprocate Shigemori's gesture, using the spatiotemporal quality of the Japanese garden as a pretext for uniting the voices of East and West in one harmonious chorus.
Multiple dichotomies—micro/macro, privacy/nature, language/contemplation, music/silence, beauty/violence, primitivism/refinement—and themes such as the ephemeral, the analogue and the unfathomable are brought to light in this open dialogue which attempts to reveal a fissure between the symbols of East and West.
The works in the exhibition range from the 19th century to the present day and from traditional Japanese prints (ukiyo-e) to the latest manga/otaku creations, featuring artists such as Toyohara Chikanobu, Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein, Richard Serra, Cildo Meireles, James Lee Byars, Nam June Paik, Yukio Nakagawa, David Hammons, Mirei Shigemori, John Cage, Antoni Tàpies, Juan Hidalgo, Víctor Grippo, Yoko Ono, Àngels Ribé, Iwana and Walter de Maria.
Exhibition co-produced with the Board of Trustees of the Alhambra in Granada.