Tsubaki Noboru has installed a gigantic, bright red leafcutter ant, like an enormous mutant, in front of Towada Art Center facing the street. The leafcutter ant is found in the rainforests of Central and South America. One might not imagine−given their frightful appearance−that they are actually agricultural creatures, cutting tree leaves to bring to their nests and grow the fungus that makes up their diet. Tsubaki has super-sized the ant to look like a giant robot to give us an insight into the workings of the natural world, diverse beyond imagination, and at the same time, to sound a warning about the ballooning consumerism that has driven agriculture to crisis point, trapped by our modern-day obsession with economic growth.
Tsubaki has been creating colorful, gigantic sculptures of mutant creatures and living organisms since the late 1980s. He famously exhibited a 55-meter-long locust balloon affixed to the outside of the InterContinental Yokohama Grand Hotel for Yokohama Triennale 2001, warning of overconfidence in globalization. His work of recent years often involves grafting socially-conscious messages onto the forms of popular insects.
Photo: Oyamada Kuniya
Born 1953 in Kyoto, Japan. Tsubaki received his MFA from Kyoto City University of Arts. He participated in “Against Nature: Japanese Art in the Eighties” (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, et al., 1989-91) with his large-scale sculpture Fresh gasoline, in Aperto’93 at the 45th Venice Biennale (Italy, 1993), and Yokohama Triennale 2001 (Kanagawa, Japan) with his nitrogen sculpture Insect World: Batta Among his solo exhibitions are “Noboru Tsubaki” (Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, US, 1992), “UN Boy” (Art Tower Mito, Ibaraki, Japan, 2003), “Gold Black White” (The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, 2009), and “Prehistoric PH” (Kirishima Open-Air Museum, Kagoshima, Japan, 2012). Tsubaki acted as artistic director of the Sakate Port and Hishio no Sato Project for Setouchi Triennale 2013 (Kagawa, Japan), Aomori Triennale 2017, and Artists’ Fair Kyoto (2018).