Tenzan Lab in Prenzlauer Berg is currently hosting a solo exhibition by a Japanese artist, Ai Moliya. We visited their opening reception and interviewed the artist to explore the art and philosophy of Kintsugi as well as unearthing the Japanese concept of Mottainai.
Do you know what “Mottainai!” is? It’s a teaching almost every Japanese child is told repeatedly like a mantra. It’s a cry your mother makes when you leave carrots on your dinner plate. It’s a concept for not throwing away things that still have a life left. Take your old smartphones, broken umbrellas, the clothes you are too embarrassed to wear anymore. Throwing them away? It’s so “mottainai”!
A Japanese art of repairing, Kintsugi, in which the broken objects were mended with lacquer mixed with gold, seems to be tied strongly to the idea of “Mottainai”. A Berlin-based Kintsugi artist/graphic artist, Ai Moliya told me that “the philosophy of Kintsugi lies in not hiding the history of how broken it was”. Moliya continues that the lines of gold are called Keshiki, which translates to “landscape” in English. “It is rare to show the traces of tears because people expect the broken things to look new again. By repairing, I breathe new life into them, celebrating the imperfection”, she explains.
The authentic Japanese shaved-ice stand in Prenzlauer Berg, Tenzan Lab’s current solo exhibition by Moliya, “With the Particular Light”, not only focuses on the golden sheen of its imperfection, but also on the light of hope which comes from collaborating with others. On the wall you find mysterious paintings of geometric shapes and patterns that are inspired by “mourning for the deceased”. At the back of the store, you see displays of Kintsugi-ed potteries that the artist “breathed new life into”. It’s this contrast that emphasizes the artist’s celebration of life subtly yet strikingly.
In the age of Marie Kondo and her minimalist approach to things, the concept of “Mottainai” may seem deviating. However, the art of Kintsugi teaches us that when there’s still a little life left, there’s a chance for it to shine again, maybe as something more beautiful and brighter than ever.
“With the particular light” at Tenzan Lab runs until September 15.
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