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Rei Naito: Landscape is a Scene of Life Upon Earth

Jul 15, 2022

For TLmag36: All is Landscape, Bas Smets interviewed Japanese artist Rei Naito, whose subtle and almost illusive work has inspired him for years.

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Text by Bas Smets
Photography by Naoya Hatakeyama

Born in Hiroshima, Japanese artist, Rei Naito, often poses the most essential questions of human existence in her art installations. Her work establishes a direct dialogue with the environments that surround them. She is most known for her Matrix project at the Teshima Art Museum in Japan, where she brings nature in the form of water into the architectural masterpiece of Nishizawa Ryue (co-founder of Sanaa). She has never ceased to observe herself and reflect on the human condition as evidenced by “A Place on Earth”, an installation that she presented at the Venice Biennale in 1997. This short interview poses questions which Naito has raised herself in her exhibitions and through her art installations.

TLmag: What kind of place was the Earth?

Rei Naito: As a person living on Earth, I cannot answer this question. Thus, through art, I try to go out of “inside of this life” while I live. By doing so, I think of this earth from the viewpoint of the dead, those who will be born, animals, plants and holy spirits.

TLmag:  How would you define a “Landscape”? Is it different from “Nature”?

R.N.: I usually feel a “landscape” as a “scene of life upon earth.” Not only as “nature” but also as “human activity”, the scene with the presence of “life” that can arouse compassion in me. During that moment, I feel being in “the outside of life.” When my life become inseparable with the scene before me, I feel receiving compassion. These sometimes occur simultaneously. It is a moment I realize actual life and feel gratitude.

TLmag: Can you elaborate on the role water has in your work, from Being Given to Matrix?

R.N.: Water is bestowed to us as well.

TLmag:  What is a human? What role does it have on Earth? Is our existence on Earth a blessing in itself?

R.N.: I have no choice but to keep questioning because I am a human. And, questioning is praying.

TLmag: What is your next project?
R.N.: Trying to become one with this moment, one doesn’t know about the next moment.



Every animal is in the world as water within water, 2009, The Museum of Modern Art Kamakura, Kanagawa, Untitled, 2009, water, bocal en verre, courtesy of Taka Ishii Gallery
On This Bright Earth I See You, 2018, Contemporary Art Center, Art Tower Mito, Ibaraki, courtesy of Taka Ishii Gallery
Matrix, 2010, Teshima Art Museum, courtesy of Benesse Art Site Naoshima
Matrix, 2010, Teshima Art Museum, courtesy of Benesse Art Site Naoshima

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