MINEMURA Toshiaki "What was 'MONO-HA' ?"
(from 1986 catalogue of MONO-HA exhibition at Kamakura Gallery)


Having reached this point, Ifeel that some explanation should be given regarding the meaning of my definition that MONO-HA "makes 'things' appear on the stage of artistic expression, no longer as mere material, but allowing them a leading part."

With the exception of Koshimizu, all the MONO-HA artists took a specialist course in painting at university and experienced the same process of having to rush into 'things' because they had the premonition that painting was dying. Then, when we look at the way they visualized 'things', we find that, unlike a Donald Judd, for instance, who, as the final outcome of reducing the pictorial illusion by sheer force of logic, yielded an artificial product that he called himself 'Specific Obfect', the MONO-HA, having renounced at an unjustifiable moment a positive manner of making works as artificial product, chose to introduce things that exist in their natural condition and ventured in the direction of relying upon them for their artistic expression. The choice of such an orientation Ifor sure have no mind to criticize. Ishall merely observe that MONO-HA art, which was produced during such a course of events, when pictorial art had not been entirely erased from ther minds--their official denial of painting notwithstanding-- found itself substantiolly provided for by a pictorial vision together with a fair amount of that MONO-HA peculiarity that finds its expression in somehow in harmoious relationships between that vision and 'things'.And there resides the contradiction of a pictorial vision having negated painting to choose 'things'. The substance of such a contradiction, however, was by no means uniform, for the Geidai Connection and the Lee+Tamabi Connection carried out their evolution along lines of thought that seem to me completely different. As a resuly, it appears at first sight that both groups present such different features that it would even seem unjustified to deal with them under the same label.

in which case 'things' were endowed with an almost concep-tualized sensuous quality.) Enokura's oil blots, leathers, walls, ground crevices, and so forth, are ultimately pictorial surfaces materialized through the surfaces of things as well as through the properties of them, and it is that feeling of quality and permeating action that calls forth memory and presentiment, so to speak, to form an acting subject. While being pictorial subjects, they are also the surfaces of actual things. That very arnbivalence constitutes definitively the distinguishing mark of an Enokura, a trait that a number of times brings to mind Alberto Burri, the Italian Pre-Arte Povera artist. , Fundamentally the same thing could be said about Takayama. Takayama however, unlike Enokura, disregards the surfaces of things; he rather concentrates on the parts of darkness lurking behind and beneath them. Those railway
sleepers, for instance, that the artist seems particularly drawn towards, appear to be themes chosen out of such visual and psychological inclination, as well as mediums to be used to
construct a 'rearward' and an 'underneath' in the real space. Contrary to Enokura who loved so much mediums that have plane we can trace a difference in what made Takayama
show more or less a structural profile by means of his sleep-ers. Still, what appears to be of greater significance lies in their point of similarity in using things as subjects. <<Rattraps>>,
for example, one of the earliest works of Takayama, which he made in 1968, attaching three rattraps on the painted tableau surface, is not worthy of note because it reminds us of some
works with birdcages made by Jannis Kounellis around 1967, but because, in both artists, such living things played the part of medium and subject at once. When 'things' are worthy to
be raised to the dignity of subjects they inevitably soak themselves deeply in the realms of memory and life itself, Ietting 'oat around them countless indications and presentiments. As
a matter of fact, Enokura and Takayama, who were admirers of the folklorist Kunio Yanagita, claimed that behind and on the surface of things, one could see villages and their festivi-
ties as they were in the past. This is why the things of Enokura and Takayama permit no substitution. Against this, it may be asked now, what were the specific characters that differentiated the MONO-HA of the Lee+Tamabi Connection? As for me, I hold that the singularity of that group resides in the fact that while making a medium of things secured in their natural state, they kept seeking the theme at a different place, that is to say, at the
very point of encounter with existence. It is true that it was at that group, more than any other, that people threw the appellation MONO-HA. As a matter of fact, none of the other
groups released, in such vast amounts as they did, iron plates, timbers, ropes, papers, stones, glass panes, cotton, paraffin, cement, earth, etc., i.e. things in their barest and simplest forms. Nevertheless, the subject of their art did not reside in MONO (things) themselves nor in their evocative power of any memory or fantasy. In a way, one may even venture to hold the view that no other artistic group has ever neglected the irreplaceable quality of things as they did. Contrary to Enokura and Takayama the 'things' of the MONO-HA of the Lee+Tamabi Connection were mostly abstract, rude materials that in the majority of cases would not involve the least trouble in replacing with ones of the same quality.

However, even so, their 'things', far from being mere material, were given the starring role all the same. Even after having cracked stones or glass, never did they try to extract another shape or form another object. Even with Narita's «sumi»(Charcoal), it was not that charcoal was produced out of wood as a raw material, but that wood itself vecame charcoal; i.e., that the imposed subject was the ' qualitative metamorphosis of an object of the same genus'.The very thing that brought about the paradox consisting of giving the leading role to things, while, at last, acting as if their specificity was neglected, was the theme of 'exstence'. For those artists that chose as theme not the things themselves but the disclosure of their 'existence', art had to be conceived, as a result of this choice, only in the presence of things and in line with their everyday's life and demeanor. At the same time, and, in the final analysis, the most subtle delicacy of the problem did not reside in the 'things' themselves, but in the disclosure of existence along with or at the expiration of them.

This notwithstanding, although they were so different in age and cultural background, a merging was made possible between Lee and Tamabi MONO-HA, from the point where they could reach a mutual understanding about this very subtle problem centering around things and their existence. As far as one is capable of forming a judgment from their works, it wasn't Lee's comprehension of the phenomenon that occured first. Infact it is fairly reasonable to estimate that both almost simultaneously grasped the definite and concrete means available to them to solve the problem of the advance 'from things towards existence'. Should I venture to put a date to this event, Iwould say around autumn 1968, when Sekine's «Phase-Earth» just made its appearance.