The concept behind DOG installations
DOGTokyo2017 is the second in the series of DOG installations. The first, highly successful, installation was in London in 2010. The sculpture itself is a simple work which carries complex questions. In its essence, it is an assembly of large numbers of cardboard dog sculptures in a public space. The primary aim of the artist is to question how we consumers place value on what we see and desire. The DOGs themselves are made of cheap, insubstantial materials mostly used in packaging and of no intrinsic value whatsoever. In the observation, the only value we can place on these sculptures is the one we impose on it ourselves. In London in 2010, when, at the end of the installation, Takayama gave the DOGs away freely to whoever wanted them, there was almost a frenzy to get one. People queued up, people implored to be given one, some who were disappointed even became emotional. Now the story transfers to another culture, to another consumer space and we were able to observe any differences in response.
Akane Takayama and her DOGs
The Tokyo installation
The installation was exhibited in the famous Ueno Park in central Tokyo over two days on the 17th and 18th November 2017. This coincided with the Contemporary Art Festival held in the park at that time. The wooded area alongside the central promenade was the site where the DOGs were displayed. The audience mingled within the installation and engaged with it taking pictures and uploading them to social media.
The event was very successful with an estimated audience in the region of 2000 people over the two days. This figure is estimated based on the number of leaflets handed out by Takayama’s team over the installation. In total, as well, at the end of the installation all 700 DOG sculptures were taken away by members of the audience. Tokyo TV had a film crew covering DOG and other media outlets were present.
People take their DOGs away
At the Tokyo installation there was no less of a clamour for the DOGs at the end of each days exhibition. People who had been to see the DOGs during each day returned at 4pm when the DOGs were then handed out by Akane Takayama and her staff. All over Ueno, people could be seen walking around with their DOG in a transparent plastic bag. One man was quite insistent that he wanted four of the DOGs to use as a display in his shop window. Takayama agreed, after all the purpose was to see how the audience not only react with the art but then go on to use it within their own constructions. The surprise was when the man turned up on a bicycle and was last seen cycling out of the park with two DOGs balanced at the front and two at the back.
Input by primary school children
Involvement of the community with the DOG installation was a critical element of the design of the project from the start. In order to deliver this, Takayama set about creating workshops for primary school children with the aim of teaching them how to create three dimensional models. She did not want them to be part of the creative process of the DOG sculptures, she saw that as her art, but to understand her production techniques and create their own models based entirely on their own creative vision. This reliance on the children’s own creative vision then allowed the teaching staff to tailor the workshop output to subjects which they were teaching as part of the curriculum.
As part of the workshop inclusion programme, Takayama also arranged for the schools to mount exhibitions of the children’s work in local libraries and public facilities both in the UK and Japan. Her belief in encouraging the children not only to explore their own creativity but to see it recognised as their own public art was an intrinsic element of what DOG is all about. The response by the professional educators has been overwhelmingly positive as exampled here:
“I just wanted to say a huge thank you on behalf of myself, Mr **** and all of year 4 for such an amazing experience with you today.
The children thoroughly enjoyed working with you to create their animals and were incredibly engaged throughout the whole experience.
We will eagerly look forward to hearing from you regarding the displays that you will be making of the children’s work,
and look forward to finding out what the children in Tokyo think of the artwork that we have created.”
UK art teacher
16th May 2017
It was easy to hand them over to you all because I knew they were in great hands.
Once the workshops had finished the children were asked to write a message of hope for the future. These were placed into the neck of the DOG sculptures thus connecting the children with the main installation. At the installation, the audience were encouraged to read these messages and that then provided not just a connection back to the children but also posed a question about what happens to us all and our values as we become adults.
In DOGTokyo2017, the messages were both in Japanese from the Tokyo schools and in English from the UK schools. Takayama now has a collection of over 800 messages of hope from children in the UK and Japan. She is planning to use these for a future exhibition and make them available for an exercise in cross cultural comparison of values amongst 8 year old children.
In the run up to the installation, Takayama took her DOGs out and photographed them on the streets of the UK and Tokyo, Japan. These were then incorporated into the social media element of the installation and became part of the wider digital gallery she had pioneered in 2010. In DOGInstallation2010, London, Takayama developed the idea of a global digital media gallery for her DOGs. This was ground breaking work at a time when social media was just beginning to emerge as a cultural force. As one of the first, if not the first, contemporary sculpture to deliberately use social media as a public gallery and make its inclusion in the work part of the of the work’s ethos, Takayama demonstrated her wide vision in the delivery of her sculptures.
Akane Takayama’s team
Akane Takayama had her team working for nearly two years at the various stages of the work. In the UK with the school workshops and in Japan with their school workshops and at the installation itself. DOG is not a sculpture installation, no matter how easy it looks, which requires a laid back approach. The logistics are complex, from workshop delivery to construction to marketing to installation, there is a multiplicity of tasks which require firm time management and installation control. Whilst as a delivery structure DOG is very complex, the essential simplicity inherent in all of the processes, inside the installation and beyond it, means that individual tasks themselves are straightforward and the goals are all attainable.
Japanese Artist Akane Takayama exhibited her art installation project #DOGTokyo2017 on 18th & 19th November 2017 at Ueno Park, Tokyo, Japan. This exciting project was advertised on the ITSCOM television Channel in Tokyo and has won a prestigious award from the Asahi Shimbun Foundation. DOGTokyo2017 was supported by the following:
The Mayor of Meguro, Tokyo – Mr Eiji Aoki – 青木英二目黒区長
Meguro City Council, Tokyo – 目黒総合庁舎 目黒区
The Asahi Shimbun Foundation – 公益財団法人朝日新聞文化財団
Meguro Aoiro Shinkokukai – 目黒区青色申告会
Tokyo Metropolitan Ueno Park
ケーブルテレビ イッツコム iTSCOM ( 東急沿線）
Pebble Studio London – ペブルスタジオロンドン
Simplink Communications – シンプリンクコミュニケーション
British Council, Tokyo – ブリティッシュ カウンシル 日本