Fumiaki Aono

Mending, Extension 

In 1996, Aono began “mending” or restoring fragments that he salvaged and collected. Mending, Extension essentially consists of a series of pieces that are “restored” fragments whose original forms and functions are uncertain. The “restoration” here does not seek to recover the shape of the whole that the fragment used to be a part of. Without being tied to the social significance that these objects used to embody, Aono confronts the form of these residual fragments, seeking out the original shape that they used to take while working to repair and extend their missing components. The earliest Mending, Extension, Arahaama, March10-5,1996, ”Unrelated Mending” (1996figure) piece consists of a discarded piece of common Styrofoam repaired using plaster, another fairly common material. Mending, Extension, Yuriage, November 25,1995 (1996figure), also from the same period, was an attempt to “extend” a fragment of a Japanese paper screen that Aono salvaged from a street corner using paper and acrylic paint. Mending, Extension, Yagiyama October 6, 1997(1997figure) is a mended scrap of an old futon from Aono’s family home, affixed onto a panel. Aono feels a certain familiarity or personal connection in the fragments that he mends, or the materials that he uses to repair them, as seen in other works like Mending, Extension, Okuniikkawa, July 12, 2000 (2000(figure), which was shown at the VOCA Exhibition in 2001, also consists of futon scraps, and Mending, Extension, Tori no Umi, May 18, 2007 (2007,figure ), an extended version of a fragment of a bathroom mat. It is through this affinity that Aono builds a relationship with these strange objects.



Mending, Restoration

As opposed to Mending, Extension, which focused on the work of restoration by respecting just the fragment to the very end, Aono attached the title Mending, Restoration to the process of repairing an object by cleaving to the specific form of the fragment, while honoring the concrete, social attributes of the object before it became a fragment, such as its shape or function, as seen in Mending, Restoration,  Arahama, March 10-9,1997 “Unrelated  mending” (1997 figure ). Mending, Restoration, “Restoration of a ship abandoned in Yuriage” April 12, 1998   (1998 figure ) is a sculptural example of one of the earliest works from the Restoration series, where Aono attempted to repair a series of parts salvaged from the rear of an abandoned ship that had been dismembered near the port using plywood.The plywood that was also used in a similar way to repair Mending, Restoration, “Restoration of a Car illegally dumped years before in Higashine” May 15, 2001(2001 figure ) is often deployed in Aono’s work as a relatively neutral material that is also easily procured. For Aono, the objective of the restoration is not to recover a vehicle with the same function as the original car. Neither is it to create a replica with the same appearance as the original. Without accomplishing the restoration that we associate with that word, Aono’s work finds completion while still a “work-in-progress”, when the author has stopped “working” on it. By leaving behind traces of the restoration process, Aono highlights the relationship between the fragment and the repaired component, while also alluding to the other choices that might have been made. As a result, we are also encouraged to reconsider the validity or legitimacy of the act of restoration. Mending, Restoration, “Restoration of a stump cut down long ago in Sendai”  (2004 figure ) consists of pieces of plywood joined to felled tree stumps in order to produce a restored version of their form. This mode of restoration is a document of two truths: the fact that this big tree used to grow here, and then that it died (or was cut down). The motivation to create this work — to engrave the fact of a former existence — seen here continued in Aono’s earthquake disaster series after 2011.



mending, accumulation

While Extension and Restoration both feature a single fragment from which the restoration follows, during a certain period in 2004, Aono attempted to restore a slapdash assortment of three or more fragments, giving them the title “accumulation” (Mending, Accumulation, 2004-7, 2004 figure). Casting an eye at the various acts of “restoration” that occur all around us, such as buildings being maintained, repaired, and expanded, or the changing form of the city over a long period of time, we can see traces of how various materials are connected to each other in a complex manner. This act of going back to what Aono calls the “site of restoration” was his goal in attempting the Accumulation series. Here, Aono focused his attention on the varied power relationships that result from how fragments (cross-sections) both complement and conflict with each other (Aono calls these processes “takeovers”, “infiltrations”, or “propagations”). One example of this, Mending, Accumulation, Infiltration, 2004-1 (2004 figure), is composed of multiple fragments, producing an “accumulation” that tends to obscure the distinctive traits of each one. Here, Aono attempted to render in three-dimensional form the phenomenon by which the distinctiveness of one of the fragments colored (or infiltrated) the others. Aono, having investigated the diverse relationships that exist among (at least three of) these fragments, would go on to reduce the number of fragments and limit them to two in order to analyze the relationship between them.


Mending, Consolidation

For the Consolidation series of works, Aono selects two fragments with something in common that ought to be combined, working to join them together (and thereby “restoring” them). In most cases, what matters is some kind of formal affinity: box-like shapes, corners, or surfaces. Instead of an act of mending, Aono’s focus here seems to have shifted to pay more attention to the nature of the relationship between each fragment, and how that relationship gives shape to the object in question. When only one fragment is involved, Aono sometimes deploys a piece of furniture or some similar object as a substitute article in order to “repair” it. In Mending, Consolidation: Substitution, the substitute article is not limited to broken or damaged objects. Accordingly, the result is a kind of paradoxical situation in which the substitute material is actually “destroyed” in relation to the act of mending. In Consolidation, the nature of the relationship between three different entities — the restored portion added to two fragments, or one fragment and a substitutive material — produces a variety of classifications, including “fusions,” “absorptions,” “infiltrations,” “takeovers”, and “coexistences.” When Aono experiments with restoring new forms, he often uses the trays used to hold food products(figure1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8) that have been discarded on a daily basis. With their distinctive, shallow plate-like form, these trays are flat and two-dimensional, while also being able to convert themselves into three-dimensional objects. Aono began working on Mending, Substitution, Consolidation, Capture, Serial Arrangement, 2011 (2011 figure ) before the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, and exhibited it after the disaster. The work represents a repurposing of a structure that Aono first experimented with in Mending, Substitution, Consolidation, Capture, 2005-2 (2005 figure).



the Great East Japan Earthquake

After the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011, Aono did not initially intend to create works related to the disaster. Almost all the fragments found on the beach he frequented even before the quake had been destroyed or damaged by the disaster, and he found himself forced to hesitate when it came to the work of salvaging. At the end of April 2011, during a visit to Miyako, where one of his relatives lived, Aono witnessed the disappearance of an entire town that ought to have been there: before his eyes lay only the floors of all these houses. That summer, having taken the skeletal structure of the floor of his relative’s house back home with him, Aono set about “restoring” it by transplanting it onto the low tea table that he used at home. This incident prompted him to begin tackling head on the task of restoring objects that had been damaged in the quake. Rebirth: Land Surface, Outflow, Transplantation, 2012 (2011-2012 figure1,2) an exhibition consisting of a group of restored works based on various floors and “ground indicators” salvaged from Miyako, confronts the reality of the town’s disappearance, while also hinting at how the surface of this lost ground might yet be revived in another form. Mending, Substitution, Consolidation, Serial Arrangement (2012/2016 figure) is a work that recreates Aono’s own experience of offering flowers in vases in a sort of memorial service to the victims of the disaster in each afflicted area. Its structure, which layers multiple substitute objects on top of each other, functions as a “foundation stone” (in an act of memorializing the victims). Aono’s works created after the quake are distinguished by how objects damaged in the event are displayed through the use of substitutes. At the same time, Aono enlarges the scale of his work by arranging multiple chests of Japanese tansu drawers in a serial configuration. These pieces are shaped by his impulse to salvage objects that are even now at risk of being lost, fixing them in a visible location, as well as his desire to interpose the tansu chest that is a familiar presence in Aono’s own daily life, having it serve as a stand-in for the damaged objects. Faced with the loss of places, things, and a great number of people caused by the disaster, Aono subsequently embarked on a new effort to restore articles of clothing. This process entails highlighting the traces and memories of human presence in the work, while also alluding to the impossibility of restoration and human absence.


Ouchi Hikaru

conservation piece/peace: from here to there

Fumiaki Aono

Fumiaki Aono (born 1968) started working with the theme of restoration in 1990 as a graduate student at the Miyagi University of Education, after having experienced firsthand the sight of a forest being destroyed the previous year. This forest, a motif that he had chosen for a series of paintings as part of his graduation exhibition, was abruptly being felled in order to make way for a park. Thoroughly shocked by the spectacle of this destruction, Aono’s first foray was a series of works that attempted to use an accumulation of small cut branches to recreate the large tree that ought to have been there in the first place. During this period, Aono also began experimenting with setting his own works ablaze and then “restoring” them, inspired by the themes of destruction, rebirth, and circulation. In this sense, Aono’s restorations have been concerned with showing how an object is reborn, rather than the objective of returning it to its original condition. Attention is paid to the act of visualizing the processes of destruction and forgetting that are assumed to underlie its restoration.

Since 1996, Aono’s style has consistently been focused on using broken objects that he salvages and collects himself, relying on his own knowledge and imagination to “restore” the missing portion. These works, which feature the word “mending” in their titles, include Mending: Extension, in which vestigial patterns in the fragments, or some distinctive formal property in the broken object, are repeated over and over again by Aono. Mending: Restoration, on the other hand, features a deliberate use of simple materials that recreate the form of the object before it was reduced to a fragment. Whatever the case, these objects are essentially different from “restorations” in the sense of recovering a function in accordance with the original use of that object, or making the damage done to it less conspicuous.

Even while he relies on their fragments, what becomes obvious in Aono’s works, which acquire a new form that clearly depends in no small degree to the artist’s own judgment, is that these objects are irreparable. Alluded to here is a suspicion of a certain arrogance embedded in the term “restoration,” which (one might feel) implies the notion of returning something to its original condition. At the same time, the irreparability of these objects demonstrates Aono’s determination to uncover creative value within the traces of an impulse to salvage what remains, which was originally implied by the very process of restoration. For Aono, the new relationships that emerge when something breaks or is lost, as well as all kinds of shape-shifting, are processes rich in creative potential: he seeks to reflect an entire worldview, consisting of human relationships in contemporary society and its social structure, within the shape of that “restoration.”

 The exhibition “conservation piece/peace: from here to there” was launched in order to tackle the question of what sort of relationships are created with lost or vestigial pieces of memories through the act of conserving them, by deploying two different approaches — Fumiaki Aono’s own artworks and artistic stance, and the “Landscape with Hanako” project, which consisted of collecting and editing a series of documentary fragments surrounding Hanako the elephant (who lived for 69 years before passing away in the Inogashira Zoo in May 2016), as part of the archive project Archive for Human Activities (AHA!). In preparation for this exhibition, Aono started salvaging objects and conducting fieldwork in Musashino City around a year before it was to be held. At the same time, the Kichijoji Art Museum put out an open call and started collecting unwanted, disused furniture and everyday objects such as chests of tansu drawers from local residents. Aono then transported these large quantities of objects discarded in or collected from the Musashino area to his studio in Sendai. The finished product was the large-scale work, “Tale of a city that settled around a river source — Inogashira, Tokyo, 2017 AD—15000 BC.”

 Made up of a concatenation of some 30 chests of Japanese tansu drawers and other pieces of furniture that encircle a rectangular interior space, the outer wall of this work features discarded bicycles, cars, clothes, and books embedded within the foundation offered by the drawers, so that the forms of the people who crisscrossed the city as the riders of these bicycles seem to have been “restored” within these walls (Aono says that the sheer number of cyclists he encountered while conducting fieldwork in Musashino City made a particular impression on him). The floor of the space within these walls is a stand-in for the water source of Musashino (Inogashira Pond), while the walls (made of chests of drawers) surrounding this pond function as a document, in a sort of relief that resembles layers of earth, of various memories tied to this land from ancient times up until the present. Memorialized here are Jomon-era earthenware pots, iron swords with curved pommels unearthed from the grounds of the Musashino Hachiman-gu Shrine, the air raids that targeted the Nakajima airplane factory in Musashino responsible for manufacturing the military plane engines for Zero fighter aircraft towards the end of World War II, the animals in Inogashira Zoo, and the Ghibli Museum.

Also embedded here, in addition to these histories of the land that surrounds Inogashira Pond, are clothes, shoes, everyday items like clocks and tableware that were taken from the houses of others, or salvaged from the street, and fragments of countless discarded items, including department store wrapping paper lining the bottom of tansu chests of drawers that had been recovered, cigarette butts, and empty soiled cans and plastic bottles in huge quantities. Reunited here is an assemblage of objects that were consumed and discarded long ago, the result of an act of recreating and restoring the places and times where they were discarded. This, however, is ultimately an accumulation of discarded fragments: there is no “mending” of these objects, spaces, or times. What comes to mind is how these objects and memories, discarded onto the earth’s surface, gradually disappear from our sight, as well as the massive volume of energy that was expended for them to get to that point. By getting us to witness this reality, Aono urges us to confront the tenacity with which things and events are repatriated, and the absurdity, artificiality, and difficulty of holding onto things.

  In this way, Aono’s works interrogate the true intentions that underlie our attempts to mend, hold on to, or retain things. At the same time, however, Aono has also mingled within his work shoes, bicycles, and other objects that his own family used, objects with personal memories attached to them, as well as fragments of memories of his grandmother and great-grandmother, who used to live in his family home in Kichijoji before being forced to evacuate and move to Sendai during the war. In this way, he transcends the boundaries that he himself has laid down, devising methods of approaching the “other” in various guises (that is to say, memories conjured up by other salvaged objects). This sense of disjuncture between salvaged objects each attached to different memories, when joined together through memories of Aono and viewers confronting the work, create a situation in which the memories of those absent begin to stir and take flight once again.

Ouchi Hikaru

The theme of Aono`s work is 〝restoration".
He picks up discarded, soiled objects that are ordinarily despisedtorn pieces of cloth and newspaper, broken or rotted pieces of wood and signboards and uses fragments of them as materials for his art. Using printed patterns, wood grain, printed words, even dirt and mold, as his guides, he adds other materials or paint to the process of damage or soiling that has affected it. Or he may simply restore the basic colors without making other repairs. Truth and falsity are subtly blended so they are hard to distinguish from a distance. The object becomes a different thing, which is close to, but not the same as, the condition imagined from the clues that appeared when it was found.
Aono was motivated to undertake this series when he observed repairs of cracks in a concrete wall in which the cement was applid recklessly. This experience stimulated him to study the 〝practice of retoration" in terms of sociology, language, ethnology, and psychology. Then he defamiliarized this 〝practice of restoration" in his art, making it into an opportunity for fundamental rethinking.
It the artist carries out a process of 〝restoration" carefully and as faithfully as possible to the object, his own creative intentions inevitably play less of a role in the work. However, the overall quantity and degree of restoration required to finish the work are left to the artist`s discretion, so it is impossible to say that his intentions play no part at all. Still, Aono presents his works as 〝objects", and the process that goes into forming them is not evident to the viewer. They seem to have been transformed into natural objects with the passage of time and the effect of the element. We are made to perceive them in diverse ways and urged to think about the signiificance of artistic creation, the position of the artist, the physical mode of existence of the object itself and the flow of time.

-NISHIMURA lsaharu
Chief Curator,The Miyagi Museum of Art

Objects Reincarnated from the Quaking Earth

The majority of Japanese contemporary art introduced to Korea from the 1990s on consisted of works by artists born in the 1960s, who align themselves with Japan Pop or Neo-Japan Pop. The works of AONO Fumiaki (青野文昭, 1968~), who was born in 1968, stand at a considerable distance from mainstream contemporary Japanese art from his generation, in terms of his methodology of collecting everyday objects and appending human activity.He was mentored by TAKAYAMA Noboru (高山登, 1944~), a representative Monoha artist who is widely known for his work with sleepers, but Aono Fumiaki deals with the relationality with others, and the location and memories of objects from a perspective that differs from that of Monoha or post-Monoha artists who sought a return to the essence of materiality through objects. The key point in Aono Fumiakis works, which will be introduced at his first solo exhibition in Korea to be held at Arario Gallery in April 2014, is how he places equal level on the creative act of making (producing) and the act of fixing in the form of repairing. In traditional craft, repairing was subsumed under the process of supplementation, but in Aono Fumiakis work, it is itself a fundamental component of his creation.

The act of Repairing, Coupling and Substitution, and Rendering Objects Anonymous

The act of repairing”, which Aono Fumiaki has constantly developed into his own methodology since his first solo exhibition in 1991, emerged from an accidental discovery. Upon seeing traces of filled in cracks on a concrete wall nearby his residence, he is attracted to formative figures whereby field for the coexistence of coincidence and necessity are generated, as crossings were arising from an inorganic wall, catalyzed by human acts of craft. A condition in which properties such as transformation, proliferation, consolidation, and incursion born from the process of physically supplementing or mending damaged, worn down, no longer useful and therefore discarded objects shake up and reorganize the perfect image of objects. Aonos repairing goes beyond simply supplementing and correcting forms, and serves as the fountain of new creation, reorganizing and transforming objects into unfamiliar matter.

To repair an object, one must first collect. Aono Fumiakis personal interest in collecting general and cultural objects from around the world, and exploring simultaneous, multi-layered expressions seen in such objects, can be found in his mediatory formation. Especially, Coupling and Substitution, which is a concept that refers to a consolidation of damaged objects with supplementary materials, is a unique idea that underlies his art world. Aonoscoupling and substitution differs from the serial or linkage, each of which refers to multiple layers of supplementary patterns or an expansion of flow. Aono replaces damaged parts of discarded objects with supplementary materials, and transforms them into a status that harbors various potentials. in which different traces coexist. He exposes the state of letting be itself, such as just being placed together, just being aligned, or just being collectively, and tries to highlight the contrast between noise and neutral, abstraction and concreteness, mass-produced objects and the hand-made, the I and the other, and past and present. Therefore, Aonos repairing work does not aim to revive the object to its original state. Instead, his work aspire to a generative restoration that recreates the shifting ambiguities in the process of a damaged object, its traces and the vestiges of its restoration gradually becoming something else, an anonymous object, noting that a complete return to the original state is an impossibility.

Aono Fumiakos tendency to use objects he came across in daily life moved on towards public awareness steeped in social significance; a representative case is his open road repair work, which took place on the streets of Sendai in 2009~2010. This particular work resists the custom of presenting the traces of repairing and restoring daily objects as works of art to be owned individually. He literally sits out on the street and conducts his repair work while people walk by. The repair process is captured on screen and uploaded to Youtube. From the perspective of the aesthetics of relationality, the artist questions the concept of the public that stands apart from art, and reflects on his own life as one that relies on the public through traces of restoration, fixed in a specific locale, and constantly exposed to an unspecified multitude.

Drifting Surface, Reincarnation as Transplanted Matter

The Earthquake in East Japan, which happened on March 11 2011, was a turning point in Aonos repair work. This is when his focus on material form, the process of which centered on neutral and geometric transformation derived from the act of repairing, began to wear hues of social consciousness such as regeneration or healing. For instance, <Low Tables Covered with Floor Materials from Houses Destroyed in the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami >, installed at the underground floor in the exhibition hall, is a repair work that had been submitted before the solo exhibition he held at his hometown Sendai in 2012, entitled Reincarnation ? Surface, Outflow, Transplantation. The table, placed in spaces of daily life, means the first shared foundation on which we build relationships with others ? the act of sitting at the same table. The table, which had been part of an artificial surface/floor attached to different locations (lands), was torn away from its original spot and moved to another place. The surface-table with unique time, space, history, and context was transplanted to an unfamiliar and neutral locale by disastrous forces, and has become a drifting surface in on out-of-context space. Objects owned by family members or relatives of the artist or unfamiliar others who suffered from the earthquake are cut off from the space where its original users interacted; the objects are swept up in the throes of external incursion (the Tsunami), and acquire an autonomous status in its new resting place. The artist collects and repairs the debris from the catastrophe, and reincarnates them into unique objects that are transformed into unfamiliar matter devoid of functionality yet full of some potential, thereby allowing the coexistence of memories from the disaster.

The hall on the second floor features daily household objects that were collected from the Earthquake and later repaired, such as the rice bowl, playing card, plastic bottle, CD case, and the piece of red toy. They bear meanings that differ from that of mere, discarded objects. These objects attests to the loss of its original users who were swept away by the Tsunami, and they also serve as records of how these users lives were destroyed. Aonos repair-restoration work heals the traumas from the Tsunami, but also implies the fate of human existence ? how we are destined to be destroyed and sacrificed throughout our lives, and must coexist surrounded by absolute alterities and inevitabilities. Aonos repair-restoration work creates subtle difference in the form of surface of an object, encompassing temporality arising from the crossovers of past and present, and exposing the activity of handcraft work on inorganic wholes. He transforms objects that bear traces of human usage into a state of neutral abstraction. His act does not secure an abstract and neutral foundation (a kind of basal plane). Rather, it connotes a quaking attached to an actual location or situation. In other words, the way in which the repaired and restored object is placed is quaking and shaking, regardless of the artists own thoughts.

Still Alive in the Quaking Empire.

Since East Japans Great Earthquake on March 11, certain voices tinged with dark humor suggested that Japan should change its national name intoQuaking Empire (Yura Yurak Teikoku) on Twitters Japanese timeline. The implied reference here is Japans rock band Yura Yura Teikoku (1989~2010), whose portfolio includes a love song entitled <Still Alive (Mada Ikite Iru)>. Living on in a quaking empire where the surface often shakes and trembles, and ones daily life is constantly exposed to imminent destruction, comes closer to a repaired life begun anew rather than making something entirely new. The unpredictable, shaky prospects of life are not limited to Japan. Even here, unexpected disasters or collapses occur when we open our eyes in the morning, unsuspecting.

The act of repairing in Aono Fumiakis work goes beyond simply fixing and restoring man-made objects, and encompasses human relations and social systems ? perhaps even the human body, life form, and its cells. Whether it be the dissolution of a psychological value system, or exogenous destruction from incursions or attacks, one must adopt the attitude of fixing, repairing, restoring, reorganizing, and restructuring something in order to survive in a quaking empire. It is critical for us to contextualize Aonos regeneration project within the rubrics of our lives here and now. Living inevitably entails quaking and shaking under external influences. Therefore, the act of repairing or its traces harbors a sustainable power source embedded within human perception or cognition.

Kim Jeong-bok Art Critic

Restoring waste articles or detritus picked up on the beach, and vesting
them with a subtly different shape from their original from frees the
imagination. It is a process of redefining products whose life had ended
and vanished from society, and rehabilitating the significance of their

Fumiaki Aono is an artist who picks up discarded fragmental scraps,and redeems the whole by making up the lost part,turning them into new object.His works give a new life to things whose life would otherwise have expired and are pregnant with meaning when exhibited in the Kokaido,which had also survived the threat of demolition. Although simple in their from, they were impressive works, leaving room for various interpretations.


Assistant curator, the Iwate Museum of Art