Megacity: A very large city with a population of over 10 million people
Urban setting of this scale were unimaginable fifty years ago, but are becoming increasingly common, especially in the continent of Asia. These towering, sprawling metropolises are centers of the social, political, and environmental concerns of the eleven artists featured in The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s Megacities Asia exhibit.
Comprised primarily of installations and sculpture constructed from found objects in these megacities, the pieces convey the textures, materials, and overall feeling of the city each artist calls their home. Rather than being contained to one room, portions of Megacities can be found all over the museum and even beyond its walls. The most notable of these outside exhibitions is Fruit Tree, Choi Jeong Hwa’s magnificent twenty-three feet tall inflated bouquet of fruit, on view outside Quincy Market in Boston.
Upon descending into the main exhibition hall of Megacities Asia, the first thing we see is a geographical map showing the origins of each artist. The exhibition is constantly putting the work in context, accessible to visitors who may not be familiar with the cities addressed by the artists.
Some notable works includes a large, colorful sculpture by Aaditi Joshi, stretching across a corner of the exhibit, textured like a deep-sea coral reef. Upon closer examination, we see that the entire sculpture is made of plastic bags collected from the streets of Mumbai, India, Joshi’s native megacity. The piece addresses the environmental threat of overuse and improper disposal of these plastic bags in Mumbai, looming over the viewer like a twisting, bristling beast.
Hu Xiangcheng’s corner of the exhibit, Doors Away from Home (2016), has multiple little rooms, divided and wallpapered with salvaged Ming and Qing-era doors from homes destroyed in Shanghai’s modernization. The doors themselves are pieces of history, and tacked on are photographs of past residents, stickers, wrappers, and children’s hair ornaments—remnants of their legacy. There are mirrors fitted into each window pane; moving through the exhibit, we see ourselves reflected in the work. Hu asks the question that often accompanies rapid cultural change: are we losing something?
Han Seok Hyun’s all-green sprawling installation, Super-Natural (2011-2016) is like a miniature city in itself. It is fun to parse through, identifying the mass-produced consumer products from Seoul that make up the piece. The work addresses the environmental issues arising as nature is replaced my man-made and calls out the mirage of “green” products—which are often falsely presumed to be environmentally friendly just because of their color.
These works and more are on view in The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, through July 17, 2016. Be sure to catch it before its gone!
Wednesday, May 18: Puloma Ghosh