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Maciej Toporowicz' "Aokigahara" in "Wall Signs" at the Contemporary Art Gallery Opole, Poland

  • Galeria Sztuki Wspolczesnej / Contemporary Art Gallery Opole 12 Plac Teatralny Opole, opolskie, 45-056 Poland (map)

Gallery Hours: Mon-Sun, 10-6
Opening: Thursday, October 13, 2016, 8 PM

ARTISTS: Jan Baracz, Krzysztof M. Bednarski, Jan Domicz, Adam Niklewicz, Remigiusz Suda, Maciej Toporowicz.

Writes Łukasz Kropiowski, the curator: „The exhibition aims at considering a possibility of a different approach to the phenomenon of death - a point linking a natural phenomenon and a meta-empirical mystery - an attempt to approach the subject beyond (or maybe rather between) conceptualizations of biochemistry, medicine, psychology, demography, economy, law - on the one hand, and metaphysical meditation and theology on the other. I wish to research a possibility of leaving the platitude of a mortuary, aesthetics of a cemetery, rhetoric of a guidebook or any certain eschatology. In the exhibition both „poles” of the optics of death will inevitably be manifested, but the border between them will not run between artworks or exhibition rooms, but inside the works themselves: unclear, neutralized and ambiguous".

Maciej Toporowicz' immersive installation Aokigahara employs his photographs and sound recorded in 2002 in the notorious Suicide Forest or Sea of Trees, located at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan. It is reportedly the most popular place to commit a suicide in Japan. In 2003, 105 bodies were found in the forest, far exceeding the previous record of 78 in 2002. 

In recent years, the local government stopped publicizing the numbers in an attempt to downplay Aokigahara’s association with suicide. The high rate of suicide has led officials to place signs at the entry of the forest, in Japanese and English, urging suicidal visitors to seek help and not kill themselves. 

The site’s popularity has been attributed to the 1960 novel Kuroi Jukai (Black Sea of Trees) by Seicho Matsumoto. However, the history of suicide in Aokigahara predates the novel’s publication, and the place has long been associated with death. Suicide may have been practiced there since the 19th century, and the forest is reputedly haunted by the spirits of those who died.