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Inoue Shuji - First Kyushu and Solo Exhibition

One turn of a spiral
looks like a circle

At the time of the 3.11 Tohoku earthquake, I saw the city become a pile of rubble in an instant and it made me think about the relationship between society and the environment through to my current work. It was at the same time rooted in thinking about how we interact with the world as we progressed technologically. Mankind has made dramatic developments, making our life styles more convenient ever since the Industrial Revolution. Such technology has had various effects on the world, but not all effects are necessarily positive. I think it is also true that without adequate technical capabilities and foresight, the problems caused by the technology themselves will increase. Currently, our society coexists with many technologies and many problems that come along with them. It can also be said that our self-contradictory nature is reflected in our progress to to solve a problem, then a problem arises due to the progress.  The problems arising from the continuous development and the repetitiveness seems to reveal a structure forming a circle. Or, it may not be a circle but in fact a spiral that will never return to the same place ever again. I am meditating on what lies at the end of the spiral, and what we can do in my own humble way.                                 





tokyo, japan

exhibition in 2023

One turn of a spiral looks like a circle - Shuji Inoue

Exhibition Dates:

2/4 (Sat.) - 4/2 (Sun.)  2023 

Venue:AIR motomoto

 Gallery and Garden

Hours:13:00-19:00 ※Last Admission 18:30

Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through exhibition period. Admission is free. 

You must make a reservation to visit motomoto.

The event on February 4th at the Manda Coal Mine does not require a reservation.

​exhibition flyer download




Born in Miyagi in 1995.

2021 M. F. A., Tokyo University of the Arts, Department of Global Art Practice(GAP)

From his experiences of the 3.11 Tohoku earthquake, Inoue is interested in the fragility and risks of society, as well as the points in the structures where society and nature meet. There are many works in public spaces which are physically confined or defined by those spaces. Inoue unravels the history and meaning of those spaces, linking them to the present through his own filter. His sculptures are composed using everyday life materials which would otherwise be waste or were no longer needed.

2022's Invited Artist, INOUE Shuji, arrived in November and has spent about three months working in Arao, Kumamoto.  This residence is also the first time living in Kumamoto for the artist. With pure curiosity and a clear focus towards his works, his research based on the local industrial revolution heritage took him around the Arao area and beyond to downtown Kumamoto, Mashiki, Amakusa, Nagasaki, Saga, Fukuoka and Kitakyushu, making a circle while researching and visiting the locations. In what form will his exhibition be presented? Please come and see for yourself. 


Inoue Shuji

Hanada Shinichi

Capacity of 25 participants. Reservations are required.

Date: February 4, 2023 (Sat.) 14:00 - 15:30

Venue: Marugoto Arao (On Manda Coal Mine grounds)

〒864-0001 熊本県荒尾市原万田169−22

You can see it across the way from the Manda Station Building.

You can use the parking of the Manda Coal Mine.

To Apply:

Send an email with the title "Inoue Opening Talk"

with the following information:

1) Name of Person Applying

2) Number of Participants

3) Phone number at which we can reach you on the day of the event.

Send your email to kumamotomotomoto at


Event may be subject to changes due to the situation. Please stay tuned for updates here and on instagram.


Anchor 1



Artist Review

Spiral or Circular Motion in Body and Language

Shinichi Hanada (Curator / Associate Professor, Faculty of Art and Regional Design, Saga University)

 It's been a long time since I've seen such a powerful installation. It's a real pleasure. Presently, there are many expressions using digital tools such as video and the Internet, as well as relational expressions that weave events while engaging local people, and it is rare to have an absolute physical expression that is vividly represented by such a large amount of work and material.

 For this exhibition, Inoue dug a hole in the ground along the side of the motomoto building to the exhibition entrance in the rear, creating a trench-like approach. Dirt and mud are exposed in the trenches, and through my own weak sense of smell, I could still feel the thick richness of the soil and grass hanging in the air. On the path, walking past the bumpy soil, careful not to lose my steps up and down the slope, the sensation of supreme excitement, like that of childhood and playing with the soil, was juxtaposed with the feeling of dizziness of the mind-boggling labor that was endlessly repeated. 

 Going towards the back of the building and entering the exhibition room through the opening of the glass window, the inside is a hard-boiled space surrounded by concrete. The mortar walkway invites visitors from the entrance to the exit of the exhibition room. In the crevices of the raised sidewalk towering over the floor, old daily necessities and electrical appliances are randomly stacked and hidden from view. When you proceed to the far end of the walkway, you come to an exit through a door. When you open it, the outdoor scenery readily presents itself, but the door position is higher than the ground, so once you realize it, you look down on the trench that you just passed below your feet. That drop is about one meter high. If you were to go out the door without thinking, you would definitely get hurt.

 Let's look at the movement of the visitors while remembering the exhibition title, "One turn of a spiral looks like a circle." Visitors move from the site entrance through the trench on the side of the building towards the exhibition room, then follow the indoor walkway to the exit. Throughout the entire journey, the visitors will make a spiral circular motion along a gradual height difference.

 Inoue has dealt with the contrast between nature and culture in his works such as "Connecting the Sea" (2019) and "Showing the Scenery of the City to A Caught Fish" (2021). He has also dealt with the shift of viewpoints in his works such as "Extending the Stairs of Hiyoriyama to a New Perspective" (2021) and "Raising the Floor" (2022). In this exhibition, both of these are present. The changes in standing position are generated by a physical experience while contrasting nature and culture, and conceptually, through this, it induces reflection to a viewpoint that overlooks the whole structure.

 When we look at human history, we want to take the progressive view of history that our society is gradually rising towards better things while drawing a spiral through the accumulation of wisdom such as civilization, science and technology. However, Inoue says that the spiral motion may be a descent rather than a rise, or it may simply be repeating a circular motion on the same plane.

How could our trivial activities, akin to a hummingbird's sip, amount to a spiral motion? Or should we keep it to a circular motion? May we shift the contrast between nature and culture to the contrast between action and inaction, or the contrast between infinite and finite? I cannot help but recall the Buddhist idea of reincarnation and Nietzsche's eternal recurrence. In the first place, we tend to forget that there are blind spots here and there and many things are overlooked, even if we take a bird’s-eye view. Maybe 100 years of life is not enough time, or perhaps, it is too long a span of time. And just like that, my thoughts continue to return to the beginning, going round and round.

Questions and Hopes in a Spiral

Kusumoto Tomoo, Curator at Tsunagi Art Museum


Through the warm rays of sun in late March, I walked past the large quantities of soil piled high, laying my eyes on the fresh green surface in which a long trench-like ditch -- as tall a person -- was dug out along the building. When descending the staircase carved out of the soil, I was surprised by a nostalgic scent composed of mud and summer grass that flooded my sense of smell even before my sense of vision. 


Looking at the earth spread out before me at eye level, I got the feeling that I was transformed into a bug and that I had acquired "bug-vision" much like one would imagine from Kuribayashi Sato's photographs. The soil in the ditch was layered and mixed with waste such as gray concrete pieces and black plastic bags, exposing the past activities of humans that should have been obscured by the landscape on the surface. At the end of the ditch, which is also a mark of the enormous labor of hand digging, there is a slope leading to ground level, which leads to the inside of the building through a sliding glass door. When I looked under the mortar path, which had been raised from the floor inside the building, I found items that I had seen somewhere, such as electrical appliances that were no longer needed. Further down the path, when I opened the polished glass door at the very end, I was back at the beginning, overlooking the large ditch and the descending dirt stairs, as if I had come around in a circle, but I could not proceed because of the difference in height. For the first time here, I was conscious of the title of this exhibition, "One turn of a spiral looks like a circle."


A spiral is a three-dimensional line that extends vertically while drawing an arc, but when viewed from above, depending on the angle, the lines overlap and appear as a circle.The same road which transforms from mud to mortar reveals our past and diverse daily life and within it the existence of our appearing and disappearing ambiguous boundaries. The ground covered in fresh green, the ground with layers of soil, the mortar road and the piled up debris below it, the outside and inside – all of these things impress the existence of boundaries in a synchronic and diachronic way and inquire into their significance. It seems to show that, even if humanity keeps progressing, the boundaries creating separation of areas will not cease to exist, but instead these different worlds will forever continue to coexist. Or perhaps it is showing that the concept of progress is actually an error and that we are just repeating the same thing endlessly. 


By the way, Kazuhiko KOMATSU, a folklorist who is also considered to be a leading expert in yokai research, said that yokai, created by anxiety about the darkness of the human mind and events that cannot be explained by theory, appear on the boundaries between worlds. Komatsu refers to the outer realm beyond the understanding of everyday life. If we suppose that the world we saw standing at the end of the mortar road was one that surpassed our sensitive thresholds, then the doorway is a boundary to a spiritual world, and the affixed frosted glass is a mirror reflecting the heart of the person standing before it. In other words, it might also be looking at the forced situation in which we are in, and that we no longer have to rely on abilities beyond human human knowledge to continue to climb the spiral that might be unfurling beyond the doorway. 


On the other hand, humanity has managed to live with wisdom while facing many crises. In archeology and folklore, one of the forms of spirals is said to have the meaning of amulet. Perhaps it is a bit too deep to try to find a little hope for the future of humanity by feeling the intention of the folklorist Nobuo Orikuchi, who tried to unravel the world view peculiar to the Japanese through the thought of the ancients in this exhibition. In this exhibition, I was able to feel Inoue’s intentions, like those of Nobuo Orikuchi, who attempted to unravel the unique Japanese world view through the ideas of the ancients, and also a small but certain sense of hope for humanity, or would that be examining too deeply?

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