Youki Hirakawa 'River Under Water'

8 Sep 2018 – 13 Oct 2018

Regular hours

10:00 – 17:00
10:00 – 17:00
10:00 – 17:00
10:00 – 17:00
10:00 – 17:00

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Anima Mundi

St Ives, United Kingdom

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Youki Hirakawa (b.1983 Nagoya, Japan) presents his second solo exhibition at Anima-Mundi entitled ‘River Under Water’. This ambitious display of four filmic installations shown over two floors represents some of Hirakawa’s most important video works.


Hirakawa was born in a small village on the Nagoya Peninsula, in a house by the sea. As a child, he and his family moved to a newly built city in a mountainous area nearby, with access to untouched areas of outstanding natural beauty just a short walk from the family home - “with mountains, forest, ponds and a river known as the "River of God". And so began a life long obsession with the river and the ephemeral flux of water as alluding to both linear and oblique narratives of time passing.

When Hirakawa started working as an artist, he continued to visited the river of his childhood adventures,  for research and creative development. During one particular visit, he unexpectedly happened upon some fragments of pottery whilst walking along the river bank. According to an archeologist from the city museum, these fragments were 2,000 years old. Since then, Hirakawa has collected more than 500 such fragments. As well as the evidence of ancient civilisations, Hirakawa was struck by the age of the forest, estimated also to be around 2,000 years old. It soon became clear that the movement, flow and flooding of the river had directly affected the shape of the forest, the flora and fauna, and the human inhabitants who had once lived along it’s shores. It was striking that an ancient community had lost everything to the watery depths as the ancient river had burst its banks. 

‘River Bed’ (2012 / Single Channel Video Installation / Full HD / 17 min / Silent) was made to reflect upon and commemorate these experiences, whilst giving deeper resonance to the small fragments of pottery collected from the river. Fragments of unglazed pottery are rapidly overwhelmed by river water, as the fragments gradually reveal their abstract form out of the darkness.

Whilst living in Germany in 2015, Hirakawa visited an artificial lake and former coal mine, where he collected lumps of coal and petrified wood. When he unearthed the bituminous coal from the ground, it was still wet and the surface was shining like a thousand stars. From that experience, Hirakawa produced ‘Coaled Sky’ (2015 / Single Channel Video Installation / Original 4K (Exhibit with Full HD) / 07min45sec  / Silent). 

The main installation in the exhibition is ‘Ice Circle’, (Original 4K (Exhibit with Full HD), Approx 10 min each, Silent) an 8 channel video installation which consists of eight examinations of glacial erratics found around Northern Germany. Glacial erratics (with erratic taken from the latin, errare - to wander) are boulders which have been moved from one location to another by glacial shifts during the ice age. This natural phenomena can be found widely scattered around the landscape bordering The Baltic Sea, where some have been carried over 400km, proven by the fact that these boulders have a totally different materiality to their surroundings. As a result, these strange monoliths have a rich local history and they are imbued with legends and folk tales relating to the devil and witchcraft, with some being coined “Devil's Rock”.

Hirakawa visited many of these strange and beautiful boulders in Northern Germany, and filmed them within the landscape. Immersive panoramic filmography brings the viewer inside a virtual stone-circle, inviting us to consider our relationship with megalithic culture, the ice age and also the birth of human existence.

‘River Under Water’ will lead the viewer through a metaphorical experience of invisible water streaming beneath and beyond each work, as relating to Hirakawa’s ongoing concerns with history, culture, humanity and archaeology. 

Resting quietly within the aesthetic qualities of Hirakawa’s sublime films, we are invited to discover our own experience of a River Under Water. 

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Joseph Clarke

Exhibiting artistsToggle

Youki Hirakawa


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