To Be Human is the first major survey exhibition of Australian-Japanese artist duo Ken + Julia Yonetani. Working together since 2008, the artists have built a collaborative practice that unearths and visualises hidden connections between people and their environment. Responding to environmental degradation and global economic systems, their work addresses coral bleaching, increasing salinity levels, nuclear energy, and, most recently, the microbiome.
The artist duo is known for their use of unusual materials, such as salt, sugar and uranium glass, to create awe-inspiring, large-scale installations. This focused exhibition brings together works from Australian and international collections, including a reiteration of Sweet Barrier Reef, their major installation from the 2009 Venice Biennale.
The exhibition draws its name from a new essay by Japanese novelist Taguchi Randy, which features in the accompanying 120-page bilingual publication. Taguchi’s text offers an abstract meditation on the Yonetanis’ most recent body of work, contemplating the human condition, and our place in the ecosystem. In the midst of a climate crisis, a global energy shortage, nuclear escalation, and the ongoing pandemic, Ken + Julia Yonetani’s work holds increased relevance, and highlights the cognitive dissonance necessary to exist in a world in which human ambition is at odds with our survival.
Image: Ken + Julia YONETANI, Sweet Barrier Reef 2009, sugar, vegetable gum, polystyrene foam. Photo by Ian Hobbs. ©︎ Ken + Julia Yonetani.