Special Exhibition “Protolog – Archetypes of Yamanaka Shunji’s Work”


The special exhibition, Protolog, investigates the production processes of Yamanaka Shunji, a contemporary, cutting-edge industrial designer, from the viewpoint of natural history. Engineering, which aims to devise manmade objects, and natural history, which seeks to comprehend the natural world, appear like isolated fields, but do connections between them exist? This question arose from our recognition that Yamanaka’s products display a series of morphological similarities with scientific exhibits at museums. Moreover, prior to realizing concrete designs, this cutting-edge engineering surveys iconography, events, and phenomena similarly to how natural history categorizes, describes, analyzes, and understands objects. This shows the compatibility of the engineering research exhibit with natural history in terms of research strategies. The present exhibition thus investigates the relevant epistemological processes existing behind these similarities. According to Yamanaka himself, “This exhibition is an attempt to reconsider the semantic, principal, and morphological relationships between the museum’s collection and my work.” Protolog (or protologue) is a word usually referring to the original description of a new species, denoting Yamanaka’s description of his products in this exhibition. Simultaneously, we incorporate the nuance of creating and advocating for concepts that are new yet commonsensical and related to this term. Presenting Yamanaka Shunji’s prototypes as well as the “logbook” of his design voyage recording what happened until he finished his prototypes, this exhibition aims to illuminate the process of “archetyping” as an antecedent of “type,” much as pure scientific research is an antecedent of applied scientific research.

[Organizers] The University Museum, the University of Tokyo (UMUT) + Prototyping & Design Laboratory, the University of Tokyo

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