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January 19, 2020

Tokyo 2200: Neri Oxman collaborates with FabCafe creatives for Mori Art Museum’s ‘Future and the Arts’ exhibition

It’s Tokyo 2020, and there’s never been a better time to look at the future of Japan – and the future of living, in the face of climate change, automation, urbanization and aging demographics. 

So goes the idea behind the latest exhibition at Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum, ‘Future and the Arts: AI, Robotics, Cities, Life – How Humanity Will Live Tomorrow’, which has gathered the works of some of the biggest names in art, design and research, including MIT Media Lab’s Neri Oxman and YouFab alum Amy Karle.

For this exhibition, Oxman was assisted by a production team of creatives from FabCafe and Hidakuma, FabCafe’s joint operation with the local industry in Hida city.  (What is FabCafe Hida/Hidakuma?) 

‘Edo’s Eden’ by Neri Oxman and The Mediated Matter Group

Future Meets Folk
For ‘Future and the Arts’, Neri Oxman and The Mediated Matter Group have created a hypothetical vision of Tokyo 2200 in ‘Edo’s Eden’, a city whose shape has been drastically altered due to rising sea levels.

It’s a work that combines cutting-edge technologies with traditional materials – Japanese cypress wood sourced from Hida and surrounding areas in Gifu prefecture. With help from Hidakuma, FabCafe Hida and FabCafe Tokyo director and digital fabrication expert Daiki Kanaoka, ‘Edo’s Eden’ uses one cypress, 500mm in diameter, accompanied by spherical orbs made with the latest 3D-printing technology.

Production support from Hida was not only functional, but adds a particularly resonating touch. With a steadily declining population, Hida city is like many other regional locales in Japan – faced with aging demographics, as well as loss of industry and traditional craftsmanship. This scenario, not entirely dissimilar to that of which raised in ‘Future and the Arts’, is exactly that which is being addressed by Hidakuma, which connects Hida’s abundance of wood with new technologies and contemporary artists and designers like Oxman. 

The Wood Behind the Work
The material of wood in ‘Edo’s Eden’ is, of course, a central focus in itself. The top plate, which is cut on both sides, is made of 100 ten-centimeter cubes of cypress glued together and arranged to simulate the look of tree rings.

The exquisite quality of the wood is seen through its mirrored reflection at the bottom.

The cypress top plate was cut with a CNC milling machine, topped off with delicate detailing. Unlike that of hardwood, cypress timber is especially soft and difficult to process, requiring a high degree of craftsmanship.

The top plate is lined with the spherical orbs that have been designed and precisely reproduced with the latest 3D printers. Their transparency is so high, they could be mistaken for glass balls.

The timber components of the work were delivered from Hida to Tokyo, weighing around 100kg to 200kg. Even the seemingly light top plates weigh 16kg. It takes nearly 100 years to grow trees to a diameter of 500mm.

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Team members Anran Li (center) and Joseph Henry Kennedy Jr. (right) stayed in Hida for final adjustments, working in collaboration with Daiki Kanaoka (left).

With over 100 works that envision the future, through installation, video, photography, architectural modelling and more, ‘Future and the Arts’ invites audiences to question what it means to be human – today or tomorrow. The exhibition is on from November 19, 2019 to March 29, 2020 at Mori Art Museum.

Neri Oxman work Edo’s Eden at Mori Museum

FabCafe Hida

Established in 2016, FabCafe Hida is the second Japan branch of FabCafe. Located in Gifu Prefecture’s Hida, creatives can create and prototype with local Hida timber, via both the latest digital fabrication and wood machines. Doubling as a B&B, FabCafe Hida also host creatives for longer stays to further experiment and fully realize their innovations.  Hidakuma is its collaborative venture with local design studio Tobimushi and Hida’s local timber industry. Together, they work towards revitalizing the city and promoting local wood.

HIDAKUMA & FabCafe Hida: Loftwork puts down roots for new values in Hida city

See FabCafe Hida page here.


  • Joanna Lee

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