In China, Junji Ito has long been the go-to manga artist for creepy comics. Taking influences from Kazuo Umezu and H.P. Lovecraft, his classics Uzumaki, Tomie, and The Hanging Balloons made him a household name among teenage manga fans in the late '80s and he's still one of the most recognized manga artists. Guillermo del Toro calls him "undisputed master of horror in Japan."
Often portraying human desires in disturbing detail (especially male-to-female, of course), his works never fail to create an unsettling and stifling atmosphere. His stories go from the mundane to the fucked up in the blink of an eye. Children under 12-years-old are not allowed to enter his first solo exhibition in Shanghai. But SmSh can pass for 13. On a good day. Here's a look inside Junji Ito's horror manga show in Shanghai.
Trypophobia trigger warning!
Junji Ito's Classic Aesthetics takes place in the nice, brand new Modern Art Museum located adjacent the Huangpu river, and features original artworks, behind-the-scenes video, and most notably, an AR area in which guests are given a headset that plays special effects and sound to accompany the visuals.
I came across this exhibition in Taipei about two years ago but couldn't go because their app didn't support my Android phone. This problem is solved by Xiaomi, who clearly have some sort of partnership worked out with Modern Art Museum and provide all the AR headsets on-site. Now, they've got it all there for you and you don't need to bring anything. You get a pair of AR headsets for the first part of the exhibition, through which Ito's iconic scenes begin shaking, oozing, and moving around, and emanating creepy noises and sound effects right in your face. OoOooOO! Here's a YouTube of what it looks like.
"In the past, I had a phobia of women. And I always feel disconcerted by women. Then I wrote about the life and death of Tomie to get rid of that feeling slowly and dissipate my fear of women." -- Junji Ito
(Said every manga artist ever?)
The rest of the exhibition showcases Ito's most notable works along with background stories, installations, interviews, and a photo booth. Visitors can even replace their faces with The Hanging Balloons' characters as a free souvenir.
In general, nothing too over the top; nothing would make you wish you could unsee -- a thought that often occurs when you read Ito's manga. It was created in the '80s after all. Humanity has come a long way with our disturbing imagery. We've made some progress. The exhibition is a bit of a trip to experience non the less. It's interesting to see Shanghai so openly celebrate the cult aesthetics of a Japanese horror artist. And a must-see for Junji Ito's fans for sure.
Junji Ito's AR exhibition runs from January 21 to April 8 (closed on January 27), weekdays from 11am to 8am, and weekends and holidays from 10am to 9pm. Tickets are available at Gewara for 70rmb, you can also purchase them in addition to a Michelangelo exhibition also happening at Modern Art Museum for 150rmb.