Stepping into Japanese artist Sebastian Masuda’s installation Colorful Rebellion – Seventh Nightmare feels like stumbling into a wonderland that is simultaneously vividly bright, candy-sweet, and disorienting. This installation, which filled the Kianga Ellis Projects in Chelsea, New York earlier this year, features a room bursting with manufactured objects of cuteness, including bundles of fake fur, stuffed animals, plastic jewelry, girl’s hair accessories, dollhouses, and other colorful toys that completely cover the walls and ceiling of the room. In the middle of the room is a bed, which visitors could lay upon and gaze up at the explosion of “Harajuku kawaii” closing in on them from every direction.
Kawaii, a Japanese word that conveys multiple meanings of cute, lovely, charming, and innocent, lies at the heart of this installation. Masuda, who owns the influential Harajuku boutique 6%DOKIDOKI and has also served as an art director for kawaii superstar Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, has played a large role in popularizing kawaii culture in Japan and across the globe. According to the Kianga Ellis Projects exhibition description, “In creating a world beyond fashion, popular culture and the imagery of the iconic Harajuku girl, the artist uses unconventional materials and colorful objects associated with child's play to reveal the complexity, darkness and obsessions composing his inner world.”
An undercurrent of darkness lurks underneath the facade of cuteness in Colorful Rebellion – Seventh Nightmare. The immersive environment is a reinterpretation of the seven deadly sins, reappropriated to fit the contemporary Japanese subculture of Harajuku kawaii. “One must understand that in Japan, therapy and psychological outlets are not as acceptable as they are in the United States,” Masuda explains in his artist statement. “The majority of the time, these girls do not fit in with their classmates and community. Harajuku is not only a place where they can be different without consequence, it is also a place that provides fashion alternatives for girls to express dark emotions in flamboyant, alternative styles.” According to Masuda, his seven deadly sins are desire, future, illusion, destiny, trauma, reality, and self-identification.