Ho Tzu Nyen : Night March of Hundred Monsters

Ho Tzu Nyen creates works that cross the boundaries of genre and media, including video, installation and theatrical performances. Mysterious, dynamic and captivating, much of his work is set in Asia and radiates out from his native Singapore.

This exhibition is centered on a motif from Japanese folklore: a horde of supernatural, often shapeshifting entities known as yōkai (variously translated as monsters, demons or specters) parading through the darkness of the night. Somewhere between an ordered procession and a state of wild pandemonium, the march of the yōkai may be understood as an eruption of the unconscious into the space of everyday life.

Conflating the form of the parade with that of a moving historical picture scroll, Ho Tzu Nyen enacts a march into Japan’s past. Amongst the hundred or so bizarre and sometimes humorous yōkai, we find a number of historical Japanese individuals who took part in the occupation of the Malayan Peninsula during World War II. They include General Tomoyuki Yamashita, who spearheaded the Japanese invasion of Malaysia and Singapore in 1942, and Yutaka Tani, the Japanese bandit and wartime secret agent who became the model for the extremely popular 1960s TV hero show “Kaiketsu Harimau”. Both Yamashita and Tani were given the nickname “Tiger of Malaya”. In the march, they find themselves incarnated as weretigers, accompanied by a number of soldiers, spies, and thinkers of the time whose activities remained in the dark. As the title of the famous Francisco Goya etching tells us, the sleep of reason produces monsters. And so the yōkai emerge from the cracks of everyday life and incarnate an era that was fascinated by evil.

As times changed, so did the yōkai.  In different historical periods, they fascinated the masses or filled them with fear and curiosity, as they wandered the liminal zones between folklore and science, nature and the supernatural, oblivion and nostalgia.  It is sometimes said that the yōkai began to disappear from everyday life when people stopped believing in their existence.  But they now roam at will in the imaginary worlds of anime and manga, perhaps awaiting another crack through which they will once again emerge into our world.

Music by Aki Onda Featuring Keiji Haino and Phew

Ho Tzu Nyen
Organized by
Toyota Municipal Museum of Art
Cosponsored by
The Chunichi Shimbun
Granted by
Japan Art Council
Supported by
Edouardo Malingue Gallery, DELTA ELECTRONICS (JAPAN), INC.
Toyota Municipal Museum of Art
Ho Tzu Nyen : Night March of Hundred Monsters

Thumbnail : ©︎Ho Tzu Nyen photo: ToLoLo Studio