A split and sinking monument to the Tokyo Olympics conveys the divisive games

Japanese artist Masahide Matsuda has installed a half-submerged set of Olympic rings in the Mihama-En garden adjacent to one of the stadiums.

17 August 2021


The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo were perhaps one of the most contentious in recent history. After a year of postponement, the event went ahead to much fanfare and gave the world countless memorable moments of sporting achievement. And yet a huge proportion of the population didn’t want the games to go ahead, not least for fear of Covid infections skyrocketing. So, on the opening day, Japanese artist Masahide Matsuda installed an artwork nearby one of the stadiums to address the divisive nature of the event: a set of Olympic rings half-submerged in water.

Ripples is intended by the artist as a “symbol that reflects the times,” he says. The glowing rings on their side appear like an upturned boat about to sink. The installation also splits the rings in two, and therefore only forms the full image of the five rings when the waves are still enough to reflect the half above water – hinting that Japan will only know the full effect of hosting the games when the furore has passed.

Matsuda adds that he was inspired by Matsuo Basho’s haiku: “The ancient pond. A frog leaps in. The sound of the water.” In the poem, Matsuda says the writer “used the sound of water as an opportunity to compose the haiku of the old pond in mind, and sublimate it into art”. The artist flips this concept on its head, creating a silent piece sat still in water, and states it is a visual metaphor for our present age where “truth is embedded in privacy” and the “myth” of truth in the media is “collapsing”.

The artist began his career as an anonymous artist and gained attention for his events and performances via a Twitter bot, which focuses on anonymity and collective knowledge. He was born in Kanagawa Prefecture and lives in Berlin.

Ripples will travel to several Tokyo galleries until the end of the Paralympics on 5 September.

GalleryMasahide Matsuda: Ripples (Copyright © Masahide Matsuda, 2021)

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Masahide Matsuda: Ripples (Copyright © Masahide Matsuda, 2021)

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

After five years as It’s Nice That’s news editor, Jenny became online editor in June 2021, overseeing the website’s daily editorial output.

Jenny is currently on maternity leave.

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