Those who happened to look up at the Tokyo sky last Friday may have been amused — or disturbed — by the sight of a giant human face hovering silently above them. The uncanny hot air ballon is the work of a Japanese artist collective known as 目 (“Mé”), and the black-and-white face printed on it was selected from over 1,000 images submitted online, though their identity has not been revealed.

Titled “Masayume,” which translates to “prophetic dream,” the aerial piece was launched from a park in the Shibuya district as part of the 2021 Tokyo Tokyo Festival organized in advance of the Tokyo Olympics. The games are set to open this Friday despite public opposition largely centered on the possible spread of COVID-19 during the games.

“Masayume” floating over a park in Tokyo last Friday for the Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13 (photo by IGARASHI Tomoyuki, courtesy of 目[mé])
The aerial piece was launched from a park in the Shibuya district.  (video courtesy of masayume office)

The idea for the piece came to Mé member and artist Haruka Kojin in a dream when she was a student in junior high school.

“Amid our current crisis, which has been going on for more than a year, the clear structure to plan and execute something that has previously supported us is collapsing,” said the collective in its artist’s statement. “Even though we are taking steps to navigate this reality, the feeling of being real in our daily lives is as uncertain and unclear as if it were far into the future.”

“‘Masayume’ will be carried out suddenly and without prior notice nor a clear reason, just like an image a 14-year-old Japanese girl saw in a dream, momentarily disabling the ordinary,” the statement continues.

The work has been met with a mixed reception, ranging from humor to more subversive interpretations. Some have likened Mé’s piece to The Hanging Balloons, a story by the Japanese horror mangaka Junji Ito in which floating heads with metal nooses set out to kill their human doppelgangers.

“Masayume” by 目[mé] (2019-2021) (photo by KANEDA Kozo; courtesy of 目[mé])

Valentina Di Liscia is the News Editor at Hyperallergic. Originally from Argentina, she studied at the University of Chicago and is currently working on her MA at Hunter College, where she received the...