“The Ten Thousand Butts” is a recent exhibition at the Saachi Gallery in Tokyo, Japan. The artist collected and displayed ten thousand butts from various locations around Japan. The work took several months to complete and consisted of over thirty pieces. The pieces are accompanied by an explanation of the origin and meaning of the cigarettes.
“The Ten Thousand Butts” was created as part of the ” CJET Experience: smokes, cody and art” project which is an international initiative to promote smoking cessation. This project has been developed in order to present a visual representation of the smoking epidemic around the world. On display are ten thousand butts from all around the world including but not limited to the United States, South America, and China. The butts displayed were selected from places like Disneyland, San Diego, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Bangkok, Seoul, Tokyo, and Taipei. In the accompanying photos, you can see a wide range of cigarettes being sold and purchased, along with the butt(s). The photos show butts from all different genres and ages, including young bucks, middle aged ladies, middle aged and older men, and even babies.
“The Ten Thousand Butts” calls into question the social aspects of cigarette consumption as well as how we, as smokers, interact with others. The photographs display smokers as if they are mere cody and jockeys to a race, while the butt(s) provide evidence that the smoker is actually engaged in a battle of wits with his or her own tobacco. In other words, the cigarette butt may be the champion of the race. In this light, it is easy to understand how younger people can be so easily influenced.
“The Ten Thousand Butts” traces the cigarette butt back to its origin as a Japanese cigarette in the nineteenth century. Today, the butt is still often made from the leaf of the same species. The ten thousand butts also reveals the cultural impact of Japan’s Meiji Period, which was characterized by social change. Throughout this period, the smoking ban was widespread, yet the prevalence of cigarette use amongst the masses didn’t decline.
An object of desire
In the “The Ten Thousand Butts” exhibit, the cigarette butt is displayed on a Japanese antique. A caption describes the butt as “an object of desire” that served as a tool for tobacco abstinence. Since many people view the butt as an ugly object, one might ask: what is so appealing about the cigarette butt?
To answer, the ten thousand butts serves as a reminder of Japan’s history, specifically the period when the Meiji Period reigns. According to historians, this was a time when smoking was not only common, but socially encouraged. As a result, smokers from Japan emigrated to other parts of the world, bringing their smoking customs with them. In the United States, smoking has been strongly associated with the tobacco industry, and exhibits like “The 꽁머니 1만” provide an insight into this industry’s influence.
Many people who are concerned about the effect of second-hand smoke on their health find solace in the “Ten Thousand Butt.” According to the exhibit, the cigarette butt has historically been used to symbolically represent one’s will to quit. One cigarette is “thrown”, symbolizing the “quitter’s” will to not smoke another cigarette. This act is meant to symbolize the smoker’s wish to free himself of his addiction to nicotine and obliterate all its detrimental effects. By lighting up one cigarette, a “butterfly” is released, symbolizing the act of releasing one’s addiction to cigarettes. The butt is then lit and the butterfly burns down.
The “Ten Thousand Butt” is a powerful exhibit, portraying smoking in a completely different light. The sculptural nature of the piece allows it to stand alone in its relation to smoking culture, while still maintaining an aesthetic value that is commonly shared by works of art. The powerful symbolism that the butt presents to those who see it is compelling, as it forces the viewer to contemplate their own addiction to smoking and their own mortality.