Thursday, November 19, 2009

project room: WHO

It's very rare to find a book on Japanese contemporary art in English this is why when I learnt about WHO I was overjoyed. Especially that it features Hara Takafumi whom I always wanted to mention here.
WHO is the title of the art book series featuring contemporary Japanese artists. In easy-to-follow form of an interview it restrains from using art terms and besides the art works also presents artists' daily life as a part of their extraordinary perception of the world. The first issue is dedicated to Hara Pink Window Project which he has been running in various places including Japan, Germany, Singapore and Brazil. In each of them artist picks up a building and research on its history which servived in the memories of the locals to finally exhibit it in the windows of the building. Here is a small excerpt of the interview with Hara which was made by Roger McDonald, independent curator and founding member of Arts Initiative Tokyo.

RM: Why did you start the project?
HT: [...] I wanted to go out into real world. When I showed my works at gallery spaces, I could construct my world but only relate to people who came [to the gallery] and that's all. I had the need to relate myself with our society much closely and get out of the art world [...]

RM: Is that the first time for you to use windows as medium?
HT: No. I had an exhibition at a museum in Chiba in 1998. It was an installation work, and I had to cover all windows to darken the room. If I didn't do this exhibition, I might never done the projects using windows [...]

RM: What does it mean to combine other's words within your work?
HT: I think words are expression tools that everyone has [...]. Yet, words are in its nature in flux and disappear, so I have the feeling that I would like to keep them.

RM: There are always illustations with the words.
HT: [...] For me it looks like characters in fairy tale. [...] Like Aesopus Fables. They are so realistic in original version. [Althought] over the time, through editing, simplifying and replacing they have changed still when we read them, even if they're amusing, we are sure of some horror in them [...]. I like this effect and would like to get the similar feeling in my works.

all photos come from artist's web page

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Restaurant Wild Cat House

I spent weekend in Echigo-Tsumari, where I went to see what's been left from the Art TriennaleWas it for the gloomy weather or the fact that we got lost few times trying to find art works spanning multipy venuse in whole Nigata prefecture but it seemed like a big kid has scattered its toys around and forgot to pick them up. Upon returned I read Roger McDonald review of Triennale and found out about its director - Fram Kitagawa - who essentially welcomes all levels and types of creativity not being so concerned about the curating aspects. Now at least I know that it wasn't just a gloomy day .. 
Mio ShiraiRestaurant Wild Cat House, installation, 2000
Nevertheless, I found some art works that appealed to me despite the rain. Amongst them was Mio Shirai installation Restaurant Wild Cat House, which was a set for his video that I saw at some other occasion. It is an adaptation of Restaurant of Many Orders written by Kenji Miyazawa in 1921. The story follows two Japanese men kin of Western fashion who stumble upon a strange restaurant serving Western food. And while blindly following instructions posted on doors they almost end up being eaten by the large Wild Cat. In Shirai's context, it's easy to understand that Western food represents Western culture and art. And those blindly following it end up swallowed by it and never return to their oryginal selves. 
Mio Shirai, Restaurant Wild Cat House, installation, 2000

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

exhibition: CREAM

One of the most memorable piece of Yokohama International Media Festival CREAM was that of Lieko Shiga who showed a ten minute carefully edited slide sequence of still photographs. The fast-paced, jerky editing and monotone noise soundtrack created a mood of a horror.

Leiko Shiga, from CANARY series, 2007, c-print.

photo: Leiko Shiga

Read more: Roger McDonald review Lieko Shiga here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

film: Emperor Tomato Ketchup

Japan emerged from the catastrophe of World War II as one of the most pragmatic and materialist societies in the world, and amidst this consensus Emperor Tomato Ketchuperupted deliriously, along with a string of acts of violent political contestation by leftist and nationalist factions - hijackings, bank robberies and an attempted coup d'├ętat-cumpublic suicide - that were upending Japan's post-War ideology of parliamentary democracy, domestic peace and economic expansion. The film depicts the anarchic scenario of children taking over, told through a series of burlesque theatrical tableaux and a collage of voiceover and found audio documents. The sheer sensationalism of the political exploits, much like the parody depicted in Terayama's film, brought politics close to a visceral form of popular dramatics - an analogy Terayama explored in the text 'Preface to a Theory of City Streets' (1976), in which he wrote: 'Theatres are neither buildings nor facilities. They are ideological "places" in which dramatic encounters are created. Any place can become a theatre, and any theatre is merely a part of the scenery of everyday life until a drama is created there.' Continue reading.

Terayama Shuji has immense cultural standing in Japan. He was an acclaimed poet, playwright, film-maker, essayist and photographer, whose transgrassive themes gained him notoriety.