One of Japan’s most controversial artists is showing for the first time in Taiwan.
Taipei’s TKG+ Projects features an exhibition of work by provocative Japanese artist Tadasu Takamine, including new installation and photography works, as well as his most well-known and most widely criticised video work.
The time spent at IAMAS was a catalyst for Takamine’s unique art practice. In an interview with the Japan Foundation’s Performing Arts Network Japan, Takamine reveals:
When I first began studying at IAMAS I didn’t even know how to boot up a computer. Technologically it was a time of great advances when non-linear computerized editing was becoming possible for the first time. So, the first thing I learned was how to use that type of editing software, and I created several video works in that way. In the field of performance, I was experimenting with ways to use video in live performances, such as showing non-live video as if it was video of a performance happening live, or showing a live band performance as video. […]
I became fascinated with the process of editing and the way that even a slight change in the order of scenes could create a completely different impression when you were editing footage to a specific number of minutes. In my own performances I had been performing in galleries and such in a style like [Marina] Abramovich’s where I would do repetitions of the same thing based on a single idea, but after I became absorbed in video editing I believe my performance changed to a concept of composing and editing elements.
Curator Mio Iwakiri writes in the press release for the current exhibition “Brothers: Tadasu Takamine”, running at TKG+ Projects until 11 September 2016, further expanding on Takamine’s practice:
He questions common sense and probes ethics, at the same time pondering aesthetics in his investigation of the current social fabric. Visual effects and asethetics are equally important to him as he strives to broaden the horizons of contemporary art. After the 311 Earthquake and Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, Takamine has been focused on portraying the Japanese collective subconscious in his work that is both steeped in critique and keen in observation. The inherent mystery and power of life has been the focal point in his recent body of work, as well as the theme of the current solo exhibition.
The centerpiece of the exhibition in Taipei is a new site-specific installation entitled Brothers-Synesthesia, which is an extension of his 2015 work Bumps on the Earth presented at Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art for Parasophia, Kyoto International Festival of Contemporary Culture. The multimedia installation with sound and lights was presented in the basement of the Kyoto museum. At the gallery TKG+ Projects, the original work is represented with diminished lighting, creating a more simple and direct version.
The work features, as the press release, describes,
three luminous spheres that glint in synchronization with music, suspended above simulated seafloor, rotate repeatedly in identical circles at the same speed. In the climax, dreamy music permeates the space lit up by sodium-vapor lamps. Through the dramatic change in lighting, the artist evokes an illusion of a rising temperature while finessing viewers’ emotions. Takamine’s circling light series illustrates an interconnected system. The circling light source for him embodies aether, or an organism with boundless expressions. The combination of sounds in the installation represents complex emotions.
Brothers is also one of the themes of Takamine’s photographic work on show, which is debuting in Taiwan and resonates with the installation.
Takamine is well known for his video work that shocks, while creating poignant criticism and reflections and offering thought provoking actions on contemporary issues. An example of such work is his infamous and arguably most controversial work Kimura-san, which features the artist assisting an invalid, Mr Kimura – a victim of the Morinaga scandal, in which 138 infants died from milk products poisoned with arsenic in the 1950s.
Mr Kimura, who no longer has any more control over his body and cannot speak, serves as the subject alongside the artist of a video that “deals with the theme/subject of the possibilities for individual self-determination”. Takamine was responsible for Mr Kimura’s care for a period of five years, during which he extended the sphere of ‘personal care’ and its attached responsibilities to include relieving the assisted man’s sexual tension. The artist challenged the stereotypical view of disability as asexuality, questioning as well the societal concerns for the physically challenged.
On view at TKG+ Projects is another one of Takamine’s controversial video works, and probably his best known, in which the artist is seen cavorting in a red room with his female assistant. God Bless America (2002) premiered at the Venice Biennale in 2003, the edition curated by Hou Hanru. In the stop-motion video, the artist and his assistant are seen kneading a huge mass of clay in the form of a head in a blood red room. The head, which takes various shapes with a vague resemblance to George W. Bush, is always singing the song from which the work takes its name.
In the video, the artist and the assistant also do other things, such as eating, watching TV, sleeping and having sex. The rhythm of the video and the actions taking place within the confines of the captured space is obsessive, depicting the infinite loop in which individuals are caught trying to live life – vainly – as independent as possible from their surrounding environment. Takamine seems to communicate, in a perverse way, our inextricable relationship with the powers of society and politics.
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
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