August 10th sees the Golden Thread Gallery opening its doors to the largest exhibition of contemporary Japanese art ever seen in Belfast. The exhibition titled, ‘Noise of Silence: Japanese Art Now’ includes a broad spectrum of styles and approaches to contemporary art making and features: a 17 metre long mud painting created on-site on the gallery walls; video projection; durational performance; sculpture; video; photography and installation works. Live performance and video installations will also feature in the Golden Thread Gallery’s Castlecourt pop-up space.
Co-curated by: Golden Thread Gallery’s, Director, Peter Richards; the Director of Art Center Ongoing, Tokyo, Nozomu Ogawa; and Belfast based Japanese artist, Shiro Masuyama, the exhibition brings together for the first time ever works by exceptional Japanese artists: Yusuke Asai; Midori Mitamura; Kyunchome ; Takahiro Suzuki ; Fuyuka Shindo; Takuro Kotaka; Atsushi Yamamoto; Hikaru Suzuki ; Marico Aoki and Shiro Masuyama featuring Taira Ichikawa.
Visitors have the opportunity to experience aspects of contemporary Japanese life as seen through the eyes of some of its most talented artists today. The exhibition explores Japan’s distinct cultural issues in addition to drawing out the artistic parallels that unite creative practices across international boundaries, allowing the exhibition and visitors to reflect on the similarities that exist within our own cultures.
A programme of activities accompanying the exhibition will allow visitors to take part and dig deeper, and will include gallery tours and talks. Family friendly workshops (including a special Culture Night/Day mud painting session) take place on the first and third Saturday of each month throughout the exhibition.
Please check the gallery website (www.goldenthreadgallery.co.uk) and social media for further details.
Yusuke Asai was born and lives in Tokyo. He makes vast spectacular wall paintings of organic motifs, using mud made from local dirt. Since 2008 he has painted “mud murals” in numerous venues nationally and internationally. He is represented by ANOMALY, Tokyo.
Midori Mitamura was born in Aichi and works in Tokyo. She has exhibited widely nationally and internationally and has been artist-in-residence at Flax Art Studios in Belfast. She makes interactive installations using ready-mades and projected images. Her installation, ‘Green on the Mountain’, is inspired by a family photograph that she found in Europe.
Kyunchome are an artist duo. They came to prominence in Japan after receiving the Taro Okamoto Art Prize for their work exploring the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2014. Their provocative new video work was made on Okinawa Island, the interface between Japanese and American territories, an American military base.
Takahiro Suzuki was born in Osaka and works in Hyogo. He is a performance artist. Over the last twenty years he has shown internationally, repeatedly writing one word, “生きろ (IKIRO) ”, meaning “Be Alive”. Whether on streets or inside museums, writing “IKIRO” has become his lifestyle and philosophy.
Fuyuka Shindo works in Sapporo, Hokkaido. She has been artist-in-residence at Flax Art Studios in Belfast, having studied at Belfast School of Art. Conducting research in museums and archives, she looks at objects such as traditional costumes and old photographs. Her finished pieces incorporate elements from both past and present, through final imagery, materials used or techniques employed.
Takuro Kotaka is from Saitama. He often works from Southeast Asian countries including Thailand and Indonesia with the grants from the Pola Art Foundation and Japanese government. He is a filmmaker whose practice considers political issues from unconventional and humorous perspectives. His humorous ‘docufiction’ of a UFO encounter with villagers in Suzu, Ishikawa, creates a metaphor for the failed proposal for a nuclear power plant in the village.
Atsushi Yamamoto was born in Tokyo. He currently works in Vietnam supported by a grant from the Japanese government. In his video work he walks around Belfast city with his friends in a Japanese giant costume, responding to the mythology of an Irish giant. The work was created during his residency at Flax Art Studios in 2014. He is represented by Shugo Arts, Tokyo.
Hikaru Suzuki is from Fukushima. He has lived in Berlin, Germany, and is now based in Tokyo. He blends fiction and documentary in his videos. His film shows a side view of the life of Japanese people living in Berlin, Germany, and was based on the short novel, ‘Persona’ by Yoko Tawada.
Marico Aoki was born in Saitama. She works in Tokyo. She is a multi-media artist using videos, pictures, paintings, clothes and sculptures to create installations based on magic and rituals. Chaotic worlds are created, referencing animism and globalized culture.
Shiro Masuyama was born in Tokyo. He has been resident in Northern Ireland since 2010 and is a well-known member of the Belfast art community. His collaborative installation created with kinetic light artist Taira Ichikawa, criticises aspects of Japanese society that ignores the ongoing crisis of the Fukushima nuclear disaster ahead of the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
Cover image: “yamatane”, Yusuke Asai, 2014. Photo by Nash Baker. The image is courtesy of the artist, ANOMALY, Tokyo, Japan and Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, USA
Sumiyoshi Higashinada-ku Kobe Hyogo Japan
These paintings are from a recent residence what I saw and felt at that time is drawn on the Naan Bread obtained in each place. Each may be disjointed, but each has its own memory like a Polaroid photo. Naan may be gone during the exhibition, but the same is true for the photos printed on photographic paper, they fade and loose colour. All that remains is memory and floating like a jellyfish in the aquarium of the street gallery.
The Bread Of Life And The Mother.
It is often said that a mother son relationship is unbreakable so perhaps this is a good starting point as introduction to the artist Tatsumi Orimoto. It is a relationship that informs his daily life and creativity, either including her presence or directly inspired in other ways by the intensity of their relationship. as a performance artist, draftsman and photographer. The artist has often communicated his ideas specifically in a frame that magnifies the immediacy of the maternal bond, as in his Art Mama series that began in the mid 1990s. However, through extension, this could also act as a metaphor for considering the interactive condition of the family as a whole, for besides his mother often includes neighbours and friends as in Tire Tube Communication 1996 and 50 Grand Mamas 2006.
It has become a striking feature of much of his work, both in performances and their photographic documentation, that marginality and the everyday are elevated to a central roles.
Tatsumi Orimoto’s career began some 45 years ago, he was initially an assistant to Nam June Paik and shortly after he became an autonomous artist, beginning with the creation of actions and performances that seemed meaningless. In fact his initial impulse was influenced by Fluxus and the use of vocabulary of ordinary objects and the sense of puzzlement they can create, a marked feature that runs throughout Tatsumi Orimoto’s work. This was very evident in a series of documented body interactions, hand and foot actions and notably the five pull to ear projects 1983-85. In later stages and strings were attached to human ears, reminiscent of farm animals. Specific use of words to express different forms of uncertain aural inference, the suggestion being psychic points of localisation, points of identity and or points of individual inclusion and or exclusion and personal understanding and misunderstanding. The artist’s use of photography and it’s role in site specific documentation of actions, performance and events has become a primary means of generating a sense of transglobal inclusion, indeed this has become increasingly pertinent in his work.
It is significant that Tatsumi Orimoto’s bread performances first seem singular events at the 21st Sao Paolo biennial in 1991, began a train of thought that has evolved through numerous subtle variations and developments and has criss-crossed the world over 30 years. the role of bread as a global and stable food metaphor operates crucially at the centre of socio cultural concerns having to do with a political critique of negative forms of neoliberalism that leads to increasing mechanisation alienation and human exclusion.
Whether through bread-head performances in the street, interventions at cafes, in art spaces or communing with cows, Tatsumi Orimoto confronts the commodity that sustains European life. The 26 Bread People Punishment stands as an example of the extremes of contemporary globalising attitudes. The participants stand blindfolded and tied to a post on individual podiums, carrying trays of bread, which through the performance become scattered, while the they are disoriented and humiliate while they try and brake free. A culmination of what was seen at ARCO 2009, where a complete series of Bread Men and Bread Cycles Objects performances were enacted.
The question of commodities and human dependencies is treated from another perspective, in the Oil Drum performances, beginning with 16 Drum Cans + 16 People in Tokyo 2002. This project was expanded in 36 Drum Cans + 80 High School Students, 9 Drum Cans + 9 High School Students in Tokyo 2003 and subsequent variations. Japan is among the most dependent oil importing economies, while simultaneously being a major exporter of automobiles. The idea may in some respects relate to Art Mama and other projects, where the protagonist often carry a weight, sometimes a bicycle or car tyres around their neck. In the first car 16 figures of different ages arms by their side, appear in the drum cans rotating in sequence in the photographs, ending with Tatsumi Orimoto and Art Mama then just Art Mama. The people disappear and at different stages these pristine drum cans are occupied then increasingly unoccupied. No direct reference is made to oil, the effect is clearly puzzling, it suggests an inert sense of commodity life, where dependence exists without communication.
The question of social inclusion, be it in comical form as in the Boxing Partner series 2003, where the artist and friends simulate boxing, which turned into a chaotic street fighting match in Berlin 2008. In Art Mama Medical Care: Collaborating With 9 Alzheimer People 2002 and other related works there is a strong sense of social cohesion and commitment. In this respect his work is best understood through his Art Mama projects of the last 20 years, including his 2008 Kyoto show Living Together Is Art, with such works as Bread Man + Alzheimer Mama 1996. His mother suffered from the disease and became the most vital part of Tatsumi Orimoto’s performance and action artworks. Notable photographic works that demonstrate the influence of this relationship are Tire Tube Communication: Mama and Son 1995, Art Mama: Small Mama Big Shoes 1997, Art Mama: Big Box 1997, Art Mama: Mama And Me Passport Photo Box 1999-2000. Through the black and white series Art Mama + Son 2005, is the revealing of an extraordinary interdependence and commitment.
The daily development of a growing intimacy in the wake of his mother’s advancing illness and debility, Tatsumi Orimoto’s desire to include her either directly or indirectly in all his artistic practice shapes the commitment the artist has to all forms of inclusion and human interactions. In other words Mama is both a living participant and a fulcrum by which the artist foregrounds what it is to be human, negotiating what is important in terms of dependency and challenging the homogenous tendencies and similitude of globalisation. It is a critique that stresses the importance of direct and open communication suggesting that this serves as fundamental to human relations. Indeed the artist has repeated, this aspect of his work is driven by the need for continuous open communication.
In the last few years these platforms have been considerably extended from a basic position and set of relational building blocks, including bread, oil drum cans, Paper mache shoes and other sundry objects. Thus the performance language of these objects, including his recent Finger Dolls takes on a site specificity that dialogues with the place it has occurred, extensively through Europe and Asia.
Still to be discussed are the artist’s drawings which serve as a distinct counterpoint to his actions and performance work, created over many years they are images of intense personal anguish and interiority. Reminiscent in some respect to the properties of Art Brut, but a fantastical world of cathartic expression and exorcised anxiety emerges. The apparent joy in the communication of performances and actions in the artist’s outer life is derived from the expense of a high emotional cost. While Art Mama Diary is a record of Tatsumi Orimoto’s commitment, to people and the World, his drawings are a record of the price paid for a desire to establish meaningful forms of positive communications. It is ever the way, that open commitment to social inclusion always weighs heavily upon the needs of an inner self.
Mark Gisbourne is a curator and critic, formaly a Tutor and Lecturere at The Courtauld Institute and Slade School Of Fine Art, as well at Sotherby’s Institute. He is a member of the Editorial Advisory Board and correspondent for art.es in Berlin.
Preen's AW18/19 Collection Celebrates Korea's Fearless
Matriarchy of Deep Sea Divers.
In amongst a slew of shows celebrating post-humanism,
Preen drew inspiration from a very different source:
the haenyeo, a tribe of free-divers with an iron will.
At the peak of London Fashion Week, Thornton and Bregazzi showed their supremely executed Preen AW18/19 collection, stirring their signature ethereal silhouettes with a subaqueous edge in reference to the female strength of the Haenyeo women. The fragile floral elements of the collection are juxtaposed with darker palettes, scuba sleeves and detailed fishnet tights, emulating the mysterious aquatic abyss. Shoes are modelled upon seaweed, constructed with mohair to create texture and ocean-like movement. Inspired by Hyung S Kim’s photographic series "Haenyeo: Women of The Sea", the Preen by Thornton Bregazzi AW18/19 collection is like peering through a prism of female empowerment. But who are the women Haenyeo tribe, repeatedly referenced by media outlets? And what relevance does this seaward sisterhood have to the female empowerment movement unfolding today?
Throughout history, mainstream media outlets have failed to provide a suitable amount of coverage exploring the matriarchal communities that exist in the crevices of the globe, mostly throughout the Asian continent. Positioned in the South Korean Island Province of Jeju, the haenyeo are one such community. Haenyeo women continue a long held tradition of harvesting sea life from the ocean floor to sell in order to sustain themselves and their families. The strength and resilience of these women cannot cannot fail as they plummet to the depths of the tempestuous ocean for up to two minutes at a time without breathing equipment. Their garments are pragmatic, with lead weights laced onto their waists to hasten their journey to the seabed, their vision aided by charmingly antique scuba masks. The neoprene wetsuits that pepper the shore like seals are accessorised with brightly coloured tops and bold prints to offset the stretch of deep, dark ocean ahead. These divers, mostly between the ages of sixty and ninety, daringly oscillate between life and death, demanding great psychological and physical strength. They claim the ocean invigorates them and stimulates their psyche — a far cry from the cultural construct of "retirement" that is specific to modern western society.
The matriarchal structure of this Korean coastal community is effectively captured in an essay written by Korean writer Kil-un Hyun. He writes, “Historically, the people of Jeju saw the sea as fearful, dangerous, and fraught – something that made life difficult. Men were reluctant to take on any work that involved interaction with the raging sea. But for women, in particular for those who lived in coastal villages, this fear had to be overcome: they were expected to dive into those treacherous waters for a living.”Not only does this matriarchy tantalise feminist tendencies, the sea women of Haenyeo also embody a much deeper connection with the environment they inhabit, something that is predominantly lacking amongst western circles. Thea Bregazzi herself commented, “They meet in the morning and sing songs about celebrating the sea and the earth [...] They’re eco feminist”. In a nod to the community’s propinquity to nature, Thornton confirmed that seemingly plastic textiles featured in the collection were actually made with metal thread, a more sustainable alternative, and all fur was a by-product. Promoting environmentalism on the catwalk is a refreshing alternative to the climate of excess illustrated by Chanel’s SS18 show that was littered with plastic, and most recently, Calvin Klein’s popcorn covered runways. Nothing preaches environmental detachment like a carpet comprised of 6.2 tonnes of popcorn to cushion your every step. Having derived inspiration from Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel "The Handmaid’s Tale" for last season's show, the design duo continues to solidify their politically charged position on the fashion week schedule, promising to bring more than beautiful garments to the catwalk.
Fusing the delicate with the strong, the Preen AW18/19 collection captured the multi-faceted nature of femininity: the traditional beauty and delicacy of the female form, but also the strength and resilience of womanhood. The mainstream feminist movement suffers from an inability to accept that women can portray beauty without forgoing their strength. This misconception was brought to light with their collection that manifests the dynamic nature of womanhood. Thornton and Bregazzi’s choice to reference this group of women living the other side of the world also gestures to how parochial female solidarity can be. Whilst famous personalities take to social media to divulge their personal experiences of sexual harassment under #metoo and exchange their normal glittering garb for all black in name of Time’s Up, the female divers of Jeju are harvesting seaweed whilst their husbands wander aimlessly on the shore awaiting their return. They harvest and collect shellfish for up to seven hours a day, ninety days of the year, and the majority of them have been doing this upwards of sixty years, continuing the tradition passed from generation to generation. Despite their contextual contrast, both of these narratives must coexist alongside each other to quilt together a more cohesive rhetoric of female empowerment. In a world where imagery is the primary currency of communication, influential brands have a responsibility to use their platform to educate and inspire in order to promote social change. In the wake of political instability and widespread disenchantment with global leaders, fashion can no longer exist in a vacuum as an apolitical entity.