I thought Yukihiro Taguchi's current show at Mori Art Museum had been cancelled because of the Earthquake. So I was delighted to find out when I bumped into MAM curator Kenichi Kondo last week at the Mizuma opening nijikai for Satoru Aoyama, that, no, it was on and up. Kindly furnished with free tickets, I was then able to check out the show late one evening, sneaking in backwards so I didnt have to first go through the tedious French conceptualism exhibition in the main part of the museum (fairplay to MAM: it was nice to see some of the Duchamp original readymades, but I was here for Taguchi).

Anyway, I was very pleased to see my profile and predictions last summer for Taguchi's MAM debut to have been right on the money. This small show (and catalogue) is a great introduction to one of Japan's most interesting young artists. Go see, ASAP. At least before 28 August.

Nobody ready my blog first time round, so here it is again, with some photos from the show. どうぞお楽しみください。



My best tip for great things in 2011 has to be the Berlin based video/performance artist Yukihiro Taguchi, who is lined up as a future Mori Art Museum Project in April during Tokyo art week. Born in 1980, Taguchi has been living and working in Berlin since 2005, when he dropped out of the MA at Geidai because he says he wasn't learning anything. He got frustrated with having ideas, asking to do them, then being told he had to ask someone else, who then told him to ask someone else -- a vicious circle. Sounds familar? It is typical of the educational, financial and conceptual frustration that has driven so many young Japanese artists to find refuge in the open minded international art world of Berlin where, with a little effort (but a lot less than in Tokyo), young artists can find the spaces and resources to pursue radical, experimental art.

It is a good job someone back in Japan is paying attention to these artists, though. Mami Kataoka selected Taguchi for MAM and he has worked recently with Yuko Hasegawa, Fumihiko Sumitomo and Mizuki Takahashi. Meanwhile, gallerist Rika Fujiki at Mujinto Productions saw the commercial potential with his video art and its playful and attractive animation style.

You can get a good introduction to Taguchi's work from the commercially available, "Moment" video, which includes the "Performative Installation" (2007) and the "Performative Spazieren" (2008).


This "show" at a Berlin gallery is Taguchi "performing" the making of a film in stop-start animation in real time during the duration of his time in the gallery. We then see the video made afterwards as the document of what he did during these days as the artist in residence. In the first of these two works, he takes apart the white cube space, pulling up about two dozen planks from the floorboard, has them dance around the gallery in various ways and constructions -- including at one point facilitating a game of badminton among gallery visitors -- and ends with a bounenkai party sitting on the planks and then the boards being respectfully re-installed.

In the second, he takes the planks out for a walk around the Berlin streets, parks and even the metro, before returning in good humour back to where they came from.

As the planks spill out of the window into a precarious construction, or as they move around the gallery into another architectural form, the influence of his first teacher Tadashi Kawamata is obvious. The work is a kind of homage to his constructions, only with Taguchi they are constantly mobile and inventive physical forms, which seem almost to be celebrating their temporary freedom from the built form. At the same time, the possibilities of movement and the actual choreography is formally very restrictive.

It's a brilliant idea and spin on the idea of how to make a "performance" work in the static confines of a gallery "show". The animation ideas, meanwhile, will no doubt be stolen by Western ad agencies when they see it -- as they have, for example, shamelessly ripped off Akira Yamaguchi's graphic art or Naoki Honjo’s "Small Planet" photos of miniature city life. The intellectual property problem with this work is literally Rika Fujiki's biggest problem, because it is not quite clear how you sell this work. Is the artwork the finished video? Or was it the stop-start performance during the time of the show?


This is precisely what is interesting here. Taguchi's performance is bound quite tightly by space and time, but it is constantly moving. Very little art actually moves in time, mostly we are always stuck watching screens or paintings on a wall. Performances meanwhile are simply evanescent moments, which are then frozen in time as documentation. But when the museum lights are turned off and the doors are locked, the museum becomes literally a morgue of still life. Taguchi thus poses interesting questions about what happens in the gallery when we are not looking. It helps that he also imposes a certain anonymity to the work, erasing himself from the process. This distinguishes Taguchi's own "drawing constraint" method formally from the rococo self-obsession of Matthew Barney. Formally, some of what he does seems closer to British conceptual star, Martin Creed -- but so many of Creed's works are just tedious one line conceptual gags for art theorists, and nothing to look at. You can bring your kids to look at Taguchi's animations.

This is also a clue to Taguchi's significance. As is well known, it has been almost impossible to think of Japanese contemporary art without thinking of anime. Of course, everyone loves Hayao Miyazaki, and rightly so. But it has licensed a confusion about the use of anime in contemporary art, most famously by Takashi Murakami, which actually confounds the two art forms -- as if it is enough for contemporary art's to simply appropriate anime art and put it in a gallery in order to put high art value on it. Yet when contemporary art is simply derivative of other forms' technological and aesthetic superiority, it becomes nothing but a pale imitation. Taguchi as a video artist shows how anime technology and ideas can be used to change the institutional space and content of the artwork itself.


Taguchi lives as the epitome of the "survival artist" in Berlin. Not much income, just the occasional gallery or museum commission, or perhaps a short residency. He makes each of these solvent periods an actual artwork -- performing the residency by documenting the non-stop motion of his interaction with the space and the materials he finds in the building. But the constructed "art life" he lives outside these periods is also interesting.

He invites me to meet him at the famous Sunday flea market in East Berlin. A grumpy official shouts at me in the usual gruff Berlin style when I ask if they know where a young Japanese guy might be selling postcards among the sea of bargain stalls. It is a dumb question. So instead I follow my instincts and Taguchi's vague instructions to find an open space in the sun, nearby where they are selling ice cream. A few minutes walk around in the burning summer sunshine and I spot him, sitting on his one metre square rented patch, dressed in traditional Japanese work man clothes and head scarf, cross legged, goateed, big ironic smile. He is selling postcards, small litho works on handmade paper, with orientalist "mystic" images. There is a steady stream of curious customers to this ascetic performance in the sunshine. How much are the cards, they ask? Taguchi tells them they can pay what they like; what they think its worth. These are kindly Asianophile Germans, perhaps with a little classroom Japanese to share, and they routinely hand over 10 and 20 Euro notes for one or two of these postcards. Taguchi makes more than 100 Euros in a few hours in the sunshine. It's not art, but it is survival.


Taguchi's home made postcards -- about as far from Kaikai Kiki and Nara corporate spin offs as you can imagine -- are, of course, not the point about his work in Berlin. To make sure there is no confusion, he invites me the next day to visit him at home to watch some videos and talk about his work over coffee and cakes. The house in an immigrant neighbourhood in North Berlin is a huge and cheap apartment he shares with about ten other multinational student / creative types -- I'm impressed by the remarkably tidy and organised kitchen conditions. Upstairs his room is a mass of junk, memorabilia, bottles, and works in progress.

We watch a series of videos, beginning from his quite amazing student work where he uses bits of wood to engineer a gravity defying construction in a small space in which he wedges himself into. It keeps collapsing, until he gets the balance right. Taguchi hit upon the idea of using stop-start video when he realised he wanted to document the process of creating a precarious structure, which might then collapse. Have an idea. Photo. Have another. Photo. Then the next. Photo. Each one leads to the next, there are only limited options, but always various options for a move. It visualises a kind of butterly effect, foregrounding time, motion, space and choice in the work. It starts and it moves, it goes somewhere not foreplanned, yet is always tightly constrained by the starting conditions.

The residency at North East Tokyo's Alpha M gallery, curated by Mizuki Takahashi, builds on "Moment" by using lights and all kinds of other found objects. He also shows me a number of other videos made during residencies -- one made in Brazil where he is running on a beach between two lovers who are communicating through him in Portuguese, another in Hong Kong, where we catch a series of Hollywood moments where he is running away from something in the city.

This was a side work for the main installation work in a museum, invited by Yuko Hasegawa. Filmed as a video, this becomes a kind of moving theater of the gallery, deconstructed into pieces while all the other installations, paintings and photography remain fixed all around him. It was perhaps this brilliant piece that led Kataoka to select him for MAM. Although the plans are still secret I get some glimpses of his ideas for this show, where he talks about deconstructing the room and the walls, have pieces of the museum literally moving around the 53 story building and out into the Roppongi Hills complex. Given how disappointingly little MAM uses the amazing space it has in creative ways, this all sounds quite amazing -- the only precedents I can think of are Kusama's art virus around the time of the opening, or the telescope and monster clock down in the city below by another former MAM Project artist Nishi Tatzu (perhaps Taguchi's closest peer).


Taguchi as ever, wants to put the show in motion, foreground what is usually architecturally static, and put the gallery itself into the show as a moveable piece. When he looks at paintings or even videos (which move but are still so static), Taguchi says his impulse is just to have everything moving on the wall, and then even the wall itself.

So much art nowadays is about going outside of the white cube or breaking its constraints. Taguchi though doesn't turn his back on the white cube, so much as literally seek to turn the white cube inside out. Everything in his art is relative, even time and space, no fixed points. It is indeed a kind of quantum art. Let's hope Mori let him do new things with the museum.


See Yukihiro Taguchi's website:





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