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チェックと日本の現代美術界についての感想

パリビデオ

2012年6月4日

Jin Kurashige

The beautiful Maison de la Culture du Japon à Paris has in recent years been offering more direct support to the representation of Japanese contemporary art in France and Europe. There have been noteworthy shows with Yoshihiro Suda and Aiko Miyanaga (see my blog: http://www.art-it.asia/u/rhqiun/FyoVg0cWwfLMCqlP6I8i?lang=en), and currently there is an excellent sampling of contemporary video from Japan -- "Humour, parodie et vidéos: créations vidéo du Japon contemporain" -- curated by Hisako Hara, a professor at the Osaka Electro-Communication University.

The angle is a clever one: to try to convey the subtleties and importance of humour to so much Japanese contemporary art, moving from the raucous street humour of Kansei to surreal and wry observations from Kanto. It is one of the aspects of Japanese contemporary art that is generally lost on Western audiences. "Cool Japan" and its pop culture based art is often "fun" but its rarely funny. However, as Hara's selection makes clear, humour is one of the most important ways in which Japanese art reflects upon the ups and downs of Japanese society. And a lot of the things that Japanese find funny are quite deliberately "uncool".


OH! Mikey (2003)

The show is organised in four parts. In the first part, "Black humour", we are treated to episodes of Yoshimasa Ishibashi's late night TV series "Oh Mikey", a quite sinister parody of an American sit com, reflecting on Japanese family mores, made with ever smiling mannequins.

Next to these are two videos by Mizuma associate Jin Kurashige. I have often talked amiably with Kurashige at events in Tokyo; he is one of the few young Japanese artists who speaks French. But I'd never actually seen one of his works. The two videos here are perhaps the stand out of the whole show. There is his wonderful riff on Walter Benjamin's "Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter Seiner Technischen Reproduzierbarkeit" -- in which three actors hilariously try to replay in slow motion a goal in a football match.


Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter Seiner Technischen Reproduzierbarkeit (2003), 16 min.

And then there is the sheer joy of "Tank and Potted Flower" in which five young girl students, squeaking with excitement in speeded up motion, put together a tubular kit tank which eventually fires a desultory spurt of water onto a flower pot. Very funny and very cute. The bit where they line up at the end to clap themselves for a job well done is adorable.


Tank and Potted Flowed (2009), 5 min.

Tokyo's version of Brigit Bardot, Toastie, is featured in the next section "Parody and Melancholy". A video of one of fluxus pioneers's Tatsumi Orimoto's works would have fitted well here. In the next part, "Amusement", there are short video works from Koichi Enomoto (a kind of anime work); three of Taro Izumi's classic surreal works -- "Lime at the Bottom of the Lake", in which he zaps figures like flies on the screen, is a brilliant work, and his auto-drawing improvisations on screen always impress (see my blog: http://www.art-it.asia/u/rhqiun/jNHQroK0AqwIgf2uRD3t/ ); and then a whole possé of Yukihiro Taguchi's astonishing video deconstructions of galleries-on-the-move, which I have also written about at length before (see my blog: http://www.art-it.asia/u/rhqiun/A7k5IwVfz8XsTRKxGrvJ/)

In the final part, "The Everyday and Repetition", I am treated to a proper introduction to Iichiro Tanaka's work -- his radio callisthenics improvisation is a fun commentary on individualism and conformism in Japanese society -- and then the very wonderful everyday documentary style of Atsushi Suzuki filming the banal and peculiar in the streets of Kita-Kyushu.


A Requiem: Laugh at the Dictator (2007), 10.27mins

To tie the whole show together, finally, we have a big room showing of Yasumasa Morimura's moving performance as Hitler/Charlie Chaplin, reflecting upon the burden's of being a dictator in everyday life. The reference to Morimura is an important acknowledgement of the roots of much of these video works in the Osaka origin pioneer's explorations of self, identity ... and humour. There is good news about Morimura internationally, as I hoped when I last wrote about him (see my blog: http://www.art-it.asia/u/rhqiun/pb5jrF6E3KZYc1USXvse/ ). Eric Shiner at the Pittsburgh Warhol museum is plotting a major retrospective next year, in which finally Western audiences can reconnect with a major Japanese figure who has been almost totally lost sight of. It is to be hoped too that this show will go far beyond the gay iconography on which Morimura's international reputation rests, and present some of his powerful and mature reflections on Twentieth Century history, of which the Hitler video is a part.

I worry that Hara's show will not get the attention it deserves. Art Forum were not interested in my review, although no-one has covered it, and the Maison is not an active part of the gallery/museum circuit in Paris. But warm congratulations to everyone involved. Génial!

Until 23rd June.

ADRIAN FAVELL
http://www.adrianfavell.com

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