Tao Soju

Creative endeavor as game spectator

Text: Yanashita Tomoko
Portrait: Inoue Yoshikazu

Tao Soju presents his work as head of OkamePro, an imaginary entertainment production company, and as one of the company’s stable of artists. The company has its origins in Tao’s formation of the band Okamehachimoku, and as well as two real-life ’employee’ currently consists of mystery characters generated by the artist. So why did he choose a ‘company’ as nucleus of his activities?

“With companies, you can inquire about something and they are often quite evasive about where the responsibility lies, fobbing you off with some response, like ‘I’m afraid we don’t have access to that information here.’ I thought it’d be good to be able to do that with my art too. If I present things under ‘Tao Soju’ as an individual, it feels like I’ve closed off all avenues of escape. To be honest I’m not entirely sure myself why I did it…”

OkamePro Meets Hiroko Tomiyama, 2008
Installation view at Chanel’s Mobile Art, Hong Kong
Courtesy Take Ninagawa

This artist who says that basically he ‘goes through life in a daze’ is now busier than he has ever been, thanks to his participation in the Chanel-sponsored Mobile Art exhibition, which opened in February. As part of her work, Sophie Calle, one of those taking part in the show, advertised for an artist to bring her project to fruition, and Tao was selected to do just that. In Hong Kong, the first leg of the touring exhibition, the resulting works are displayed at the Chanel store in Central.

“One is a project I took over from Sophie, which was to buy the entire contents of a Chanel bag belonging to a passerby, and create a work from them. We actually went so far as to stop the owner’s credit card, buying the bag for ?\700,000. The idea is to build an installation using the whole space, in the style of a room dedciated to the original owner.

“The other is a nesting-box sort of scenario, in which OkamePro, a totally different type of company, opens a store inside a Chanel luxury boutique. I’ll attach tags showing the company name to new drawings and such and display them like merchandise. After all, this is a great chance to promote us.”

Tao seems unfazed by his commission from a major luxury label, and finds it harder to contain his artless excitement at the possibility of meeting Yoko Ono, also in the show, and having his picture taken with her. According to Tao, he “always views the world from a ‘tabloid’ perspective”. It is also typical of Tao to claim it was coincidence that his first band name was ‘okame hachimoku’ a Japanese saying meaning that ‘the onlooker has eight eyes’ ie the person watching a game from the sidelines has a better view of what is happening than the players.

“I quite like the approach of watching the board and trying to imagine where the game is heading, but at the same time allowing my thoughts to wander away from the game to other things, like the player’s hairline for example.”

Originally printed in ART iT 19 Spring/Summer 2008

Tao Soju
Born 1977 in Tochigi. The Mobile Art exhibition in which he participated toured Hong Kong, Tokyo and New York. He showed work in Akasaka Art Flower 2008 (akasaka Sacas, Tokyo). www.okamepro.com

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