Tabaimo: Danmen

2009.12.11 – 2010.3.3
Yokohama Museum of Art

by Shinsan Nameko (Manga artist, columnist)

Akunin Installation view of Yokohama Museum of Art 2009
© Ufer! Art Documentary, Courtesy the artist and Gallery Koyanagi

In Danmen Tabaimo has delivered a show zeroing in on the ‘dankai junior’ generation’s attachment to the individual. As a fellow dankai junior I set out for the YMA hoping for an exhibition that would speak for a generation, currently in their mid-thirties, whose sober self-searching draws a line between themselves and the more frenzied mass mentality of predecessors like the baby boomers, and the bubble generation that came of age during Japan’s boom years in the ’80s.

First to catch the eye was a video projected on the wall of a dimly lit space. Though the work depicted furniture from a housing complex being sucked relentlessly and repeatedly into a black hole, intriguingly it was not especially unsettling. Then to the first of the exhibition rooms, where Tabaimo’s illustrations for Yoshida Shuichi’s novel Akunin (Villain) serialized in the Asahi Shimbun were laid out like a scroll around the walls. Even with no knowledge of the plot, viewing the akunin visuals makes for an interesting image/mind association game. At first glance clearly in the realm of horror – a woman’s body lying prone like a vegetable, her hair being chopped with a kitchen knife, for example – eventually the images start to feel peculiarly pleasant, even raising a chuckle, as Tabaimo appears to successfully walk a tightrope between fear and amusement. Plus there’s a certain stylish cool to the way the illustrations race off on their own, leaving author, editors et al trailing behind. Despite such quirky exuberance, one begins to see that hair forms a consistent motif throughout the pictures: growing from brains, from telephone receivers, from myriad other unexpected places, and in the video work Yudangami too, featuring – yet again a character from Akunin, the effect is one of a kind of theatre of hair, draping curtains of it resembling bamboo blinds. One suspects that for this artist, hair is a symbol of women’s business. Rendered delicately, despite this startling hirsuteness the pictures never feel unclean, possessing the air of refinement that is a distinctive feature of Tabaimo’s work.

The video installations – such as danDAN, offering glimpses of life in a housing complex, where one never knows what the neighbors are up to; and BLOW, evoking emanations of the individual as plants reminiscent of internal organs – are also worth a look. Tabaimo portrays that which one might ordinarily find sickening – a room with a blood-sprayed bed, a plant with a brain growing on the stamen – in a detached, low-key fashion. Never too underground, never too surreal, her style is superb; the product perhaps of a grownup sense of balance honed during long years as an art student and artist in pursuit of the ‘individual’. Danmen reveals the dankai junior generation’s secret of success.

Akunin (detail) 2006, Sumi, Washi
© Tabaimo, Courtesy Gallery Koyanagi

BLOW Installation view of Yokohama Museum of Art 2009
© Ufer! Art Documentary, Courtesy the artist and Gallery Koyanagi

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