2016年06月29日

When a miracle vanishes

Yuki Okumura is a Japanese contemporary artist and he is regarded as one of the most radical one. To some extent, I agree with it.
However I don’t think Okumura is a typical contemporary artist. I think he is a kind of magician rather than a contemporary artist, because he seems to try to exceed the limits of human through his works.

In my opinion, the limit which Okumura has been trying to exceed is a border which defines Himself.
In his early years, he approached it from a physical side. He used to use flakes of himself, such as a fingernail or a pubic hair, for his works. Your fingernails and pubic hairs are parts of Yourself as long as they pertain to your body, but once they flake they become mere dust which has no relation to you. Okumura seemed to try to break the relation by using his flakes to his art works. Those works also revealed the nature of art works, which is sometimes considered to be artist’s alter ego.

After that, Okumura began to use others’ creations for his own work.
One of the most prominent examples is the work of “Anatomy Fiction.” The work is comprised of drawings which Okumura let children imagine and draw their internal bodies. It seems a mere joyful workshop for children, but the point of this work is that the drawings also seem Okumura’s own work at the same time.
Needless to say, it is not uncommon that contemporary artists use other’s creation for their works. However, I think the power relationship in most of those works is, if anything, exploitation by artists who use the creations.
By contrast, Okumura didn’t deprive other’s creation and experience for his works. In Okumura’s “Anatomy Fiction”, children’s imagination and their creation belong to them. Although the idea to draw internal own body is originated from Okumura, the children could show their creativity and originality. Their originality kept intact even though their drawings and imagination became Okumura’s art work. In other words, Okumura’s work and children’s creation coexist without interfering. I think it is uncommon.

The coexistence must have been Okumura’s intention. It is because that the work was not only a joyful workshop for children but also one of his attempts to expand the border of Himself. I suppose that Okumura intended to expand the limits of Himself through synchronizing his imagination with the children’s.
I think it succeeded to a certain degree. It is hard to describe but I thought I was able to see the expansion when I could see the drawings as an Okumura’s original art work and as the children’s creative works simultaneously.
It happened in a subtle moment, but I shivered. The experience was like a miracle, so to speak.

In recent years, Okumura has tried to use other contemporary artist’s works for his own works. I think it is more difficult than using children’s drawings because those works are more closely tied with the original artists. As a rule, artists have strong egos and it is very difficult for someone to intrude into them. It means that the equal coexistence can hardly occur.
However, I must admit I could feel the rare coexistence when I saw the Okumura’s work “Remembering Unknown (Artist's Ghost)” at the exhibition of MOT Annual 2012.
Okumura displayed the video works of four other contemporary artists, Jun Yang, Koki Tanaka, Ryan Gander and Simon Fujiwara. All Japanese subtitles of those works were translated by Okumura, and I felt I took a glance of existence of his alter ego when I saw one of the subtitles. Although it was more subtle moment than when I saw it in his “Anatomy Fiction,” but I shivered because I thought it was impossible.
I became convinced that Okumura is kind of magician rather than a contemporary artist at that time.

However, I think few people could have similar experience like mine when they saw the work. Most people might consider his installation as a typical behavior of a contemporary artist who wants to do something unexpected.
I think it is a problem Okumura’s works have. I agree that Okumura’s works are contemporary art works, of course. However, they tend to be seen as a mere tricky strategy if they were seen only as contemporary art works. At times, they even seem snobbish.
I think balance is the key. When I saw his work “Measuring of Roman Ondak”, which was made based on a Roman Ondak's work, at his solo exhibition in 2015, I thought I had been able to see a subtle miracle there. On the other hand, I also felt some kind of art snobbery from it at the same time.
The worst case I saw was his work “Where is the Vision of Contemporary Art?” which was displayed at the exhibition of VOCA 2015. At first Okumura had intended to display Makoto Aida’s painting as his work, but the committee of VOCA rejected the plan. As a result, he displayed only a plastic sheet of picture frame instead of Aida’s painting. It seemed just a bad loser and the attached recommender’s comment which quoted Roland Barthes was too snobbish. Of course I couldn’t see any miracle at all there.
For Okumura’s works, selection of the artist whose work would be used might be important for the balance. The selections of Roman Ondak and Makoto Aida might seem as mere strategies of contemporary art.

In that sense, Hisachika Takahashi might be the most suitable artist for Okumura.
Takahashi was a contemporary artist who was active in Milan and New York in 60s and 70s. He had worked for Robert Rauschenberg as his assistant for 40 years, but he had disappeared from the art scene as an artist for a long time.
It was Okumura who let him come back. He found Takahashi’s name in a book about the history of an art gallery in Antwerp. Takahashi had held his solo exhibition at the gallery in 1967 and the record was mentioned in the book.
Okumura took an interest and began to research. He found out the Takahashi's paintings which had been kept in the gallery's warehouse for 45 years, and he was impressed with them.
Finally Okumura succeeded in getting in touch with Takahashi, and helped to hold the exhibition in Brussel. That was the beginning of the re-evaluation of Takahashi’s works, and his exhibition was also hold in Liverpool and Rotterdam in succession.
In short, Okumura already has been involved in Takahashi’s artist life. The fact seems to give Okumura the reason that he uses Takahashi’s works for his own works.

However, I could not find out any miracle or the reason why Okumura got involved with Takahashi so deeply when I saw the Okumura’s work about Takahashi in the exhibition of Roppongi Crossing 2013. The work was titled as “Hisachika Takahashi: From Wide White Space, Antwerp, 1967 to Project Room, WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels, 2013.” Okumura displayed the photographs and records of the Takahashi’s solo exhibition in Brussel as his art work.
I suppose I could have found some kind of miracle in the work if I had tried to see it more carefully, but I was too tired to notice it because of the awful group-show. Obviously, there is a problem of Okumura’s works. I think Okumura’s work is unique, but the uniqueness is hard to perceive. It’s very very subtle.
I have been followed the Okumura’s Twitter account for years, so I had known the relationship between Okumura and Takahashi to a certain extent before I saw the display. Moreover, I thought I was understanding Okumura’s works better than others. Nevertheless, I was not able to find any distinct differences between the Okumura’s work and an ordinary archives display about a past exhibition. I suppose that most people who saw the display could not comprehend what Okumura had intended.

I don’t know whether Okumura had thought over the problem or not, but he tried to highlight the relation between him and Takahashi in his latest exhibition with Takahashi. The exhibition’s title is “Hisachika Takahashi by Yuki Okumura.”
In the exhibition, Okumura emphasized how miraculous their relation was.

The most prominent work is Okumura’s HD video work which was titled “Who is Hisachika Takahashi: An Interview by Daniel Baumann.”
In that video, Okumura was interviewed by Daniel Baumann, a Swiss curator who found Takahashi’s works in an old exhibition catalog and wrote a blog article which was titled “Who is Hisachika Takahashi? ,” in behalf of Takahashi. Okumura answered Baumann’s questions not as himself but as Takahashi. He explained that he had heard many memories of Takahashi through their conversation and he memorized them. He argued he is Takahashi in a way, if keeping memories is a necessary condition for defining one’s identity.
As if proving his argument, Okumura acted Takahashi very well. While I was watching the video, sometimes I realized I was seeing him as Takahashi himself.

In the video, Okumura (as Takahashi) contended that Takahashi’s works and Okumura’s works were synchronized.
For example, in this exhibition, there was Takahashi’s old drawing work which he draw several of his favorite hats. Okumura argued the work synchronized with his works because both of them had same theme, memories.
Furthermore, there was the Takahashi’s representative work which he had asked other artists to draw a map of America only by memory. For the sake of the Takahashi’s work, many famous contemporary artists cooperated to draw the maps.
Okumura argued that the Takahashi’s attempt in the work seemed to correspond with what he has been trying in his own works. Indeed their attitudes of trying to involve others' creations in their works were very similar as if Takahashi had taken Okumura's concept in advance decades ago. It seemed that the coincidence happened across time.

Then, are all these miracles?
I don’t think so.

It was always in a subtle moment when I saw a miracle in Okumura’s works. I think moment is an essential nature of miracles. They always happen in a moment. A thing which lasts long is not a miracle but a common life.
In this exhibition, the more Okumura emphasized similarity of him and Takahashi, the more they seemed to go away from miracles.
Miracles need no proof because they are beyond reason.
Therefore, the more Okumura insisted that he had transcended the border of Himself showing their synchronization as the proof, the more I felt he didn’t.

However, I consider this is the point that we ought to see in this exhibition.
When you think about it, if Okumura acted Takahashi perfectly in the video, it’s just a parlor trick rather than an art work, let alone a miracle.
The point we should see in the video is not their synchronization but a moment the synchronization was broken.
For example, when Okumura (as Takahashi) told he had managed the house of Rauschenberg in New York, Baumann said to him, “Where was that? The Soho?” Okumura hesitated for a second, saying “I …don't… I think so,” but he immediately corrected himself, saying “Lafayette Street! 381 Lafayette Street!”
Needless to say, people hardly forget the district where they had lived or had worked for long years even if they can’t remember the exact address of it. It is because that the former is a memory which is memorized in one’s body, but the latter is just a data which is memorized by the brain. Okumura could say the exact address because he memorized it as a data. On the other hand, he couldn’t say where the address is located because he was not the person who lived there.

It suggests a simple fact: No matter how many memories of others you memorize, you can’t become another person.
You can’t live any other life except your own.
You can never escape from the cell of Yourself. It’s the fate of our human.

Then, is this conclusion?
Did I found only the despair in the exhibition?
No, I thought I was able to see a subtle miracle there.

I felt it when I was in the last room of the exhibition.
The mood of the display in the room was significantly different from the former displays’. There was only a rattan chair in the large room. The chair had extremely long legs and its height was no less than 3 meters high. It looked like a lookout chair which was set on a beach or a poolside.
There was a vertical line which was drawn by crayon on the lower part of the wall, and there was also an Okumura’s poem which was printed in all hiragana on the wall.
According to Okumura’s commentary in the pamphlet of the exhibition, the chair was a Takahashi’s work which he made it based on his memory.
The memory likes this. When Takahashi stayed at the Rauschenberg’s studio in Florida, he used to stroll along the beach at dusk. He was fond of sunset, and he wanted to see it as long as he could. One day he happened to jump on the beach after sun set, so he could see faint figure of sun over the horizon. He got an idea from the experience and made the very long legs chair, so he could see sunset a little longer from there.

To be honest, the display in the room confused me at first because I thought it was too romantic.
After reading the episode, it turned out that the drawing line on the wall was horizon and sunset, but I could still hardly comprehend what Okumura was implying through his poem. In any case, they all were too romantic and too sentimental.
To make matters worse, Okumura wrote at the end of his commentary, “Hug yourself. Let’s love yourself as another person.”
I thought it was just meddling and it disgusted me. I suspected that Okumura had tried to deceive the defects of his works in romantic mood.

In spite of that, in that room, I got the feeling which was similar to the one I had gotten from Okumura’s works before.
It was when I was thinking about the despair I found in this exhibition.
It is true that I found the despair in the Okumura’s works. I saw limits of human instead of the extension of it. It made me feel like a miracle vanished.
So, is there no miracle in this world?

In considering about it, I happened to see the Takahashi’s sunset chair. I got an idea at the moment.
Although you can’t escape the cell of Yourself, you can imagine other person as yourself. Come to think of it, it is a great ability. May be it is a miracle.
Compared with the miracle of escaping from the cell of Oneself actually, it might seem shabby. I think it is similar to the Takahashi’s long legs sunset chair. You can’t escape from Yourself, just like you can’t stop the sun from going down. However, you can imagine another person as yourself. You can see yourself in other’s life through imagination. You can find yourself in other’s creations.
Like Takahashi could see sunset a little longer from his long legs chair, we can expand the border of Ourselves through imagination. In that sense, Takahashi’s sunset chair might be a figure of our imagination. It seems shabby, but it’s a genuine miracle.

I think that the most important thing is to know the limits. You can’t see a miracle if you don’t know the limits of human. You can’t realize a miracle without going through the despair.
Okumura showed it through this exhibition like a magician as always.



「奥村雄樹による高橋尚愛」展
銀座メゾンエルメス フォーラム(2016年6月4日〜9月4日)
http://www.maisonhermes.jp/ginza/gallery/archives/54369/


posted by 3 at 22:07| Diary