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"Secret base for boys" Masakazu Takatori: Western-Style Painting Apocalypse
Written by Tomohiro MASUDA   
Published: April 30 2009

     A short curtain is placed at the entrance, on which melting letters requested, "Please proceed by crouching down". Though the semi-transparent plastic short curtain hung from the ceiling, we can see the inside vaguely; however, the entire image is not visible. Crouching down in the exhibition venue, the ceilings are low. Under the knees, there is a space that forces us to kneel down and get on all fours in order to go forward. Sometimes, we hit our head on the low ceiling which is very soft and only slightly resilient. The ceiling is made of a big paper sheet. Under the paper we timidly crawl around, worrying about whether we might break it. The action of getting down on all fours reminds us of crawling along into a secret base in the woods, made when we were children.

      In the low paper ceiling, there are holes like skylights. We view the "above" by standing up through the skylights. Numberless figures made of paper are hung in the world above the ceiling. We recognize they are all women when looking them carefully. One woman has skin of a wet texture, another wears clothes of a hard texture, suggesting bondage. Every woman is wrapped in coiled ropes, frankly speaking, like tentacles. The tactile perception of hard/soft or dry/wet, symbols remind us of a penis, or the provocative bodies of women. They cannot help arousing erotic feelings. However, if you read them as the expression of special sexual propensity or fetishism towards women by the artist, you would miss the reason why he chose this installation style to involve viewers.

     Let us focus on the numberless pendent women. The facial expressions of the drawn women are very unclear; some are hidden by the hair, the eyes of the others are blacked out. Thus they seem to have some kind of inhuman texture. The tentacles coiled around the women are ropes to bind up the woman, a metaphor or the direct expression of the penis. However, once we turn our gaze to the shadow of the numberless pendent women, they look like inhabitants of heaven in the five-story pagoda of Yakushi-ji temple. In the shadow world the tentacles are transformed into wings to let one fly freely away. That is to say, "the sexuality" is reversed into "the sacrament" here. "The opposite sex" is the target of "sexual" eyes as well as a transcendental character that is not perceived by the eye, by which I mean a "sacred" free character like the inhabitants of heaven. For this reason, women are literally "the opposite sex" to men. Women are different from men in many ways. That is why men's view of women is thoroughly one-way. Men regard women as absolutely different beings that they fear and with which they cannot identify.

     Let's sink under the paper sea again. A secret base is finally emerging in front of us. This is a cabin like a cave surrounded by woods. A canvas painting leans against the side like a partition to support the cabin. In the cabin, there are cheap toys, drawing books of Doraemon and Kamen Rider, photos and drawings in frames. If we consider the upper side of the paper sea as the world of consciousness, the lower side is the world of unconsciousness, and this cabin can be said to be the source of the artist's unconscious desire.

     Above all, let us pay attention to the various photos. Some seem to be shot sneakingly, a leg of an adult woman is clearly seen in one. A sexual view of women is obvious, and Takatori has no hesitation in showing this. On the other hand, we find an undoubtedly alien photo. There, apparently unintentionally, is a photo of the left side of the body of a girl who seems to be an elementary school student. Its composition is distorted and it is out of focus. It seems the photographer has awkwardly failed to capture her in the viewfinder because he is too shy to point the camera at her, even though he wished to take her photo. He hesitates to capture the subject, unlike his attempt with an adult woman. There is a contrasting character between these photos. The one of an adult woman focuses on the leg but her face is out of the viewfinder. From the background, we know she is in a town, but it is impossible to identify the place. On the other hand, the photo of the girl who looks like an elementary school student is not anonymous because we recognize her face, and the background is indoors, which shows the place is highly private. The former suggests an unrestrained sexual view of women in general, but we read confusion in the latter about seeing the girl, with whom the photographer is probably acquainted, as the "opposite sex". It is like a junior high school student who, although he does not hesitate to read pornographic books with his friends after school in the classroom, is reluctant to speak with the girl sitting next to him.

Photo provided by Kodama Gallery, copyright © Masakazu TAKATORI / Courtesy of Kodama Gallery

     The installation by Masakazu Takatori portrays something boyish, not the masculine sexual eye. Can we regard him as a rare man who keeps something boyish in his nature even after having grown up? Or did he become an artist because of this rare character? We often treat and magnify the artist as a unique existence in society. On the other hand, we define ourselves, viewers, as respected gentlemen wearing a tie, throwing away masculinity, and think that artists live a different life from ours. However, Takatori lets viewers re-experience the boyishness inside them via this installation. He intends to make each individual recall their old memories by leading them through the low-ceilinged paper-made subterranean passage.

     By a curious coincidence, a group photo of junior high school students is hung at the exit of this installation. The artist lays the fact on us that we, who believe we have already grown up, also have something boyish in us. Yes, we are certainly there. We stood next to the girls whose breasts were starting to develop, having strange unrecognizable emotional attachments, whether they took the form of sexual drive or romance or revulsion. It was an inevitable experience for everyone during adolescence. Boyishness remains inside us in the form of memory or experience.

     Certainly we have grown up. However, we have never associated with women in the fundamental meaning. Girls are always against boys. However, we do not have to despair of this. Boys are likely to be kind to girls even though it is ultimately impossible for each to understand the other.

"Girls are selfish. I cannot understand them well, but I cannot help being nice to them. They never pay me back anything."*1

     The boyish eye never gets beyond treating girls as sexual objects. Girls as the "opposite sex" easily slip through the eye. Thus, girls are both "sexual" and "sacred" targets. And this is the reason we might be nice to them. Based on the above, it is impossible to regard this installation as the result of simple, immature sexual drive. It is a boys' secret base (Asyl), which can only serve to console miserable men. Takatori showed it to us as an artwork, but it must be in every man's heart who tries to play the complete gentleman. I would like to ask you a question at the end. How should girls treat this artwork? I am male, so I do not understand what girls think about it. Probably, it would be enough to laugh and say, "How stupid boys are!" However this might also show boys' selfishness. (Translated by Chisato Kushida)

quated from the lyrics of Shigeru Kishida (Qururi), "boys and girls"
Related Exhibition

"Secret base for boys" Masakazu Takatori: Western-Style Painting Apocalypse
24/Jan/2009 - 28/Feb/2009
Venue: Kodama Gallery | Kyoto

Last Updated on September 16 2010

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