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Tamotsu SHIIHARA: ephemera
Written by Hironori YASUKOCHI   
Published: January 26 2011

fig. 1  View from the exhibition, photo by Koji Morioka

fig. 2  View from the exhibition, photo by Koji Morioka

fig. 3  View from the exhibition, photo by Koji Morioka

fig. 4  View from the exhibition, photo by Christian Schwab

fig. 5  View from the exhibition, photo by Koji Morioka

fig. 6  View from the exhibition, photo by Koji Morioka

fig. 7  View from the exhibition, photo by Koji Morioka

fig. 8  View from the exhibition, photo by Christian Schwab

Will it be possible to describe Tamotsu SHIIHARA's works? When It comes to paintings and sculptures, as a result of replacing each visual characteristic of a work of art with words, a description of the work of art will coincide with it, although not completely. On the other hand, Shiihara's works are variously arranged objects. Does the process of replacing each component of his work with words really depict his work or art?

Shiihara's work is established by arranging objects in a space. So describing what I saw in the space could mean to depict his work. However, the sensation I felt from actually experiencing his work makes telling what I saw there not very important. But rather, what is more important is, how the objects in the work presented themselves. The relationship of objects, created by combining ordinary objects, is Shiihara's work. I think the unordinary ways that objects manifest themselves are the characteristics of the works of Shiihara.

Nevertheless, there is no other way but to start by telling about the objects as Shiihara's works are established by the arranged objects. I will briefly explain about the gallery “Gallery Artislong” which is where the exhibition was held, and about Shiihara's works.

Gallery Artislong is a gallery located in Sanjo shopping promenade in Kyoto. This gallery features its non white-cube format. Half of the walls are undressed concrete, and the floor is light brown wood. There is a window in the space about two meters high to sweep dirt, and you can see the garden through the opening. You will hear voices of the people as they move by the shopping promenade and the noise of cars when you stand beside the window. While a white-cube creates a secluded space apart from daily space, Gallery Artislong gave me an impression that it was loosely connected to daily living.

Shiihara's work is made for this space. I noticed mirrors at first when I opened the entrance door to the gallery. There was a full-length mirror on the left wall, and there were square mirrors propped on the front wall. Also there were some small mirrors of handheld size. A square mirror of 30cm sides was hanging from the ceiling, and it slowly rotated by from flow of air generated by moving viewers and the wind coming in from the window. A large light fixture sent light onto the mirror. I looked into the back of the space and I saw a table. I know the table is usually placed there. There were some glass containers of a size about 10 cm with foliage plants on the lenses on the table. An apple was hanging from the ceiling above the table. Other than those, there were some small light emitting diodes and a child-size straw hat was hanging from the ceiling like the apple.

Now, the question is, what sort of relationships do these objects in this work create? And how do these objects present themselves within such relationships? To give you the answer to the questions in advance, the objects played a leading role and a minor role interchangeably in the field without a center. I will explain it here.

No center : Although many objects were exhibited in Shiihara's work; each object was not there to serve a particular purpose. There was neither a physical center as the largest object was the full-length mirror, nor a symbolic center. For instance, though we can find a commonality that the apple and the foliage plants are from plants, that commonality does not fit for all objects.

This characteristic was emphasized by the mirrors. If there was a center either physical or symbolic in this work, viewers focus would converge on that center. However, the mirrors provided the completely opposite effect of diffusion instead of convergence.

For example, when you are looking at the straw hat, the mirrors on the back wall come into your sight. Or, when you look at this gallery space from a distance, mirrors come into your sight. Even though you always see them, they can't become a center. The mirrors merely reflect other locations and figures of viewers. As I mentioned above, when a viewer looks at the straw hat, the viewer will see the views of other locations reflected on the mirrors in the back. And when as a viewer you look at the gallery space from a distance, you will see yourself reflected on the mirrors that come into your sight. The mirrors diffuse a viewer's focus, and create a centerless space.

The depiction “centerless space” may sound like it is a diffusive space with nothing much to see. But it is not. For, the square mirror hanging from the ceiling shines a light onto objects and lets you know what to see. The object on which the light shines is supposed to be the leading character in this work like a stage actor in a spotlight. As I mentioned above as “the objects played a leading role and a minor role interchangeably,” An object on which shines a light becomes the leading character and other objects become the supporting characters. With slow moving light, leading characters and supporting characters change their roles.

The light does not necessarily shine on all parts of the work. But still, the change of roles from leading to supporting and vise versa takes place in the whole work. I mean the light provides viewers the feeling that everything inside the gallery space can take a leading role.

The light, to begin with, shines not only on the objects that Shiihara set up, but it also shines on scratches and uneven paint on the wall. We usually do not notice such minute existences. But when we focus on the part which is illuminated by the light, we are naturally forced to become conscious of those minute existences. And once we are aware of the minute existences, we start to notice other minute objects and even the sounds from the outside. It can be a change of our visual and auditory perceptions. It makes us start to notice things we usually are not conscious of, such as the hovering dust inside the gallery and honking horns from the cars going by. They just start to appear as if they have to be seen or heard.

This experience provided by the light could be said that it was an experience to realize diversity. Viewers will realize that there are things, other than the objects that Shiihara created, that they should see or hear.

After going through this realization phase, the change of roles from leading to supporting and vice versa can occur in viewers’ views even when light is not shone on objects. Because when you are conscious of minute existences, a certain object or location would appear to have different identities than other objects or locations. Anything has the potential to play the leading role. It will come and stand before you temporarily as a leading character when a you focus on it.

Shiihara's works provide this quite extraordinary experience in a way that we do not usually experience. However, you wwill be able to extend the experience you had in Shiihara's work to your daily living. For, Shiihara's works are established by revealing the richness that resides in our world, and not by creating a totally different world apart from our daily life. We realize the minute existences that we usually are not conscious of, and we will realize the identities of the details of the world. I think Shiihara's work provides us such realization and supports our daily life.
(Translated by Yoshikazu Noda)

Referred exhibition

Tamotsu SHIIHARA: ephemera
Period: September 28 - October 10, 2010 at gallery ARTISLONG (Horikawa Sanjo-dori, Chukyo-ku, Kyoto)

Last Updated on October 20 2015

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