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Makoto MORIMURA: Dear Thomas
Written by Takeshi HIRATA   
Published: January 04 2010

fig. 1 ”Thomas No.1"; courtesy of the artist and TOKIO OUT of PLACE, copyright © Makoto MORIMURA

    People, places, words, food, rooms, schools, jobs, etc…  We are always trying to find out something.  Our life may consist of an accumulation of time to search for something, whether it is concrete or abstract, or large or small.
    Makoto Morimura is looking for a person named “Thomas”.
     His search began with one e-mail for “Thomas” which was mistakenly delivered to the artist. He started to look for “Thomas”.  He asked others, “Do you know a person named ‘Thomas’?”  He requested a detective, “Please search for ‘Thomas’”.  And he googled images for ‘Thomas’ on the Internet.  These acts may be a kind of search (sōsaku) or creation (sōsaku) to make the nonexistent “Thomas”, who has left no clue other than his name, come into existance.
    The methods of searching for “Thomas” covered various kinds of media, such as art magazines, guide maps delivered at exhibition sites and commercially-available maps.  Here is one map [fig. 1].  It seems to be a common map which we often see in our daily lives.  It includes the names of cities and the subway map.  All the letters found on the map except for T, H, O, M, A and S have been erased with white-out.  The map’s presumed role in showing places and their names has lost its function by having almost all of its literal information deleted with corrective liquid.  Despite this, the map makes us notice that the imaginary “Thomas” does exist on the map because his name, “Thomas”, has been formed with the five letters, T, H, O, M, A and S, which can be found randomlly on the map.
    White-out was used not for “correcting” but for painting “white” on the map.  Erasing all the characters other than T, H, O, M, A and S is an essential act for making “Thomas” exist on theis map.  This was why Morimura used corrective fluid to create the map anew and the world included in it, namely, in order to make “Thomas” present.  Morimura’s map changes our perspective of the world with only one material,corrective fluid.  In other words, this map “corrects” our traditional views of maps.

fig. 2 View from Makoto Morimura solo exhibition "Dear Thomas", courtesy of the artist and TOKIO OUT of PLACE, copyright © Makoto MORIMURA

    According to Mikio Wakabayashi, “It should be said that ‘a map means a text concerning the world’.  The ‘text’ means a space in which two acts, namely, depicting (writing) and reading, meet each other, and this generates some kind of meaning.”.*1
    Thus, the “map” created by Morimura can be called text about “Thomas”.  The map presents us the world in which the existence and meaning of “Thomas” is produced by leaving only the letters T, H, O, M, A and S. Nevertheless, this could also be interpreted as follows:  the objects erased with white ink are our existence.  In other words, “Thomas” can exist only when the characters you and I have been deleted.  This does not however mean our disappearance.  This is because some of letters representing us also form a part of “Thomas”.  The origin of the word, “text”, is said to be the Anglo-Latin “textus”, meaning textile fabrics.  Considering that letters and maps are text forming a part of the world, “Thomas” can be also deemed a text from which various kinds of meanings are created.  This would be clearly shown in Morimura’s portrait work in which the image of “Thomas”, generated from a Google search was painted with corrective liquid in a pointillist style.  Who are these many people named “Thomas” whom we find in the portrait?  They could be all of us.
    The “Thomas” created by Morimura through this exhibition is a person summoned to reproduce others = the world.  If so, let us search for “Thomas” in cities and on maps, magazines or the Internet, believing that our searches will create some new meanings and connections!

    “Thomas” has not yet been found out.

(Translated by Nozomi Nakayama)

Mikio Wakabayashi, “Zoho Chizu-no-Sozoryoku” (Kawade Shobo Shinsha/Kawade Bunko, 2009, p. 63)
Last Updated on June 13 2010

Editor's Note by Takeshi HIRATA

The artist mistakenly received one e-mail for Thomas. He started search (sousaku)/creation (sousaku) to find out the Thomas relying solely on the name. In one exhibit, all the alphabets printed on maps and magazines, except for T, H, O, M, A and S, are erased with white-out. What Morimura intends to “correct” deliberately using collection fluid is “information” burying the existence of the Thomas. Nevertheless, his attempt may also be considered as an act to make the nonexistent person, the Thomas, appear on paper. (Translated by Nozomi Nakayama)

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