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THE LIBRARY + at this place
Written by Satoshi KOGANEZAWA   
Published: February 05 2010

    When I visit a large-scale exhibitions traveling throughout the country, I cannot help wondering if there is any inevitability that the exhibition should be held in the venue that I am visiting at that moment. Every year I can easily enjoy viewing a number of renown artworks permitted to be published by temples and shrines in Japan or from well-known museums abroad without visiting far away sites. If I am asked about the burden in viewing such famous works, my reply would be that the only trouble is that sometimes it is difficult for me to enjoy looking at them as much as I would like if a venue is crowded. It can take from several minutes to many hours to just to get into an exhibition hall and even after stepping into the room I can still be disturbed by the crowds enjoying viewing the works. This must be an indication of how portable art has now become.
    Today we are surrounded by many portable and useful things other than art, such as cellular phones, laptop personal computers and portable game players. However, books may be the most representative example of such “portable” items. Stacks of paper, i. e., books, on which words and visual images are printed, whether in handwritten or printed, still exist even in this Internet era because of their high convenience. Except for some large-sized books, we can carry them around in things such as bags. Regarding books belonging to us, we are allowed to draw lines where we like and write things in them or cut out parts of their pages. Books may be exactly what were originally created with the aim of being used as portable things because of their replication properties that convey information to a number people. Thus, art and books are complete opposites in terms of the degree of the accessibility. In art, uniqueness is considered as a matter of high priority, while with books pluralism is deemed as its identity. If there were only one copy of a book in this world and if it could only be read in a certain place, that would be extremely inconvenient. Nonetheless, this may not always be a detrimental thing..

fig. 1 Sayaka HARADA "Ketsuen" (2009); courtesy of the artist and Shizuoka Art Gallry

fig. 2 PICOPICO “Monster Library” (2009); courtesy of the artist and Shizuoka Art Gallery

fig. 3 Satoshi UCHIUMI "Great Chiliocosmos" (2009); courtesy of the artist and Shizuoka Art Gallery

fig. 4 Wataridori-keikau (Tomoko ASO & Akiko Takeuchi) "Wataridori, Tabi-no-ehagaki" (2009); courtesy of the artist and Shizuoka Art Gallery

    Shizuoka Art Gallery put an end to its twelve years of activities in December 2009. The last exhibition held in the gallery was composed of the two shows entitled “THE LIBRARY - Art in the Form of ‘Books’” (guest curator: Seiji Shinohara) and “At this Place - Shizuoka Connecting the End with the Beginning”,. In the former, artists from throughout Japan, including guest artists and artists who were selected from the public, created and displayed unique books each of which there existed only one copy in the world. In the latter, artworks made by creators associated with Shizuoka Prefecture were presented.
    In this exhibition, there is only one copy of each book in existence and it can be read only “at this place”, though books are generally considered portable and replicable media . There were a wide variety of books created by forty-six artists and forty-five groups. Some artists and groups expressed their own worlds through creations in spite of being made in typical book form. Others created works made me feel like calling the books objects because of their different appearance to that of so-called books, even though they were still obviously made inspired by images of books.
    Let me give you some examples. Sayaka Harada’s “Ketsuen” [fig. 1] can be classified into the former. In this work, black-and-white photos of the artist herself and her family and relations are posted on each page with their names, relationships and dates of birth. Flipping over the pages, you would come to feel as if the people taken in the pictures are close to you though they are closely related only to her. The book gradually makes you imagine your own family history. This shows that this book of Harada’s has an intimacy due to its originality and the fact that there is only one copy of it in the world. Concerning the latter, the “Monster Library” [fig. 2] created by PICOPICO would be the best example. A two-legged monster with a face in the form of an opened book is standing with its arms spread out. On its back, there is an A7-sized book named “Monster Guide”, in which pictures of one hundred original monsters created by the artist are posted. However, the work apparently seems to be nothing more or less than a monster doll. Besides this, the “Great Chiliocosmos” [fig. 3], by Satoshi Uchiumi, known for his painting works created using dots, can be considered a small object due to its minimum impression. In this creation, Uchiumi attempted to reconstruct his past painting series in the form of orihon (books designed to be opened and closed in a fashion similar to rhat of an accordion). The book is composed of 180 pages which also inlcudes no less than 6,480 creations. Paintings of 4 mm square are lined up six wide and deep (36 in total) on a page of 7 cm square. By picking up the book and opening it, you are drawn into a dense world.
    After looking over the books which can be read only “at this place”, we are guided to another exhibition entitled “At this Place”. The four artists and one group participating in this exhibition are Kazuhiro Ishigami, Tatsuo Inagaki, Hisako Inui, Reiko Motohara and Wataridori-Keikaku. Among these, I would like to focus on exhibits created by Wataridori-Keikaku. This unit composed of Tomoko Aso and Akiko Takeuchi visits places throughout Japan like a wataridori (a migratory bird) to seek to display spaces and subjects and create artworks and present them wherever they visit. In each place, Wataridoti-Keikaku engages in a wide range of activities, such as showing oil paintings and installations as well as selling “travel postcards” created by putting oil paints by hand on black-and-white photos taken in various sites. In this exhibition, Aso and Takeuchi not only presented works created in many places, including Shizuoka prefecture, but also ran a postcard shop in the “Street Festival in Shizuoka” on November 22 and 23 during the exhibition period. They took photos of customers and then created picture postcards by coloring in the photos by hand in front of them and then displayed the postcards. Thus, such creations by Wataridori-Keikaku were made having connections with certain places and people throughout all creating stages without retreating into the world of the unit itself. Therefore, these works seem to reflect a lot of subjects physically experienced by Aso and Takeuchi. It’s notable that works created by Wataridori-Keikaku leave us with a light impression due to the fact that they were made based on travelling around various regions.

    In Japan today the transportation system is very extensive. We can view originals of national treasures, Buddhist statues or well-known artists’ creations collected by overseas museums just by visiting special exhibitions held without having to go to the various places where the exhibits originally belong. When I hear of a high-quality exhibition held at a great distance, I cannot help being concerned whether the show travels or not. Art used to be considered something created based in specific areas. However, it is now difficult for us to appreciate this as we are blessed with such convenience in travel. There still remains, nevertheless, some art which can be enjoyed only at particular places. I found courageousness in this exhibition in that it believed the power of “this place”. This conviction will lead to the opening of the Shizuoka City Museum of Art in the autumn of 2010.
(Translated by Nozomi Nakayama)

Related Exhibition
"THE LIBRARY + at this place"
24/Oct/2009 - 20/Dec/2009
Venue: Shizuoka Art Gallery
Last Updated on July 04 2010

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