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Tabaimo: DANMEN
Written by Satoshi KOGANEZAWA   
Published: February 09 2010

    Tabaimo’s creations have two things in common, whether they were made in the form of images or book illustrations: they are expressions of changing images and chains of altered images, and also they are always depicted using a motif of social aspects. This consistent style has been found throughout Tabaimo’s activities for more than nine years since she debuted in 1999 with her work named “Japanese Kitchen” (video installation with sound, three-sided [5 min. 10s ec., loop]).
    In her large-scale solo exhibition entitled “Tabaimo: DANMEN” (Yokohama Museum of Art), we can enjoy viewing five new installations made for this exhibition as well as illustrations drawn for Shuichi Yoshida’s novel, Akunin, which was serialized in the evening edition of Asahi Shimbun from 2006 to 2007. At the entrance of the venue, the “danchiso” (video installation [2 min. 53 sec., loop], 2009, private collection) is projected. This work was made in a long vertical form which effectively uses the height of the ceiling. In the installation, pieces of furniture installed in each room fall down below our eyes in the cross-sectional drawing of some collective housing development which seems to be an apartment block. This makes me imagine a waterfall. Indeed, the scene in the room is gradually filled with things and empties of these things. This refreshed me, but here if I am allowed to be slightly critical, I would like to point out that in that the images are looped and thus the room ultimately returns to be occupied by various things again.

fig. 1 "yudangami" (2009); video installation [4min. 13sec., loop], private collection, courtesy of the artist and Yokohama Museum of Art

fig. 2 "danDAN" (2009); video installation [loop], private collection, courtesy of the artist and Yokohama Museum of Art

fig. 3 “chigirechigire” (2009); video installation [2min. 43sec., loop], private collection, courtesy of the artist and Yokohama Museum of Art

fig. 4 "BLOW" (2009); video installation, [3min. 42sec., loop], private collection, courtesy of the artist and Yokohama Museum of Art

    In the first exhibition room, we encounter the installation named “Akunin” (ink, Japanese paper [2006-2007], video [2009, loop], 34.6 cm × 136.0 cm [50 series], private collection). Paper has been joined up together like a picture scroll. Consecutive images have been generated from one image. For instance, the tip of a tie which someone is about to wear seems to be a flow of water, while in the next scene the water flow has been depicted like a woman’s head of hair. Concerning this part, the two different images, namely, those of a necktie and a woman’s head of hair, seem to have been naturally connected with each other by inserting an image of water between them. Despite this, in other scene, a train was abruptly drawn above a woman’s head. Cut or altered human body parts appear frequently in Tabaimo’s new creations made for this exhibition and are also one of the characteristics of her works. In the video entitled “yudangami” (video installation [4 min. 13 sec., loop], 2009, private collection) [fig.1], which was created based on “Akunin”, this cutting out of a body part was expressed using the clearest motif, such as “hair cut”. The person found in the film is definitely not the main character in “Akunin”. She, Miho Kaneko, is a woman working in the sex industry. Her hair found at the both sides of the picture plane seems to be stage curtains. The space found between these two parts of her hair looks like a stage. In the space, there are some images, such as those of Kaneko’s fingers when she is taking a shower - they seem to represent Kaneko metaphorically. What impressed me most in this creation are not the images, but her hair itself. Kaneko cuts her hair by herself and flushes all the images developed in the film using her hair as if a rough sea was depicted in the scene. These acts of Kaneko’s make me feel as if her hair represents women’s will.

    In the next work named “danDAN” (video installation [loop], 2009, private collection) [fig. 2], three-sided projections were used to concurrently show overhead views of an adjacent room of a housing development in a longitudinal direction. There is a room giving us an unsettled impression in that windows have been broken and red smears looking like bloodstains have been attached to a bed. In other room, a woman is splashing her face with water in a toilet bowl. People depicted in the video have no relationship with each other, though they are neighbors. “I” do not know if anything happened even in an adjacent room, such as something like a criminal case having happened and a people next door having an exceptional custom that she washes her face with water in a lavatory pan. This film shows us the isolation of our day.

    The “severed parts of a human body” were expressed in the “chigire-chigire” (video installation [2 min. 43 sec., loop], 2009, private collection) [fig. 3] more clearly than those depicted in the “Akunin” and the “yudangami”. In this creation, parts of naked bodies of a man and a woman which seem to be laid to rest in the air gradually come to disappear and segments of their bodies, such as those of arms and legs, drop down in the jet-black darkness. And only white clouds remain in midair. In the film, their skin becomes transparent and their internal organs become exposed, as can be seen in human phantoms. Such images can also be found in the fifth exhibits entitled “BLOW” (video installation, [3 min. 42 sec., loop], 2009, private collection) [fig. 4]. In this creation, images appear from around viewers’ feet and come to spread throughout the right and left wall. The overall image of this work is that of water. Bubbles are depicted around our feet as if we were under water. Human blood vessels and muscles expressed under water come to change their appearance, including those of some organs covered with skin and flowers, after they appear at the surface of the water. Tabaimo said, “I intend to express something unharnessed from the inside of an individual toward its outside”.*1 In contrast to the first three exhibits, “danchiso”, “yudangami” and “danDAN”, in which Tabaimo expressed some aspects of modern society by incorporating concrete elements in them, her other two works, “chigire-chigire” and “BLOW”, seem to show her attempt to depict “life” which had already existed before “society” came into the world.

    In this way, Tabaimo’s creations give us an intense impression because of their consistency. However, at the same time, this “consistency” is inextricably associated with “monotony” partly due to the fact that all of them were made using images. Simply stated, her works have the same structure in that various kinds of images appear from the beginning to the end of her films and finally go back to an image of “nonexistence”. Usually, when shown to viewers in exhibitions, films are repeatedly projected. Therefore, her creations made in the form of loop present us with a repetitive cycle of generation and disappearance of images. It takes only three or four minutes to look over each of her video installations, so they are relatively easy to be viewed. Despite this, the more I see the exhibits, the more I experience a feeling of emptiness, perhaps due to the content matter consistently depicted in her creations. The title of this exhibition, “DANMEN”, is said to have been named by Tabaimo herself to refer to her own generations born in the 1970s. According to her, one of the characteristics of this generations is that they stick to an “individual” and a “detail”*2. In fact, Tabaimo’s works make us realize that the attachment to an individual having the same meaning as that of the loneliness. In addition, images found in her films were deliberately created. The end of the last decade must have been suitable for us to objectively view ourselves and create some retrospective works.

    However, this seems to be a bit too mellow a perspective.  I wish Tabaimo had proposed a vision for the next generation through her creations utilizing her on-target creating style in satirizing images of society.  Her works may clearly represent postwar “Japan” referred to as a “bad place” in that it has been only repeating (looping) history without any development since it failed in completing modernization. (Ironically, Noi Sawaragi also pointed this out this in her 1998 book Japan, Contemporary, Art*3, the year before Tabaimo made her debut).  However, needless to say, we will never be able to make advances as long as there is only a loop of our history.
(Translated by Nozomi Nakayama)

"Tabaimo: DANMEN" (Yokohama Museum of Art, The National Museum of Art, Osaka, Seigensha Art Publishing, Inc., p. 14)
"Tabaimo: DANMEN" (Yokohama Museum of Art, The National Museum of Art, Osaka, Seigensha Art Publishing, Inc., p. 2)
Noi Sawaragi, “Japan, Contemporary, Art” (Shinchosha Publishing Co., Ltd, 1998)
Last Updated on August 25 2010

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