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Tadasu TAKAMINE: Too Far To See
Written by Maho TANAKA   
Published: June 20 2011

fig. 1  "Wilderness within", 2011
Cloth, Computer, Speaker, Fan (14'50")
View from the exhibition at Yokohama Museum of Art, photo by Tomoki Imai

fig. 2  "Green Hall", 2011
View from the exhibition at Yokohama Museum of Art, photo by Tomoki Imai

It is a little awkward for me to tell you but honestly I viewed the exhibition of Tadasu Takamine in total misconception. According to the flyer, the subtitle of the exhibition “To Far To See” is the words that exhibition audience often utter in a congested exhibitions. And that Takamine, in his latest works, focused the contradiction of the fact that works of art are made out of free expression but they needed to be exhibited in art museums and galleries having various constraints.*1

As I entered The Yokohama Museum of Art, I encountered a very unusual sight. This venue has their featured exhibition rooms on the second floor so that visitors need to use escalator to get there. The piloti on the second floor, which usually can be seen from downstairs, is covered with white fabric that you can't see the inside of the venue. The fabric wriggles, and I hear sounds like a roar or a howl of elephants*2 [fig.1]. As I get closer, I hear birds chirping. It evokes a zoo from the closed structure and sounds.

I got off the escalator and entered the first exhibition room “Green Room” (the works are made in 2011, figure 2) on the left, and I was relieved. The oblong flat work has three white crosses drawn on red background. As well as the title “War”, and it's being very “Work of Art” presence as it looms out in a dark dimly lit venue*3 make it not look like one of those difficult contemporary works of art that usually has uncertain sizes, mediums and are hard to infer what they represent.

The motif of the red background and white crosses reminds me of the flag of Switzerland or Crusades. I have an impression that Switzerland is a peaceful permanent neutral country. But in actuality, the country traditionally sent many mercenary soldiers to other countries. Is Takamine trying to tell us the paradox that peace and justice can't exist without the existence of war? By placing the landscape flag to portrait position, the work seems to present an image of “sublime” like the works of Rothko's paintings. As I went around with such thoughts while I watched the twenty-three pieces of works in the room, I was gradually getting doubtful.

Things that words hide from you

Many of the exhibited works have carefully analyzed captions attached to them. But I feel something is wrong. Those captions are somewhat missing the point. While they include unnecessary descriptions, they don't include thing that has to be included. The caption for “NATSU AKI KUSA ZU” says that the writer sees the co-existence of west and east in the work. But that interpretation is based on the work's symmetrical composition, the emphasis on peripheral decoration that evokes “parergon”*4 and plants shown as silhouettes. But I can't help getting suspicious of the ground of the motif of this flower. I can't help thinking that the flower is similar to the flower decoration usually put on car dashboard of the kind of cars driven by Gyaru and Gyaru-oh (Japanese young girls and boys who have certain characteristic in their style). The curator states a word like “parergon” in the caption but don't they realize the similarity in the images in our daily living?

From these Takamine's works, I rather get images of current mass-media and visual cultures such as fashion textile, purikura (sticker photos) and video games, than influences from the history of art. One caption explains about the work next to it as it arouses “parergon” and “erugon”, in other words, it evokes the question about outside and inside of the work. That way the caption explains about the differences from color field paintings. And the work of this caption is a stripe patterned acrylic cloth with full of lint.

I thought something was obviously wrong. So I asked a watch person. Now I understand that the captions that kept giving me discomfort were part of the works. The artist asked curators to write a captions that were as difficult as it could be. And also, the works are not made by the artist from scratch but made from stock printed textile or blankets. I had been making notes all along so it was rather embarrassing for me to hear this. And then I saw the last work in this room. There are two reliefs. Maybe it is not right to tell that they are reliefs. It doesn't have a caption unlike other works in this room.

Here I had my second thought on my misconception. I mean, the process I had taken on the first work “War” was (1) find a form of it and let it have some kind of meaning; (2) find what the motif represents; (3) find similarity to a school or an artist and categorize the work. However, as Takamine had proven by his works and attached captions that by the time I started to explain a work in existing words and conceptualize it, I wasn't truly viewing the works.

One of the last works in the Green Room is a frame made of clay. I see nothing inside it. And on the wall across the room, there is a tree with spread branches and leaves made of clay. Should I read the concept of parergon which have been told all this time from this frame? And should I read the handed down and systematized history of art from the clay tree? I fell completely for Takamine's trick and lost confidence.

fig. 3  "A Big Blow-job", 2004 (reproduced in 2011)
Mortar, Clay, Found Objects, Projector, Computer, Speaker (6'00'')
Music: Yamanaka Toru “Operating Room #6_Sun Room”
Text:Excerpt from Yoshioka Hiroshi “LEAP FOR COMMON SENSE”
View from the exhibition at Yokohama Museum of Art, photo by Tomoki Imai

Next work is “A Big Blow-job” (2004, reproduced in 2011, figure 3). The room is dark. I go up a slope to see the work from above. It seems there are letters made of clay. They can only be visible when the light comes above them and the room's whole perspective can't be seen so I can only guess from the vague silhouettes. The light goes over the wriggling clay letters one by one with music. The music is like the kind that you hear at amusement places or from video games. Jolly digital sound is repeated in short cycle.

Problem is that these series of letters form some statements but it is done in very unkindly manner. The aspect of letters can be upside down sometimes, and the light is divided into two paths to create two difference statements. Also, since the light goes over the letters in tune with music, I may stops at non-punctuation points. It is therefore impossible to follow letters like we naturally do when we read books. As I patiently follow the clay letters, I find that it seems to be saying that there is no such thing like self-evident common sense.*5

I was dismayed again by reading the letters in this room. I could no longer see what I had to see. This sideshow-like atmosphere evokes us dioramas and attractions, but in actuality it created an opposite result. Before I verbalize and fragmentate the work, it questions me if the work of explaining something by words is right. I wonder how far this artist is trying to trap us. I wonder what actually is his true intention and his true work.

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(*1) A quote from the flyer of the exhibition “Too Far To See” at The Yokohama Museum of Art.

(*2) It is titled “The Law of The Wild” (2011, fabric, computer, speaker, fan).

(*3) Actually, the walls of the room was green but they looked black as the room was dark. This green colored wall was a reuse of Doga's Exhibition previously held at this museum.

(*4) Please refer to the following site for the details about the word “parergon.”

(*5) In “A Big Blow-job”, an excerpt from “New Common Sensuism” written by Hiroshi Yoshioka is used. This is a partial excerpt from the following web page.
“The existence of 'common sense' or 'common feeling' never has a self-evident fact. Each individual perceives world in one's own unique way. They can't be compared nor checked. Nevertheless, we have such communication method like calling the light of a specific wave length 'red' color is possible. It makes us think as though there exists a common world. The 'common felling' is not something that is naturally attained with the existence of specific sensing organs, or 'proper' development of mentality. No matter whether one starts with 'five senses' or 'conscious', one can't reach this common feeling.” Please refer to the brochure of the exhibition “Too Far To See” by Tadasu Takamine, edited and supervised by The Yokohama Museum of Art and Hiroshima Museum of Contemporary Art. Film Art Company 2011 page 125.

Reffered exhibition;

"Tadasu TAKAMINE: Too Far To See" held at Yokohama Museum of Art, January 21 - March 20, 2011 (go around to Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art)

Last Updated on July 11 2011

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