Nakahira’s Lifeline (1938–2015), from Takuma Nakahira: A Day of Remembrance at BankART Studio NYK, 8 November, 2015
If I were to summarise this year it would have to say it’s been 12 months plagued by comedy and farce. And the exhibitions that I’ve been drawn towards all reference this absurdity in their own particular way. Fortunately the list came easily: a selection whose light heartedness brought with it an ease with being self-critical. So, this personal selection is my attempt to replace the tidal flow of negativity with an alternative viewpoint that hopefully paints a more positive picture, one more adept and less wretched than the world of late. Heres to 2016. Peace out.
The year began in January with the photographic group show Strato fotografico 2014-2015 at Setagaya Art Museum and shortly after, Rotary at The White, a solo show by one of it’s members Soushi Tanaka. Both Strato fotografico and Tanaka have been joining dots between images and their representation, with Tanaka’s well-considered photography of ‘sensing’, proving that are artists that deal with more complicated subject matter, and something other than ‘memory’. Light bulbs, traced light and a nocturnal ‘exquisite corpse’ all featured!
Shuji Akagi showed a number of photos from his book Fukushima Traces 2011-2013 (Osiris) published earlier this year, alongside more recent works from the past two years at Studio 35 Minutes in March. His photo journal follows movements back and forth between home and work, encountering moments of sadness and satire as roadside motivational slogans sit side-by-side with posters offer discounts at the local supermarket, and 2-for-the-price-of-1 meal deals. Life carries on regardless.
Two shows in April and May epitomised the comedy of the ‘institution’ with the group show Concrete Comédie and Stephen G.Rhodes’ The Twelf Hobby Lobby, both at Misako & Rosen Gallery. Partly an response to Milwaukee based artist David Robbins, Concrete Comédie featured Ken Kagami and COBRA of XYZ Collective alongside US-based Scott Reeder, Sean Landers and Trevor Shimizu proving you can be serious without loosing your sense of humour. Meanwhile, the installation of The Twelf Hobby Lobby pinpointed how self-interest groups always fall foul of their own critical agenda. Rhodes’ show also transformed the gallery into an ad-hoc relaxation spa!
June saw Mikiko Hara exhibit photographs from her excellent book These Are Days (Osiris) at Jikka, which sadly a few months later. Osamu Kanemura channeled filmmaking interests in July with a space full of old televisions for his exhibition System Crash for Hi-Fi at The White, while Scottish painter Andrew Kerr showed new work at Rat Hole Gallery in July, fashioning incidental moments into pivotal ‘painting-objects’. A retrospective of photographer Mitsutoshi Hanaga and Tatsumi Orimoto at Aoyama Meguro during August and September brought the art of documenting ‘happenings’ into the present day. Orimoto’s own Wheelchair Stress performance—wheelchair bound and strapped with baguettes to overcome a dead log—proved a real highlight.
Omar Fest’s film piece 5000 feet is best at Taro Nasu this September was an unexpected find. When watched in full, it revealed storytelling that touched on ideas of truth and perception and felt completely relevant without being overly earnest. Will Rogan’s Clocks and other problems in November at Misako and Rosen (the gallery temporarily relocated this October) showcased works in involving clocks and magicians, and spoke of how ‘shit keeps falling down, constantly’.
The real highlight for me this year was the recent was November’s Re: play 1972/2015 – Restaging ‘Expression in Film ’72’ at MOMAT. After an original exhibition at the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art in 1972, the 2-day film exhibition was then unearthed and ‘restaged’ in Tokyo as both a document of that original exhibition as well as the filmmaking and art practice of the day. But it also served as an example of sixteen artist’s resistance to making work that relied solely on memory, often overdubbing, mixing and editing the real world as if to draw attention to the space of both film and the audience watching. They also proved that seen alongside the likes of Vito Acconci or Bruce Nauman, the video installations remain vitally important.
And finally to December, and Hiroko Komatsu’s week-long exhibition The Ingredients for Families at Toki Fine Arts. It followed on from her successfully installation at the 6th Fotofestival in Mannheim Germany, a larger form of this exhibition entitled Sanitary Bio-Preservation where you were encouraged to walk over photographs—and sometimes around them—with some photographs wrapped in cling-film while others wrap the entire space.
* updated 2016/02/06 – exhibition title changed to reflect the artist’s version, The Ingredients for Families, 成分家族 (Originally written as Component Family)