TOKAS Project Vol. 4
Tokyo Arts and Space Hongo
2-4-16 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033
2021/8/21 (Sat) – 10/3 (Sun)
Closed 8/23, 9/6, 13, 21, 27
Drop Car was conceived as a video installation piece, and blends photographic street views of nocturnal Tokyo, encapsuled in an artificial glass drop shape, with images of blanket-covered cars, as they are often visible in the quiet neighbourhoods of Sumida-ku district. The work is about a changing psychological relationship of society towards the car, at a moment in time when cars are becoming “intelligent” technological extensions of the human body and psyche.
The final scene (titled “One less”) is different, like a “small film within the film”, showing a car picked by giant chopsticks from a crowded highway and lifted up into the sky. This absurd, but minimalist gesture points towards a certain aspect of positive self-restriction, perceivable in Japanese culture, but maybe applicable to everywhere.
The work is certainly inspired by the encounter with Japanese avantgarde art and experimental film from the period between 1960 till 1990. Having walked urban areas in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima and other cities, I also experienced a special joy in recognizing the inventiveness and beauty at the intersections of quickly changing public and private spaces. If “artificial intelligence” is something mostly invisible, also incorporated in cars, then Japans animistic tradition might give a clue towards a future co-relation of man and machine.
In 2011, TOKAS launched the Exchange Residency Program in which creators are dispatched to Berlin and invited to Tokyo, the two having a Friendship Cities relationship. Participants from Japan are offered the opportunity to stay and work at Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien in Berlin. This exhibition presents works by artists based in Berlin, to commemorate both 10 years of exchange between TOKAS and Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien and 160 years of diplomatic relations between Germany and Japan.
Compared to other major cities of the world, Berlin’s social structure makes it easy for artists to live and for creative communities to form, and creators from all over the world have gathered to live and work in the city. Sugito Yoshie, Takeda Tatsuma, and Yoshida Shingo, whose works are featured in this exhibition, have also lived in Berlin for several years and have been producing works with multifaceted perspectives on Europe’s unique history and diversity while adapting to a different linguistic and cultural environment. They participated in TOKAS’s residency program for Japanese artists in Germany, exhibited their works at Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, and each of them deepened their knowledge and insight through activities and interactions that leverage the networks they have cultivated thus far. As it happens, this year all three artists have elected to leave Berlin temporarily, for different reasons, and have begun living and working in new places that are also removed from their places of origin.
This exhibition features works with themes related to legends, traditions, and cultures that draw the artists’ interest. Also, video works capturing Japan from distinctive perspectives, by past participants in the Tokyo TOKAS Residency, Martin Ebner, Joachim Fleischer and Stefanie Gaus, who are currently based in Germany, will be screened.
When people relocate, we plan routes to reach our destinations, put down roots, and leave vestiges of ourselves there. Then, we plan routes to our next destinations and take flight once more. The works in this exhibition reveal something like layers of soil formed through slow accumulation over the course of long journeys, and the cultural fruits that grow up from this soil.
*As of March 2021, TOKAS has concluded our activities at Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien for the time being, but moving forward, we intend to continue the exchange program between Germany and Japan.
Organizer Tokyo Arts and Space (Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture)
Support The German Embassy in Tokyo, Goethe-Institut Tokyo
Martin Ebner, with Ariane Müller: Untitled (Tokyo), 2017
HD video, 7 min. 43 sec., audio
Like a freewheeling unemployed cousin of Gibo-chan (the official mascot of Edo-Tokyo Museum), this obviously non-Japanese person in costume resembles a tin can and tries to communicate with residents and passersby by offering them three gestures that could be danced versions of Rock-paper-scissors (in Japanese: Janken, じゃんけん). It wanders Tokyo’s streets in an attempt to make friends, but can’t really distinguish between people and vending machines or cars.
All photos: KATO Ken
Courtesy of Tokyo Arts and Space