Land/mind/body-scapes in the Age of Cold Burn, MOT Annual 2000
Catalogue pp.89-90, 2000, Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan
Keiko Okamura: curator, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography
Circuits of Communication
People today often push negative realities out of their conscious mind, and it seems to me that this is extremely unhealthy. It is a time when people tend to keep their feelings closed off from other people and from reality. -Taiyo Kimura
Taiyo Kimura fills his sketchbooks with simple drawings and notes, recording his daily thoughts and perceptions as if keeping a diary. He then converts these impressions into plans and possible images for his art. Not all of these jottings are turned into finished artworks,but they have a unique power of arousing physcial sensations in the viewer as well as expressing a subtle black humor. In one of Kimura’s works, Black Hole 1996, he places earphone speakers all over a cute little stuffed bear with white fur. Each speaker is connected to one of 17 different radio stations, producing a raucous cacophony of voices and music. A stuffed toy ordinarily has a comforting effect on the emotions, but this one is associated with an unpleasant mixture of noises that cancel each other out. It’s a humorous expression of the difficulty of communication.
Untitled 1997, is composed of nine battery－powered balls that shuffle about awkwardly within the confines of a frame. This humorous work evokes the situation of an individual who wants to act on his own but cannot escape the effects of group psychology. In Not Yet Titled 1997, a number of garbage bags are suspended from the ceiling, and a leg protrudes from each one of them, trembling jerkily in the air. Kimura says that he got the idea for this work from the nervous tics of a middle－aged man he observed on a train. It has an odd sense of reality, giving viewers a vague feeling that they have seen something similar somewhere before.
All of these works directly express a sense of strangeness, discomfort, or mystery that Kimura has discovered in the inconsequential events of daily life. Kimura recalls that he was physically and psychologically weak as a child and had a severe inferiority complex. Communicating his perceptions, however ephemeral, through art has given him a way of reaching out to others and obtaining a kind of liberation.
The making of these works begins with the artist confirming his own sense of reality. The process of showing them opens a circuit of communication with others and empowers the artist. Kimura states that the more he makes art the less he understands it, and there are undoubtedly many visitors to the museum who will empathize with this feeling of being unable to understand. It is not necessary for art to provide solutions to the problems we face. The process of making art requires the artist to reflect on his own physical sensations and provide viewers with an opportunity to reflect on their own responses. Anyone who sees the work can sense the artist’s seriousness and honesty and his determination to examine his perceptions with the greatest care. As the artist notes, humor has an important role to play in dealing with experience. When a person realizes that there is something wrong with the way things are, the ability to laugh at the situation can be a key to survival.
Kimura’s materials are mostly recycled everyday objects or junk that has no value. He rejects fussiness and finish, deliberately leaving his work in a raw condition. He seems to be stubbornly resisting the attractions of physical beauty, avoiding putting his intense emotions into a commercially viable form. At the moment a piece turns into “art”, it loses its riskiness and strangeness. Because Kimura appeals to raw physical sensations and attempts to eliminate any distance between the work and its audience, beauty, craftsmanship, and an “art-like” appearance are obstacles to effective communication. By bringing his work as close as possible to odd phenomena that he notices on the street, Kimura gets closer to the reality he is seeking. He wants to avoid being like people try to get by with superficial smiles and trivial conversation, which only increase the distance between people, to avoid creating situations which seem phony.
When you realize that you can neither destroy, nor escape from, the society that surrounds you, it becomes painful to go on living in it and observing what you see there. Many people have put jotted down grumblings of the same type that fill Kimura’s sketchbooks in their diaries and notebooks, but in the end they just put them away. Kimura, on the other hand, transforms his observations into art and shows it in public. The practice of art provides a method of sharing with others that makes it possible for him to stay alert and moving forward.