KOIZUMI, Meiro; Double projection #1 (Where the Silence Fails)
As registered in Tadasu Takamine’s spellbinding installation Fukushima Esperanto 2012 at APT7, the world of art has not been immune to the effects of the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck the north-east coast of Japan’s main island, Honshu, on 11 March 2011. Exacerbating the staggering human toll of the disaster was the nuclear crisis triggered at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, which continues to cause widespread consternation to this day. Artists were quick to mobilise, organising fundraisers for survivors, assisting with clean-up efforts and working to raise consciousness about issues facing disaster-affected communities. For many, this was a turning point, and since the disaster, art of a decidedly political slant has found greater purchase in Japan than it has for some time.
Two recent acquisitions of video art by Japanese artists demonstrate ways that this shift is being expressed. Chim-Pom is a Tokyo-based guerrilla artist collective known for its rough humour and provocative interventions, which have become increasingly socially oriented in the wake of the disaster. Meiro Koizumi, meanwhile, has been working along these lines for some time, but his wide-ranging social critiques have found appreciative audiences in a changed new context.
Shot one month after the disaster, Chim-Pom’s Ki-ai 100 (100 cheers) 2011 was the first in a range of symbolic interventions conducted by the group to explicitly criticise the bureaucratic, corporate and governmental apparatus that precipitated the nuclear crisis, while also communicating the need for empathy and support for affected communities. The video depicts a group of young Japanese people, which includes the six members of Chim-Pom, in a huddle with a few locals they met while assisting with the clean-up in devastated neighbourhoods. Proceeding one by one around the huddle, the group shouts improvised encouragements and dedications. The shouts are by turns hopeful, absurd, funny and satirical, and the exercise produces an empathetic humour as the group struggles to improvise the full 100 cheers, lapsing into non sequiturs and confessions of social and romantic anxieties. A series of wide angles reveals that the little circle is dwarfed by tsunami wreckage on the shores of Soma City, Fukushima.
Meiro Koizumi’s Double projection 2013 directs its critique toward the ideologies that sustained Japan’s wartime imperialism, and the trauma it continues to exert on the war’s survivors. Shown as a pair of overlapping projections, it depicts an interview, conducted by the artist, with a former kamikaze pilot still racked with guilt at having survived the attack in which he participated toward the end of World War Two. In one projection, the elderly man addresses his torment to a friend who died on the same mission, while in the other he assumes the role of the friend, who Koizumi goads into expressing forgiveness.
These works do not fit the stereotypical mould of didactic political art. Rather, they point to the complexities of the situations they explore. Their critical edge is sharp, but this is directed toward finding new ways of working through seemingly insurmountable social problems. Together they provide a sense of the dynamic artistic work currently being produced in Japan.
Reuben Keehan, Artlines 4-2013, p42.