Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)
02 Jul 2014 to 07 Sep 2014
Japanese artist Tabaimo’s video works immersed gallery visitors within constantly moving, changing environments that combined visual imagery and sound. Using single or multiple screens within purpose-built architecture, they depicted people, cityscapes, objects and events that unfolded with often surprising outcomes.
Drawn by hand then animated on the computer, Tabaimo’s images sit between tradition and modernity, recalling Edo-period Japanese woodblock prints in their line work and style. She employs rich colour combinations and shading reminiscent of the prints of master artist Hokusai (1760–1849). Set in motion as animated sequences of imagery in theatrical, set-like spaces, the resulting works peer into hidden corners of the human psyche to reveal a world of beauty, anxiety and horror.
The title MEKURUMEKU suggested a ‘tearing apart’ of layers to reveal hidden truths within. The artist’s video installations did not follow one narrative trajectory and had no single message to convey. Rather, they sought to reveal what she described as ‘aspects of what is hidden’ in ordinary public life. Individual works were linked in their dream-like, surreal quality: moments of irrationality and violence erupted then disappeared again behind a veneer of public civility. Evoking the world about us, but also one within, they sat between the public sphere and an equally immense, private world of the individual unconscious.
Tabaimo encouraged gallery visitors to use their bodies and engage physically as they moved through her video installations. Her carefully designed architecture channeled visitors through space, surrounding them with projected imagery from in front and behind, as well as overhead and sometimes even beneath their feet. In today’s entertainment culture, she observed, we have become used to sitting passively and watching events before us. Her works offered an alternative, immersing visitors within their shifting imagery and dynamic spaces.
For her MCA solo exhibition, Tabaimo presented six video installations from the early 2000s to the present, as well as a suite of delicate drawings that illustrate her creative process. Introducing the MCA’s Level 1 South Galleries was Japanese Commuter Train (2001), a six-screen hexagonal installation that mimicked the interior of a conventional passenger train. In the work, people come and go, apartment blocks flash by the windows and strange, unexpected events take place as though in a dream. Haunted House (2003) was a circular projection that glided back and forth across a curved screen, like a periscope, to reveal a dense urban landscape within which moments of violence quietly unfold. The single projection dolefullhouse (2007) depicted a doll’s house and giant human hands manipulating its contents.
The ocean forms a recurring motif within Tabaimo’s art, as a meditative and destructive natural force beyond human control. In the Level 1 North Gallery, BLOW (2009) comprised of a large cylindrical structure that viewers walk through, like a tunnel, as watery bubbles swirled beneath their feet. Also included were two major new installations commissioned for the MCA that imagined parallel worlds in micro and macrocosm, travelling through the human body to the vastness of the ocean beyond.
Tabaimo was born in Hyogo, Japan in 1975; she lives and works in Nagano.