Ryunosuke Goji & Issei Yamagata, optical camouflage
Youboko Art Space, Tokyo; 21 January to 29 January
Featuring video, print, sculpture, digital image and found objects, this punchy show by artists Ryunosuke Goji and Issei Yamagata works like a complex codex dissected into planar fragments and laid bare across a domestic space to entrap and enchant human bodies. Delivered over two spaces – one larger and itself bisected by a large suspended oil painting; the other apparently a bedroom, complete with bed, stool and large LCD screen propped on the floor – the art succeeds in both meditating on an idea and to ideating upon your meditations.
Working with the notion that illegally uploaded programs on the internet are encrypted with simple lo-fi techniques to dodge corporate tracing software designed to ferret out copyright breaches – through deploying a form of optical camouflage – the artists produce works characteristic of this realm without being illustrative of the idea. There are clues, hints, glitches, dead ends and reflections that allow the mind to grapple with meanings within singular works, or the networked relations existing across and between the fourteen different works on display.
For example, a plant sits on the gallery floor, its concrete pot wrapped in a plastic bag, its upper leaves wilting. It’s an alocasia odora plant, attributed to Yamagata, and with seemingly nothing specific to tie it to theme or placement in the orientation of the show. But it is commonly referred to as ‘elephant ear’ and, as the saying goes, elephants never forget. If this plant is listening, is that somehow connected to eaves-dropping on the internet? Never forgetting means everything on the internet is always archived, always traceable. Is this the elephant in the room? Is this plant, a plant?
It is spiralling associations like this that make for interesting times for the curious mind in shows of this nature. Flanking this found object sculpture is two oil paintings by the other artist, Goji. One is painted directly on the wall, the other on canvas. The glitching, organic style of the paintings echo the leaves of the plant and suddenly the networked nature of the show starts to expand and enliven. Organism becomes image, image becomes communication and mutations refract and explode.
The artists partner especially well in the show as Goji produces predominantly organic imagery in traditional mediums with a digitally influenced edge, while Yamagata produces predominantly electronic imagery in contemporary mediums with an organic edge. Goji’s paintings are particularly strong, reading like painterly abstractions run through digital rendering software and repainted by hand again in oils on linen. For the benefit of this exhibition they successfully relinquish frames and regular horizon line museum hang, to escape from canvas to wall or to float freely in the middle of the room. This reflects a broader character of the show – a particularly even-handed and democratic dismantling of traditional medium hierarchies – allowing, for example, a dying plant, an oil painting and kinetic sculpture to occupy physical and philosophical space on an even keel.
Also at the heart of the show is a sense of care for the audience experience. Works are distributed in such a fashion as to allow for the greatest accessibility to their consumption. Breath is provided between the works but importantly, and not easily in a relatively small space with a dozen works, also provided in sight lines as you make your way around the show. Digital monitors are raised above head-line, paintings are distributed out across stairways and a clearly defined traffic flow is insinuated without being enforced. The works of the different artists are intermingled too, in a way that not only weaves the two styles together but thoughtfully positions frictions and magnetisms that permit stimulating correlative partnerships.
optical camouflage is thoughtfully constructed but has an intuitive feel to it as well, as if improvised in its execution and delivery. At its heart is has an underlying strength in intention that holds it together, contextually and spatially. It’s also the sort of show that looks like it would sing with even greater symphonic acuity if permitted the space and time to refine and expand on the professional execution of its full potential. All together, highly stimulating and intellectually engaging stuff.