Malformed Objects: Bricolage for Myriads of Other Bodies _ group show
Yamamoto Gendai Gallery; 21 January to 25 February
With an exhibition title as mealy-mouthed as Malformed Objects: Bricolage for Myriads of Other Bodies, you’re setting yourself up for a risky excursion into a heavy-handed waffle-forest of academic wankery that sets a velvet rope of cliquery at the entrance-way to engagement. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that, in its place. There’s a time and place for highfalutin, esoteric adventures for the in-crowd. You can’t please all the people all the time, and sometimes you ever intend to please a very few. This show at Yamamoto Gendai manages to walk a tight-rope somewhere in the middle, offering an intricate and complex consortium of artworks that veers toward the over-cooked while managed to just maintain its grip on accessibility. For that reason the curator deserves some credit for pushing the limits and managing to bring the whole thing out the other side with only a few scrapes and dings, while providing for some pretty exhilarating twists and turns in the journey.
Eleven artists are crammed in where perhaps seven would’ve sufficed, but again, there’s value in the effort of trying to make it work. Spread out over three spaces – small, medium and large in volume – the most lucid and affecting space is the mid-sized room containing the work of three artists. There is an aesthetic relationship and content balance across all three artists – Shun Owada, Kosuke Ikeda and Toshikatsu Kiuchi. Kiuchi’s wall mounted sculpture is an organic accoutrement to the inner architectural framing of plasterboard and exposed piping that buffers the harsh concrete warehouse parameter. It’s as if the CAD blueprints for the gallery design has glitched and somehow slipped from virtual to physical space and like a virus, is mutating the walls in faceted triangular accretions. Ikeda’s series of acrylic Translated Paintings freeze condensation into abstract friezes, riffing again on an altered surface of architectural forms, this time windows or glass dividers. Water is referenced, frozen and captured, and ice leaves are smashed and embedded in reflective surfaces.
Owada’s work sits on the floor of the gallery and asserts itself as the key work in not just this space, but the show as a whole. With more breath afforded its location and placement than is given over in the larger room of seven artists, Owada’s i,s,o,g,r,a,m is able to better function without distraction or friction. In fact, the three sets of artwork in the space reinforce each other in a compatible way. At the centre of the room is a small platform, of glass with a small pile of two distinctly different types of rock sitting on it. Two yellow medical bags are suspended above this, intravenous drips with tubes, dripping liquid slowly on to the rocks. Two microphones on stands are positioned to record the dripping, with the leads trailing off to a processor and amplifier on the side of the room. From the amplifier, leads go out to two bone conduction speakers – one mounted a concrete wall facing the wall, the other mounted on the glass wall from the outside of the gallery facing in. It is as if the sound of the dripping is being recorded, processed in some way, and then played back into the building through the walls. At close inspection, the liquid is crystallising as it evaporates on the rock – which I discover is Japanese and German sandstone – leaving a wonderful build-up of colour, texture and form. The sound emitted gives the impression of the crystal forming, with minutes cracks and pops. And I can’t help but wonder: (a) what is the building thinking of this noise, and (b) what transformational effect is being imprinted into the architectural structure through this process?
In the smallest room, the elevator, is a work I must confess I didn’t even realise was there until I came home and deciphered the room sheet with google translate. I blame the language barrier for that, and psychological overload because there was four exhibitions on this one floor of a warehouse to try and digest. Apologies to the artist urauny on that omission on my behalf.
In the larger space the amount of works to see was a bit of an assault on the brain and the body, but with time I could decipher among the pieces and give them a moment to breath and command their own individual occupancy. Fighting against the sound of white noise, machine guns and Donald Trump coming from the upper corner of the space in a frightening work by Tomohito Wakui, a couple of works held their own. Arata Mino’s Ghost Hand was, dare I say, haunting. A flight of stairs led up to a flatscreen at the top, showing a looped video work. The video was a shot of a window, with a billowing curtain, looking all the world like any of a million apartment windows from anywhere in the world. At at one point, for a fleeting moment, someone’s hand reaches between the curtains as if to move them off a hidden plant or ornament. And that is it. Simple but affecting. And the staircase, itself some 3 metres high, used as a sort of implied ascendancy toward the (video of the) window was enigmatic and compelling.
In the corner of the room triangular form of silver gravel, with pink, biomorphic tendrils of pink fluffy fabric at its feet stared blankly with voidal eyes of framed rectangles. Ontology of Holes by Toshiki Hirano managed to invert the orifice with protuberances made of materials they defy disappearance. Pushing and pulling, reaching out and sucking in, I couldn’t help but wonder if it would have benefited from a central position in the space, working to drag on the gravity from around the room, rather than toward a corner where most things tend to gravitate anyway. Adjacent to this, in a small anteroom, an enigmatic installation of sound and objects by Nozomu Matsumoto. A European style glass desk lamp and a bar of soap sit on the floor surrounded by four speaker towers, all under theatrical coloured lighting. Atmospheric sounds of the environment play and there are two armchairs and a fairly high-quality domestic surround-sound amplification system delivering the audio. It’s a Lynchian quandary made for comfort and confusion and works rather unexpectedly as a respite from the cacophony in the larger space outside.
Curated by Sekai Kozuma, and with, it has to be said, one of the coolest exhibition posters I’ve come across, Malformed Objects is a richly assembled show with a thread you can feel just hidden below a slightly overloaded ensemble of actors. The intent is palpable even amid the threat of impending chaotic collapse. Holding itself together in a ramshackle discordant choir it retains a sense of charm nonetheless and serves up a few gems to make it quite enjoyable. I was reminded of tuning into the radio when I was a kid, sometimes finding several frequencies overlaying and words and songs all tumbling together out of the speakers. But if you held your ground long enough the sounds began to clarify and your ear could attune to the multiple channels of information at once. And so with this show – an avalanche of information, with a sort of friendly intent, just waiting for breath to drive its way between the lines.