The sheer scale of Taro Izumi’s ‘Skunk Tunnel’, dominating the ground floor gallery of PICA, took my breath away.
Children (no doubt forced along for educational purposes) were frolicking in the giant board game theatre- its various masks and activites scattered about like the aftermath of an earthquake. The accompanying adults picked their way through chaos more carefully. Either for the fear of tripping or struck, as I was, by the post-Fukushima metaphor.
It took 3 weeks to construct and is based on a Japanese board game called E-sugoroku which is like Snakes and Ladders where the winner is the first to get to Buddhist paradise. The feelings evoked by Skunk Tunnel are far from Zen though. There is projected footage of Izumi performing/playing the game and the rules seem to be made up as they go along. This exhibition was commissioned in 2010 but the art changed in response to the disasters in Japan earlier this year.
Works by the other artists, such as the pop-up cafe “Yellow Cake” and the various video installations, deal with the effects of Fukushima and attempts at grass roots responses to rebuilding Japanese society.
Another of Izumi’s pieces involves a lot of wooden tables. They look washed ashore until you realise that there are small wooden figures holding them up.
The idea of the familiar made unfamiliar is also present in Yukio Fujimoto’s work. On the walls outside the Westend gallery are Vinyl LPs by The Sex Pistols and Kraftwerk. On closer inspection, the grooves have been polished out making them completely unusable.
On entering the Westend gallery I was again taken aback by the scale of a piece, Fujimoto’s ‘Broom’, an 8 meter circle of coal with a hollow centre. Like Skunk Tunnel it is there to be interacted with, and walking over the coal you make your own music like the pop and hiss of a vinyl record.
The piece I connected with the most was Fujimoto’s ‘Time’.
Listening against a cavity wall filled with 400 ticking clocks is like a rushing stream over pebbles, taking on strange rhythms.
The very helpful gallery assistant, Frankie, told me I could stand in the cavity wall too. In there, the sound was more like rain on a rooftop. Apparently some people find it a bit overwhelming.
A great show and highly recommended.
Please note, the venue did not allow pictures to be taken, so the pictures in this post have been borrowed from the Japan Foundation website.
Alternating Currents: Japanese Art after March 2011 runs at PICA in Western Australia until December 31st 2011